Where should I be shopping? Difficulty level: Dresses
April 9, 2015 2:35 PM   Subscribe

As a woman in her early-mid 30s I'm finding that my old standby clothing sources no longer really work for me, but I have no idea where to go from here. Everything seems to be either too young or too old, and the current silhouettes that are in vogue are absolutely the LEAST flattering to my figure imaginable, so more trendy places seem to be right out. Where should I be buying my casual dresses these days?

I've gone through the AskMe archives, but it seems like most of the previous Asks along these lines are looking for work-friendly stuff--I work from home, so the suggestions tend to be too fancy for my purposes.

My general go-to "look" is usually a short, casual dress, cardigan, and some kind of seasonally-appropriate footwear. (If you are familiar with the now-defunct blog What Would A Nerd Wear, she's my style icon.) It's basically a hipster-lite look. Previously, I did about 80% of my clothing shopping at H&M and Modcloth. Lately, however, I've been on a huge streak of bad luck, especially with Modcloth. Things have just seemed oddly, unflatteringly cut, leading to my last Ask, which taught me that

a) I cannot wear "fit and flare" dresses and
b) I am too old for Ruche and Modcloth, probably.

So what I'm looking for is a new source for cute, short, casual, ideally fun-patterned or prettily-colored dresses appropriate to a person my age and ideally, friendly to the large-boobed. (If most of their stuff is backless or strapless, it's no good to me.) Price is only sort-of an object. I'm willing to spend a decent amount for wardrobe staples and am not at all married to the $40-or-less Modcloth price point. But, I mean, realistically I'm not going to spend $500 on a dress when the only places I ever go are the grocery store and the bar.

Places that I already know are NOT my friend: The Gap (too boxy/drapey/shapeless), Ann Taylor/Loft (too office-y), Urban Outfitters (I am not sure even that most of those are clothes; they are just complicated handkerchiefs), LL Bean (for some reason it just never, ever, ever fits right)

I'm in a big city (US) so have access to lots and lots of brick and mortar shops. But I'm also happy to shop online, so fire away!
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 112 users marked this as a favorite
Boden is pretty much my go-to for this sort of thing. Perfectly friendly to the big-boobed (and I am plenty big-boobed, believe me), and not horribly expensive. They carry a lot of cute not-office stuff, like the printed skirts and so forth. And I actually kinda love their dresses, which come in tons of patterns.
posted by holborne at 2:40 PM on April 9, 2015 [10 favorites]

J. Jill? I generally think of them as running a bit older than 30 but I just went to look at their dresses and they look pretty comfy and even kind of cute in a casual/kale smoothie kind of way.
posted by matildaben at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2015

I don't think you're too old for modcloth and ruche! I'm your age and have plenty of friends who love both. You could try anthro. You absolutely have to try things on and some seasons they have literally nothing that will accommodate a large chest but some of my most-loved dresses are from there.

Sometimes the Nordstoms house bands have nice desses (I'm thinking of Halogen specifically), but again it's hit or miss.

MICHAEL Michael Kors can be good but I tend to not love his prints.
posted by tealcake at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2015

As a fellow ex-Modclother - Boden, Anthropologie, and Vince are my latest go-tos. Uh, and occasionally Eileen Fisher.

I'm also going to throw out a rave for Stitch Fix, if you're feeling adventurous about having a complete stranger send you things. The price point is great, and so far everything I've gotten has fit shockingly well (even *gasp* jeans, my arch nemesis). You do have to be diligent about filling out your profile and explicitly stating what you like/hate, and accept that sometimes you will send back an entire box of duds.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:55 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: All the women I know (30s - 40s) are obsessed with Karina dresses.
posted by neroli at 3:02 PM on April 9, 2015 [25 favorites]

I second Boden, which I particularly like for work dresses, but their casual stuff is right up your alley too. I'm also very happy with the dresses I've picked up from Title Nine. There are some very cool choices on Etsy, for example this. Finally, I think Michelle Obama has clearly made a case for J Crew dresses.
posted by bearwife at 3:06 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: I bought a sheath dress from eShakti recently, paid the extra $7 for custom measurements and it fit my big-boobed self like a glove. So pleased! They are always having sales, and keep sending me coupons now. I bought the dress off clearence with an extra % off for ordering on my phone and it ended up being $40 for a $90 dress. I think they're worth a try! The styles are cute too, lots of vintage/artsy/boho stuff that I could also wear to work =)

(I'm especially impressed as I'm 6mo post partum and still losing weight and definitely have some weird lumpy curvy-ness going on still. I'm also really tall, and was able to get long-enough skirt!)
posted by jrobin276 at 3:21 PM on April 9, 2015

The last three casual dresses I've bought have been from Zappos. It's a lot to wade through, but if you narrow your search down by style, price, material, etc. you can find some real winners. And, bonus: free shipping and returns, which is key for me when buying clothes online.
posted by something something at 3:28 PM on April 9, 2015

Anthropologie sale rack. Madewell doesn't do a ton of patterns but often has nice eyelet or lace dresses. I've had good luck in the past with Motel -- interesting patterns in floaty, drapey fabrics, sometimes with (miracle of miracles) an actual set-in waist -- though I don't love anything on their site right now.
posted by ostro at 3:38 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

