Dress Over Pants
April 26, 2005 8:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm a big fan of the British version of What Not to Wear. I've been watching it for years. Trinny, one of the presenters, has always worn dresses over pants. I always thought it was one of those things only she could pull off, but in a recent episode, she tried that look on someone who is built very similar to me (tall, wide hips, narrow shoulders), and it really worked. I tried on one version of this in a dressing room this weekend, and I think it's a look that could really work for me, but I'm having trouble working out what type of dress will work the best. I think I get the type of pants that work best (flat-front without any bulky details around the waist, flared leg, etc.), but the dress part... I can't quite imagine it. Any ideas? I'm 35, so I don't want to look like a trendy little girl. You know, like this.

Here's a picture of a slightly fancy version of the look.

I found this. It's a start, but I'd like a little more!
posted by abbyladybug to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (20 answers total)
Oh! Forgot the pink to the episode that inspired me to post this question. It isn't the best look, but it's another variation.
posted by abbyladybug at 8:23 PM on April 26, 2005

No tie-backs on the dress. Slight A-line flare - nothing too straight or too frilly. Pleats on pants and on dress are a no-no unless you're going for the pouchy look. Sleeveless works best, cap sleeve next, short sleeve after that, and finally 3/4 sleeve. Long sleeve looks too covered up for me, unless it's really a 'tunic' style with more Moroccan or South American details. The dress should fit over the pants without tugging or rippling at the waist. Length of skirt: anywhere from under-butt to over-knee works best, unless it's an Indian-type outfit where that's a different matter all together [like that orange number from your last link to the episode]. Black pants, flat front, no pockets, no belt-loops, even pull-on works great. I have a pair of yoga-type black pants that have a slight stretch, get pulled on, have a little flare at the bottom but are basically straight-leg, that look good under dresses. But if you're very skinny, those things don't matter as much, if you care. Those are all starting points. Then, branch out: brighter bottoms under a black little black dress, same colour but different texture, different sleeve length, you get the idea. I actually hate wearing dresses on their own, but really don't mind wearing them over pants for some reason. They make it slightly funkier, less formal, but still covered and chic. It can have the boppy reputation of Sporty Spice but with taste it works really well. Tip: bring pants to try on with dress, or vice versa, to the store. That way you know how they work together!
posted by fionab at 8:44 PM on April 26, 2005

Wow, that sounds very formulaic. I didn't mean to make it sound so cut-and-dry, it's been a long day. Sorry. Those are the things that have worked for me in the past [tallish, wideish butt and hips, but fairly in proportion] and may be a starting off point, but they're not hard rules that Must Be Followed! Not at all. Play with it :-)
posted by fionab at 8:58 PM on April 26, 2005

If you have a well-stocked sari or south asian clothing shop in the area, you could try looking for salwar sets, or just the top. That episode photo of the orange/white outfit reminded me of one. The tops seem to come in various lengths (I've seen from hip to ankle-length) and cuts and designs (sleeveless, spaghetti-strap, etc.) and they can be affordable if you're not going with fancy fabrics like silk.
posted by PY at 9:04 PM on April 26, 2005

You can also order custom salwar sets on eBay. Technically you're buying the fabric and they make the set for free, but you send them your measurements and they ship the thing off to you. There was a "how buy a sari/salwar on eBay" story on BoingBoing.
posted by fionab at 9:42 PM on April 26, 2005

fionab, that's fabulous!
posted by puddinghead at 11:37 PM on April 26, 2005

Yeah - much cheaper (...eek! outsourcing for some), very quick, just look at the feedback and you'll have a good time and get a great outfit. Some of the fabrics are itchy so make sure you look at that aspect closely. Otherwise, it's great!
posted by fionab at 12:36 AM on April 27, 2005

Oh excellent! I adore saris and was doing some research on them. I have several close friends from India, and I adore the look, but I don't want to look like a white woman trying to coopt another culture for fashion, but I really think there is a way to do it that can be stylish and respectful. I didn't have the right keywords to use, but now I do. I should ask my friends, too. I'm sure they will have lots of great advice, although they generally wear American clothes since they live here now. Anyway, these are great suggestions. Keep 'em coming!
posted by abbyladybug at 4:49 AM on April 27, 2005

Wow. Seems like the fashion industry has been taking tips from the parking lots of Grateful Dead and Phish shows.
posted by terrapin at 6:42 AM on April 27, 2005

Excellent post. I'm also a fan of the UK WNTW. I'm trying to track down some excellent pants and jeans for the very same body type (tall, wide hips, slight saddlebags, narrow shoulders).

The most frustrating thing about this body type is finding cooler things to wear in the summer. Have never found a decent pair of shorts, unfortunately. So I'm always stuck in skirts or overall/shorts like this. Argh!
posted by jeanmari at 7:01 AM on April 27, 2005

I think one thing that's important to making this look work is to carry it off with confidence, make it look intentional, like you're one of the few who is up to the challenge.

For me, that means accessories. I think pull-up hair and big earrings make the look work (like Jessica Alba in the "trendy little girl" picture, but, you know, more grown-up). I think, for this reason, the layered look suggested in the about.com article works, too.
posted by lalalana at 8:07 AM on April 27, 2005

WHY is this look popular? I'm perpetually confused by it.
posted by agregoli at 8:20 AM on April 27, 2005

It's nice at the end of a long winter when you are tired of wearing stockings and boots but it isn't warm yet. Other than that, I dunno.
posted by dame at 9:52 AM on April 27, 2005

If you hate the look, then you aren't really a candidate for this discussion! Remember, "Wisecracks don't help people find answers."

OK, back to the conversation!
posted by abbyladybug at 10:54 AM on April 27, 2005

Uh, thanks - did I say I hated the look? I'm curious as to what's behind it. Thanks for chastising me though.
posted by agregoli at 1:47 PM on April 27, 2005

What's behind it?
Well, it's comfortable, flattering, and not yet "cookie cutter." It can also be a save on laundy day.
'Nuff said, at least for me.
posted by lalalana at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2005

Save on laundry? By wearing twice as much? Or do you mean because you have no shirts left?
posted by agregoli at 2:25 PM on April 27, 2005

I like it because it looked good on me in a dressing room. I tried it on after watching that episode. The good part is that it is unique, and it is flattering for my body type. That's why I like it.

It's hard to answer the question "What's good about it?" for most looks. Usually, the good part is that it makes you look good.

(Certainly wasn't chastizing. It's just when I started the topic, I was afraid people would spent time criticizing the look rather than helping me to figure out how to make it work. I just wanted to keep the discussion on topic)
posted by abbyladybug at 2:44 PM on April 27, 2005

I understand the flattering aspect of it, if that's how you feel. But unique? Following a trend isn't unique!

But to each their own. I wasn't here to shit on it, just curious and not wanting to start another thread for answers. Just keep seeing it everywhere and think, "Are those women really cold, or something?"
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on April 28, 2005

"Following a trend isn't unique!"

I keep thinking about this. It isn't really true. I don't know anyone who wears this look. I've never seen it anywhere in real life, only on TV and in magazines. It would be unique. Wearing a shirt with a skirt is NOT unique.
posted by abbyladybug at 8:58 PM on May 4, 2005

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