Five ways to style a basic white dress

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Styling one piece multiple ways is one of the tricks I've used for years when traveling, but have started to apply the principle to my wardrobe in general as part of my minimalist challenge to stop buying new things for a year. Asking myself how I can wear a piece in a new way has helped me to get past the boredom, and "discovering" an outfit that's already in my closet has helped to fulfill my desire to buy. It's also helping me learn which pieces are truly versatile and deserve a spot in my closet, versus those that are just taking up space and should be donated.

A few months ago when it was still cold in Chicago, I wrote a post about five ways to style a basic black dress and since received a few requests to repeat the process for a summer staple. For me, a simple white dress is the epitome of a summer classic: it never goes out of style, and can be worn everywhere from the beach to the office. 

Here are just five of the ways that I style my longtime favorite white summer dress, a slightly oversize linen in a simple a-line cut from J.Jill (and for those of you who aren't on a buying fast, I've decided to honor your requests for recommendations on "best buys" and included links to similar items at the end of the post that I feel would live a long life in my closet.)

#1 Style it like you would in high school ...with a denim jacket and a backpack

This jean jacket has been a wardrobe staple since high school, purchased with hard earned babysitting money. It's the perfect cut and color, and I've never seen a need to replace it (and it looks better the older and more worn in it gets). It's one of those things I've held on to forever but haven't felt inspired to wear until now. Pulling it out to pair with this dress, my current favorite flats and an on-trend yellow leather backpack made me fall back in love with it all over again! 


#2 Pair your basic white dress with urban hipster accessories

Like a beaded necklace, a distressed cross-body bag, a vintage silk scarf and a pair of old aviators. I love vintage and distressed pieces against a the fresh, crisp linen backdrop of this dress. It's a great blank canvas for a necklace I'd forgotten all about and breathes new life into favorites I've held onto forever. I also paired this outfit with clogs and it made for quite the comfortable getup to hike around the 606, Chicago's version of the NYC Highline.



#3 Wear it to work with nude heels and a utility blazer 

The fact that I haven't worn this outfit to work before is unfortunate. While I've been on the coordinated shoes-and-bag-of-the-week diet for many months now, I haven't taken the time to put thought into new pairings of dresses and blazers. This blazer is one I've had for years, by a designer that I have to save in order to afford (Sophie D'Hoore) but worth every penny for the mileage it gets in my closet. It's the perfect piece to dress up this otherwise-casual dress, and I love the olive, white, nude and black combination. The only thing missing in this picture is red lipstick!


#4 ...Or a navy blazer, nude bag and colorful heels

My addiction to neutrals is hitting an all-time high. This Helmut Lang blazer looks good with pretty much everything, and I love that the color and texture has the versatility of denim but looks far nicer. It plays well with other simple, quality pieces.



#5 Use it as summertime lounge wear

If you're like me, you come home, immediately take off your blazer and shoes and change into leggings and an oversize tee shirt before feeling like you can relax. This summer, I'm committing to use more of my casual dresses when I'm just hanging around the house. It makes me feel more put together, with just as much (if not more) comfort of my standard getup. As an added bonus, it makes it much easier to find the motivation to make last minute plans to eat out or grab a drink with a friend. If I were traveling, this would also morph into swimsuit cover up and potentially even a nightgown...


Special thanks to my dear friend (and cousin) Becky Howe for her help with the photos for this post! She's an up-and-coming lifestyle photographer and one of my creative inspirations who is filled with the best ideas ever. You can check out her work here.

Ah yes, and here are those links I promised: 

1. An amazing linen dress, not white but can be styled in a similar way and last forever in your closet.
2. A mini leather backpack, worth a splurge since they'll cycle back into style every few years (but I'd hold out for a good deal or source from eBay or Nordstrom Rack...).
3. The denim jacket I'd buy if I hadn't saved the one I bought at age 15.
4. Perfect nude heels, I own a very similar version from Diane Von Furstenburg that I found on sale. but would buy them new at this price for the versatility and how long they've lasted. The ones I'm wearing in this post are from Nine West, another great classic shoe source but not as great of quality.

Ok, that's all for now, thanks for reading along! I'm sure most of you have a forgotten white summer dress somewhere in your closets teeming with clothes, and would love to hear your thoughts on fresh ways to style it (as I write this, thinking this one would work great with a distressed leather bomber jacket if only I owned one... will be adding to my thrift shop list...)
6 comments on "Five ways to style a basic white dress"
  1. Love the post! Let's make sure to bring red lipstick next time :) And thanks so much for the shout out! <3

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    1. Becky, thank you SO much for doing it! And yes to red lipstick...

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  2. Absolutely gorgeous photos, Colleen. I love all your ideas for styling a basic white summer dress ... or really any basic summer dress. My favorite is the lounge wear look - simple, fresh, and very summmery.
    J

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    1. Jill, thanks so much for reading and for the comment! Didn't think the lounge wear idea would take, but realizing how great summery dresses are to wear while being a couch potato hahaha! Have a great week!

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  3. Gorgeous! And I'm loving the darker hair color on you too!

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    1. Thank you so much for reading! Have been thinking of going for the blonde balayage again but you may have just given me the push I needed to stay 75% brunette!

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