May 26, 2020
It’s an occupational hazard – I read French personal style books. Well, “read” is charitable because I don’t fully grasp every last single solitary word that’s there, but I manage okay…
And I find some of their advice to be interesting and possibly useful for us! All of these books have some sort of “must-have garments” list (which I of course think is errant nonsense, and should never exist…); my current book strongly promotes the idea of having a dress in a floral print that could be worn all year… hmm…
This is the book in question:
Seriously, ladies, a book will NOT give someone style. It’s a fun book, nonetheless!
In response to this suggestion, I found a couple of dresses that I thought were both appealing on their own merits, and potentially versatile enough to wear throughout the year. I noticed a few things, as I worked on showing these dresses in a range of possible ensembles:
Let’s see if this works out…
First, I found a pretty, very simple navy floral dress. It has a bit of ruffle at the bottom, but nothing above the waist that would bunch up or pull under a sweater or jacket. And then I thought about how I would wear it (and how the authors of my books suggested…).
Spring is a season of endless weather mystery, so our heroine might be able to go bare-legged with ballet flats, or she might still be wearing her winter ensemble!
For summer, choices were easy:
My book suggests a blazer over your dress, for autumn. This might work well, or it might be better to opt for a blazer-styled cardigan. It’s all a question of how everything feels when you get it on! The only blazer I own is very square in cut, and can be worn over just about anything…
I can actually picture this next outfit working pretty well – the sweater and scarf will fit easily over the top of the dress, and it will look as if you’re wearing a cute little skirt under an oversized sweater. This is a really popular look in Paris, and I’m always attracted to it:
Just to give this another try, I found this print dress, in colors that are seasonless! Picking up the white in the print makes this seem very “springy.”
In truly warm weather, a mask is the main essential accessory! Add in some silver and onyx and you’re good to go…
Because this dress has a tie on the front, I didn’t want to add on another really structured garment, like a blazer. I can’t quite explain why I feel like it wouldn’t work, but I’m more comfortable with this cardigan in this outfit!
When you see these various outfits come together, you can clearly see the merits of choosing a favorite accent color or 2, and then having a bag, and a scarf, and maybe earrings in that color! Once you have these pieces in hand, any garment that you buy that is part of your palette will be easy to accessorize:
For me, I could do this with my most excellent Eileen Fisher v-neck sleeveless dress – it can be worn as a jumper (as we say in the US, which is to say a sleeveless dress worn over a blouse, tee shirt or sweater), all alone, or with something over it.
If we’re all going to try to be a bit more efficient with our money, and with our wardrobes, being able to wear anything for 12 months is an accomplishment!
Do you have any “all-year” clothes?
p.s. Seven years ago, accessories for a khaki and green wardrobe were the order of the day!
p.p.s. If you’re looking online for masks, be careful; everybody and their grandmother seems to be banging out masks for sale. I suspect that many of the masks “available” either don’t exist at all, or aren’t going to get to you for weeks and weeks, or are going to be icky pieces of trash when they arrive. Bandwagons should be avoided…
I’m always surprised that wearing something UNDER a sleeveless dress (pinafore style) isn’t suggested for autumn/winter. I have several long sleeved tee shirts that I use for layering, the a cardigan can go over the top. Love the dresses, though.
I wear long-sleeved turtlenecks under dresses all the time in the winter, but I seem to be alone in my affection for pinafores, and for warmth!
It just seems too young for me. Also, the armholes on sleeveless dresses are often cut higher than ones intended to be worn over sweaters. I wish it worked for me!
When I indulged in my black Eileen Fisher dress, I made certain that the armholes would be okay for layering… Degrees of comfort are hard to assess – I never mind dressing as if I’m heading off to 1st grade!
Sally in St Paul says
This is an interesting point. I have struggled to do this successfully in situations where I’m not also adding a top layer (so that the layering T serves more like an undergarment and doesn’t affect the overall look). Usually a sleeveless dress as a jumper/pinafore with a top under it somehow looks both childish and frumpy on me! But about 5 years ago, I did happen to have a simple sleeveless brown/back leopard print sheath dress made from a very thick ponte material from Lands End that I could wear with one specific brown collared blouse made from a crinkly fabric. Something about the colors, the silhouette, and the fabrics made this look grown-up but not stodgy.
Beth T says
You might have hit the right note wearing a blouse under a dress. If said blouse has a collar, it gives a crisp feel to the outfit. Sounds great.
I don’t have many “all-year” clothes, but one of them is precisely a floral dress! It has a simple fit&flare silhouette, a black background, and a fabric that isn’t too summery. This autumn/winter I often wore it under a purple sweater that is slightly oversized and not very flattering (to me) with pants, but it has small slits on the hips and somehow it looked nice over the dress. With tights, my comfiest boots and a black scarf, it was one of favorite outfits when I wanted to feel cozy without looking frumpy (as I easily do when wearing a lot of layers).
miss agnes says
I’m French, and would be happy to help you understand some of the more mysterious parts of your book. Just send them over and I will be happy to translate. Cheers!
