How to spice up your boring old dress

| On
Tuesday, August 09, 2016

This navy silk dress (an eBay replacement of the original Fluet verison I've had for years) is one of the most comfortable dresses I own: it's a breathable washed silk, a super loose cut, and covers my shoulders. It's on the short side, so I've only ever worn it casually with flats and never considered trying to spice it up to wear for a dressier occasion.

That is, until complete closet boredom set in. Lately, I've been overcoming that kind of rut with some good old fashioned outfit planning, and this time around forced myself to rethink some of my tried-and-true basics. Breaking some of my own style rules and attempting to make this basic dress appropriate for a wedding was a stroke of genius that made me fall back in love with it all over again. 

There's a section of my closet that still has a few under-utilized items, including this pair of fancy Italian black suede t-strap sandals that I've been saving for dressy occasions (which are few and far between in my life these days). Pairing this dress with fancy shoes and a simple leather baguette clutch made me feel like that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts becomes classy. And it felt kind of wrong because I normally never wear heels with short hemlines but the sleeves, high neckline and loose fit convinced me it was just wild enough. (It also passed the Catholic schoolgirl test: hem must be minimum of two inches longer than fingertips.)

It worked equally as well with some old leopard sandals that I rarely wear, a vintage patent leather Gucci bag, and an 80's door knocker necklace that normally decorates my dresser. Breaking my own rule about wearing only one vintage thing at a time and then realizing that I was all wrong about that rule made me seriously question my judgement.

Try it, I dare you, the next time you feel like you're out of things to wear. Here are the highly scientific steps:

#1 Select a casual dress you love but kind of bores you.

#2 Unearth your favorite pair of fancy heels and put them on.

#3 Add a coordinated bag.

#4 Apply bright lipstick.

#5 Dance around your house, take a few selfies for reference purposes. 

Voila, instant wedding outfit you already own. I guarantee you'll be wearing it to a dinner party soon. If you're like me, all that excitement and newfound ability to change the lens with which you view your closet will cure your hunger to buy a new dress.

Ok, that's all for now. Please forgive my radio silence, it's been a crazy couple of weeks. (It's currently 9:35 p.m. on a Tuesday night and I'm sitting in a Marriott eating a Chipotle carnitas bowl with a plastic coffee lid because I was so distracted I left without silverware. If you're wondering whether to feel bad for me or admire my resourcefulness, I'm also pondering that question...)

Anyway, back to the topic on hand: I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you breathe new life into the old favorites in your closet. (I still have four and a half months to go on this no new things experiment and need all the ideas I can get.)
10 comments on "How to spice up your boring old dress"
  1. Hi Colleen! Hope you are having a good summer so far!

    Love this dress you look so beautiful! I am sure it will look great pairing with a blazer, or a pair of boots, or a sweater. Some think dress is not as flexible as skirt when it comes to styling, but I think otherwise. I have many (I mean many) dresses, I find myself forever drifting toward dresses. Many of my dresses are sleeveless, I used to wear them with a cardigan, but now I try to layer a T underneath it, or a sweater over it, I had fun(and some mishaps) exploring it.

    Be safe when you travel dear! And thank you as always, for your thoughtful articles!


    1. Echo, thanks so much for your comment and compliments! Love the idea of pairing this with a chunky cardigan (a current gap in my fall wardrobe, ahhh!!) or layering a blazer over it. I'm like you in that I drift towards dresses because they are simpler to style.

      Hope you are also having a great summer! We're in the process of moving and renovating, so I've been a little slow in my posts but will keep writing for you :)

  2. Hi Colleen,
    I love this formula! It really has me thinking about casual dresses I own and may be neglecting. Soon I will begin a purge of my closet and I don't want to get rid of something that I just had to reimagine. You always stretch my thinking in a refreshingly simple, easy-to-apply way! Thank you for that! And I agree with Echo, I am a dress girl. It is nice to think of ideas to make them more versatile!

    1. Hey Jill! Thanks so much for reading, and for your feedback. So glad that formula works for you, too! It's simple but effective, and has also helped me eliminate some items that really don't belong. Hope you are having a great summer and enjoying the fruits of your fabulous garden! I can't get it out of my mind! Our new place has a small patch of grass that I want to plant some low-maintenance, hard-to-kill plants... would love your thoughts (or a post!) on that!!!

  3. Hi, Colleen! As usual, you look fabulous! I love that dress and if I had your figure and youth, I think I'd be googling "Fluet" immediately. :) Thought I'm proud to say that I'm still keeping up with the no new things challenge, I also have to admit to utter boredom with the items currently residing in my closet. A recent purge of clothes and accessories gave me a wonderful sense of relief, but it did very little to motivate my creativity or to generate more excitement about wearing my clothes. But I think the true reason for being in a slump right now is exactly as you pointed above - my complete lack of outfit planning and, consequently, not utilizing everything I already own. This simply needs to become part of my daily routine if I want to succeed in the NNT challenge and beyond.

    1. Ivanka, hello! Thanks so much for your comment and the compliment! (Although I should say my friend texted me this pic and asked if I was expecting... so might need to revisit this dress' place in my wardrobe!) You and I are sharing the boredom struggle. (Is it just me, or do you feel like you're looking forward to fall to change out the old summer stuff?) The outfit planning is definitely helping me get better use out of what I have, and I am feeling that I have more pieces I really love because I've worn them so much that styling is second nature. I've been doing outfit planning on a 2 week basis, and photograph (selfies, obviously) everything for reference on my iPhone which really helps.

      Anyways, have a great rest of the week and thank you again for all your support of this little blog :-)

  4. Loved this post, Colleen. Congratulations on making it through 8 months of shopping starvation! It seems the time has flown by.
    While I don't have any tips for revitalizing stale wardrobe items for you at the moment, I'm really interested to know if you've rocked more pant + dress combos lately? It's still too hot down here in southwest Louisiana to attempt the trend, but between your prior post and Pinterest, I'm feeling inspired and ready for Fall.
    The boring dress challenge you issued in this post, however, I can (and will) definitely attempt in the near future.

    1. Lydia, thank you for reading and for your comment - I really appreciate it so much. In terms of the pants + dress combos, I've definitely been rocking them for some of the cooler days. I've noticed that my oversize / shapeless dresses are the easiest to style over pants, but they only look good with heels! Will think about this for a future post...

      And, I'm with you on being ready for fall! (If the boring dress challenge isn't evidence enough of that haha!) Hope you have a great week, and thank you again for taking the time to read and provide your thoughts. :)

  5. Good inspiration! I always do the Catholic school fingerlength check on skirts and dresses as well :)

    1. Hey there! Thanks so much for reading and your comment. The Catholic school girl trick is fail-safe, isn't it?! I feel like I have my mom in my ear when I ask myself if something is too short!