ASOS does a good line in basics - I've bought a couple of simple wrap dresses from them before. They're not exactly high-end but they pad out a smart-casual wardrobe well enough.
posted by averysmallcat at 3:45 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Assuming your budget can keep up with your advancing years, I nth a judicious perusal of the Anthropologie/Banana Republic sale rack and Madewell, plus a cruise by J Crew and a stop by REI to check out their Horny Toad/Prana/Patagonia selections. If you can, hit up TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Nordstrom Rack/H&M (oh for a Lindex or Åhlens!) often for a rare find of practical, adult stylishness. A nice cardigan and shirt with decent slacks or skirt from the above with an occasional Goodwill hunting find is my ad hoc approach to dressing like a grownup.
posted by Queen of Spreadable Fats at 4:02 PM on April 9, 2015

I haven't bought anything from here but think shabby apple has some really cute (but age appropriate) dresses.
posted by pennypiper at 4:07 PM on April 9, 2015

I've gotten a bunch of cute dresses, like this and this, from Land's End.
posted by decathecting at 4:09 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify a little along aesthetic lines: While I don't want to look like a 19 year old club kid, I actually don't particularly want to look "sharp" or "smart-casual." Definitely, actually casual. Not even the very slightest bit "sporty" or "outdoorsy." Think Zooey Deschanel, rather than Gwyneth Paltrow.

Places like J Crew and Banana Republic are far too preppy for my tastes, and for the most part way too "nice" looking for anywhere that I ever actually go.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:15 PM on April 9, 2015

Response by poster: (Anything I put on my body will be accessorized by, at the absolutely most "nice", a pair of beat up brown leather boots. More likely: flip flops, or a pair of Converse lo-tops.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:17 PM on April 9, 2015

I can't think of any by name, but I have had luck in the past with online stores that cater to young, hip Mormon women. Fun patterns and colors without plunging necklines or backless dresses. The key search term was "modest". (Which of course also turns up hilariously ugly things, too. It takes a little while to find the good ones.)
posted by ocherdraco at 4:20 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you been to a dressbarn store?
posted by zennie at 4:26 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shabby Apple, mentioned upthread, is one of the sites I'm talking about.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:27 PM on April 9, 2015

How about Ureshii?
posted by littlewater at 4:29 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was coming in to recommend Ureshii as littlewater did. I have several of their dresses and shirts--both custom and the pattern demo pieces they sell at discount and am very happy with the workmanship, customer service, fit, fabric & cost per wear.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:50 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by bronwensaurus at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

I know you said you're not into Ann Taylor/LOFT, but you might want to check out LOFT's Lou and Grey line. The dresses definitely lean more casual than typical LOFT offerings.
posted by katie at 5:20 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Right there with you re: age and style. Madewell is my go-to when I have a little spare cash and Uniqlo is my regular go-to for just about everything.
posted by greta simone at 5:28 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nth Boden, which knocks out some nice styles and which is usually of respectable quality. Everlane? Prairie Underground? LL Bean Signature, which has very different sizing and cuts from regular Bean? Moonseats is a wee Etsy seller with very good stuff. J. Peterman? One of American Apparel's few non-skimpy offerings? Three Dots? Tilley?

I ordered a thing from ASOS this winter and got a thing riddled with manufacturing defects, really shoddy and awful, and went down a rabbit hole of awful, awful customer service -- their FB page has a lot of similarly frustrated people having trouble even communicating with them too, I noticed. Bad quality + bad returns = not recommended. And since I am being whiny: Karina dresses are made with artificial fibre (note the lack of fibre content info on the site!).
posted by kmennie at 5:55 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: According to Worn on TV - many of Zooey Deschanel's dresses on New Girl come from ModCloth and Nordstrom. So if you like that cute, flirty, semi-retro style, it seems like you're not too old for ModCloth!
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:25 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Express sometimes has nice dresses. They fit a little better and hold up longer than H&M, IME. I've also had success with shopping Loft online (the brick and mortar stores are a lot more office-y).
posted by redlines at 7:18 PM on April 9, 2015

Best answer: As a fellow big-boobed woman, I second the Karina recommendation -- insanely comfortable and flattering dresses (made in the US by workers paid a living wage, too).

Something else I appreciate: When I've emailed the co. with questions about what size to order, they've been great about getting back to me quickly.
posted by virago at 7:45 PM on April 9, 2015

I'm going to second uniqlo and maybe add Muji too.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:41 AM on April 10, 2015

Best answer: The whimsical category on eShakti has a bunch of Zooey-eesque dress, including one I might have to order for myself, with penny-farthing bicycle embroidery.

See also:

red polka dot dress
Kenya dress
bunny rabbit dress
heart embellished dress
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:27 AM on April 10, 2015

Response by poster: You guys are bomb. I've just placed my first eShakti order, so fingers crossed! Ye gods, all I've ever wanted is a store that would let me make anything into a v-neck.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:13 AM on April 10, 2015 [4 favorites]

I get most of my dresses at places like Ross, TJ Maxx, or Marshalls. Ross in particular has a really wide selection (at least where I'm located) including plenty of casual styles. It may take more time to browse through everything and find what you like, but you can get some great deals.
posted by treachery, faith, and the great river at 12:23 PM on April 10, 2015

« Older Where is the best shopping in Tokyo for...   |   What are some examples of social mobility among... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.