Wear a party dress to work

Wear a party dress to work

Usually, this blog features outfits I’ve worn (note the past tense).  This post is an exception – I’ve shot this outfit in advance of wearing it, because the Andrea Moore workroom sale will be for a limited time only.  Check it out on Lambton Quay and see if there’s anything there that catches your eye.  Workmates: see you in this dress on Thursday!

I love style, and I obviously love clothes, but I am not a fashion collector.  I don’t buy things for any reason except to wear them, and I certainly don’t buy things as “an example of their time” or because they were from a particular collection by a particular designer.  So when I stood in the Andrea Moore workroom sale, contemplating this very 2014 style of dress, it was because I wanted to wear it now and in years to come, despite it incorporating two slowly diminishing trends – this almost badge-style embellishment, and 60s shapes and cuts.  Vogue says the 80s are back, y’all.

This is the Treasure Chest Tunic from S/S 2014 , which originally cost $498 (a price I would have baulked at, if I'm honest) and which was savagely reduced in the sale to $99.  Buying this did officially push me over my fashion budget for the month, I confess, but sometimes you have to cut back on lattes and croissants for a couple of weeks to make your dreams of owning a dress covered in hearts, keys, lips and crowns into a reality (this is called Fashion Math.  It is not real budgeting (make sure you do real budgeting, ladies and occasional gents), but it’s one slightly irreverent way to think about the opportunity cost of clothes you might like to buy).

Why did this dress call to me?  Several reasons, but chief amongst them is the shape.  This slightly A-line shape, with the neckline cut to just below the collarbone and the sleeves sitting mid-bicep (or where a bicep would be if I ever did any arms stuff at the gym) is very flattering for my fairly girlish figure (by which I mean: flat chested).  It’s similar to the pinafore/tunic style dress from Twenty-Seven Names that I found at Recycle Boutique, and it evokes the 60s without being too costume-y.  It’s a conservative shape, subverted by garish beaded detailing.  It’s totally, completely, my jam.  Plus, I already owned the perfect shoes to wear with it.

Technically, this is a summer party dress.  It’s white, short-sleeved and satin – but if you think that will stop it being a great piece for work, or for wearing in winter, your expectations of my style are perhaps still too dialled down.  Things I have previously worn to my current job include:

  • A full length, heavy satin skirt with a striped top
  • A pair of (vintage) wide legged turquoise pants with turn ups at the bottom, with a striped top with statement sleeves
  • A black jumpsuit over a shirt I’ll describe as “Little Lord Fauntleroy”
  • A pair of high-waisted silk orange pants with a cropped sweatshirt and oversized pearls
  • A black sequinned jumper dress with a cape blazer
  • A (vintage) red, green, white, yellow and blue striped silk dress with a dropped waist, with massive yellow statement earrings

Huh.  When I write it down, it sounds like…a lot.  Thanks, current employer, for knowing that professional style doesn’t mean “boring as F”.   In any case, at this point the tone has been set. For work, I’ll wear it just as it is here, with these red shoes from Merchant 1948.  (Do I have meetings on Thursday?  Does it matter?)  The lower, chunky heel on these shoes as well as the overall shape means this outfit goes less glam – with a red or cobalt stiletto or strappy sandal, the look would change immediately into something more “cocktail hour”.

For winter, please imagine, if you will, this dress with skinny blue jeans underneath and a bright red coat over the top – or a pale pink coat, which is less likely since I don’t own one but it would look sensational.  Or worn with a cropped navy jumper over it and a pair of navy tights, and ankle boots to clomp about in.  (In mind’s eye, it can be done.  Perhaps let’s stick a pin in it and I’ll give it a whirl in June!).

I have this extremely not at all scientific theory that humans clothed themselves not for the purposes of staying warm, but because the unadorned human body is beautiful but relatively meh compared to other parts of the animal kingdom.  If you're surrounded by animals with fur, markings, feathers and so on, and by plants with flowers, leaves, even seeds that are beautiful and weird, your evolving human brain will eventually look around at the other humans, and at itself, and think: "yawn".  You'll draw a cave painting, sculpt a fertility goddess, and at some point you'll decide that you're your own best canvas and dammit if you aren't going to show Yurn from the cave by the river who exactly has the best weaving techniques.  Over time, fashions get subverted into a series of messages about class and worth, allowing (and enabling) humans to make quick assumptions about one another.  While I still believe it's important to understand what those messages and assumptions are, it's also important to remember that they change over time, and are, therefore, pretty much a bunch of crap.  Are you wearing white gloves in springtime?  Because I most certainly am not. 

Why not wear a party dress to the office?  For me it works, because that’s what I feel aces in (usually – there are days when I’m all about the standard black pant/silk shirt combo).  Clothes are meant to be worn, and I say get amongst it.  Feel the “If You Don’t Like It, Don’t Look” philosophy.  Create a small ripple of self-expression and creativity – if I can do it as a lawyer, in the financial services industry, aka a world populated by a significant number of white middle-aged men wearing suits in what I can only describe as an act of intense uniformity, then it’s possible elsewhere.   Imagine a distant future world where we could wear whatever we liked, without worrying about the Rules of when and where things “should” be worn.  Start small – be a tiny bit more daring.  And then tell me in the comments down at the bottom of the page what bit of razzle-dazzle you can’t wait to wear.