Great ideas Janice, but I just can’t bring myself to wear thin and flimsy in the depth of winter. My fabric has to change to a thicker knit to withstand the bitter winds and driving rain.
The only garments that I wear all year are Jeans and gym wear.
When buying masks, please remember they need to be washed in detergent and very hot water after every wearing to sanitize them. I’m still speechless at the mention of a Hermes mask. Stay safe everyone!
Beth T says
Thanks for sharing your thought processes. With the navy dress, I would be tempted treat it as a neutral and wear it with an accent colour – fuschia, plum, yellow etc. The bird print dress is something I could see myself in – fun but stylish. In winter, I would wear it over a teal roll-neck plus a cardigan on top. I haven’t really got an all year dress as my colours and materials are different. However, it’s worth considering how one could wear your clothes for more than one season.
I have finally found the post where you said that a dark background in a print is more flattering and can be worn in cooler weather as you have done so here ! I found it in your article of closet cleaning using the wardrobe cluster concept, which I adore ! I like to pack using the cluster method too , which strikes me as a mini module of mix and match !
I am hard to fit and have not worn a dress in years, but I am still thinking of trying on ( eventually) some floral Summery dresses to see if I have changed my mind !
Thanks so much for this article – its brilliant :-). I have a floral dress in navy and periwinkle and with your suggestions, I can take it into autumn and winter! I never would have thought of the ideas you presented – how I love your blog!! Also, much appreciated your posting yesterday – on a holiday!! You definitely brighten my mornings!!
In Montréal, where winter is close to 5 months long, and a lot of it with windchill of minus -10F/-22C, few things will look sillier and give one hypothermia faster than a cotton sleeveless dress, and we do know about sweaters. When I shop with Parisienne girlfriends they buy thin rayon or silk dresses for winter and say “Oh, I’ll just wear tights under it”, but that is not going to work here. I take all the French style books with a un grain de sel.
We wear turtlenecks… under wool cardigans.
In autumn and winter, women wear sleeveless dresses, often out in the evening, but in more season-appropriate fabrics like stretch wool or knits.
Sally in St Paul says
It’s interesting how much the humidity makes a difference to that sense of winter cold. For example, super-dry Colorado feels ridiculously comfortable at 0F. In the Twin Cities, though, it’s only moderately-dry and it feels colder at 0F…but I can still wear a cotton skirt *most* of the winter as long as I have adequate tights/leggings, boots, and coat (I refuse to wear a winter coat that isn’t knee length or longer). I find that the Minnesota tendency to crank up the heat makes it too warm indoors for me to wear wool to work, so I have a lot of skirts (and I used to have a good number of dresses) that I can wear year round using various layering schemes. But my understanding is that Montreal has a humid/wet winter that makes it feels a lot colder at the same temperature (plus gets colder overall) so I hear you when you say that this approach won’t work for you there. It’s kind of a running joke here that the places that are colder than Minnesota in the winter are the Top of the Wall from the Game of Thrones, the Hoth ice world from Star Wars, and Canada. ;)
I have heard the all-year dress idea before – from a French youtuber. I find it hilarious and I wonder where those people live and what are the winter and summer temperatures there?
Where I live, summers are very hot and on the other hand winters are very cold – down parkas, heavy boots and thermo-underwear. I cannot imagine wearing summer dress over thermo-leggings, and cardi on top.
I completely agree, Lita. I live in a four season climate, and the dress one would wear in the summer bears no relationship to a winter or even autumn dress. Materials, if not colors, reflect the reality of those seasons. Putting a sweater over a light fabric floaty dress might get a lithe French woman through the last ‘getting cooler’ weeks of September, but for me, it just reminds me too much of putting on a v-neck navy sweater over our light blue summer uniform back in school. If this is about stretching one’s wardrobe, okay, I get it, but it’s still asking a lot of the woman whose figure and age just do not support such a youthful look.
Linda P says
Hi Janice: Having grown up on one Great Lake and having spent the past 30 on another, most sleeveless ‘summer’s dresses are too lightweight for wind chills. Even with short sleeved dresses I require a –really — warm cardigan or pullover sweater. I have much better luck with 4 season skirts, such as one I have that is a rust-black-cranberry paisley pattern.
I have a chambray dress that I wear a lot of the year over lightweight leggings, minus the very hottest or coldest days. But our winters have many warm-ish days where a thicker cotton is warm enough. I could probably wear a flowered dress year-round like the ones you show, but I haven’t found one I like yet.
The only things I wear year-round are jeans and cashmere sweaters (sweaters indoors as my husband keeps the air-conditioning turned up). I like to change colors and fabrics to reflect the season we’re in. Maybe it’s a holdover from growing up in the Midwest, but I need a closet change when the temperatures change.
I have ordered four masks from creators at Etsy and the masks came within two to three days at the most (even now, when things are moving more slowly) and were very well made. Do not be afraid of ordering masks, in other words, just go through the site carefully and try to choose masks that look well-made.