Shopping redux: Dress Barn

I took today off, for no particular reason. Because my company doesn’t have sick leave, I usually conserve some of my paid time off in case someone gets sick (or needs surgery, etc.). But in the last quarter, if the days are unused, I take some bonus days off to do stuff.

Normal day off: jeans, brown sneakers with white socks, nerdy Starbucks/Klingon t-shirt and a White Lake State Park sweater

Normal day off: jeans, brown sneakers with white socks, nerdy Starbucks/Klingon t-shirt and a White Lake State Park sweater

Friday was mostly errands and chores. I got my hair cut, got my eyes checked, did the laundry (partially), had a roofer inspect our roof, dropped the kids off at school and did the grocery shopping. But it so happened that the eye doctor was right next to the Dress Barn. Now I’ve only ever stepped in a Dress Barn once… when I was about 22 years old. I remember thinking that the clothes were all huge and there were not actually that many dresses. I never went back. But my mother-in-law has gotten me quite a few Dress Barn things that I liked, and it was right there, and I really needed some new blouses.

Oh… my. Why didn’t you guys TELL me about this? It was GREAT! There are two “sides” to the store, one for standard sizes (S – XL) and one for plus sizes (to size 24). And all the clothes were really nice – clearly intended for work. When I tried my selections on I was in serious trouble. They all fit, they all looked great, they were all machine washable, and not a single one of them was on sale. I decided that obviously these clothes would be an extra birthday present to myself (my precious…). I decided that maybe that hiring bonus I got should go to this. I paid the money. Here’s my haul:

My loot haul

My loot haul

Outfit 1: Sweater and plum/silver blouse

Outfit 1: Sweater and plum/silver blouse

Outfit 1: Sweater and plum/silver blouse

Silver and plum blouse: $32
Black sweater: $40

In my last shopping trip, I picked up two of the bright-colored slacks that are so stylish this year – one plum and one brick red. I was looking for a top that would pick up the plum, to build on what I already had. I spotted this plum and silver foil number and LOVED it. It is a silky knit fabric – very comfortable. I’m really fond of the foil inlay, which makes this blouse bright and conspicuous. I like a cowl-neck quite a lot. This one is well designed so there are no gaps or unintended cleavage. The sweater that was paired with it is a fabric that looked rather informal on the hanger, and was soft and comfy to the touch. But it got really classy really quickly in this combination. It’s a sweater I can see being a total favorite. It was pretty expensive – the most expensive thing I bought by a good margin – but it is well made and tremendously versatile, making it also one of the most valuable things I bought today. I could see leaving this at work for my “throw on” sweater, for when I inevitably get cold but still want to look good.

I probably will not wear a necklace with this outfit – it would be a bad idea to try to compete with that print!

Black knit blouse

Black knit blouse: $32

I really like the tailoring, rouching and fabric on this blouse. It darts in nicely at my waist to help give my figure more definition. It’s a great length. The best part is the fabric though – instead of being the stiff cotton that button up shirts usually are, this is a very soft knit. In practice, what this does is to prevent gapping. Now, I’m sure that many of you with two larger lovely ladies up front have some of the same trouble I do – button up blouses are fraught with a revealing peril between the third and fourth buttons. This one, regardless of gesticulation, will stay put. This is a great blouse for either pairing with a really interesting skirt or a really interesting jacket. It’s very versatile (again). The shortened sleeves show off bracelets nicely, although I find it hard to wear bracelets and type all day.

Black cowl neck  shell

Black cowl neck shell

Black cowl neck shell: $19.50

Once again: a comfy, stretchy fabric, a basic color, machine washable, nice cut. This is really a shirt intended to be worn under a jacket, when you’ll mostly be noticing the jacket.

Blue beaded blouse

Blue beaded blouse

Blue beaded blouse: $32

This was my real extravagance of the trip. The rest are either high-professional or basics. This one is not a basic, and not something I would wear to a client meeting. But it fit really well, and it felt really comfortable. Basically, I failed my will save. I regret nothing. Paired with a brown skirt, it will look a lot dressier than it does here with jeans.

Pewter Shoes

Pewter Shoes

Pewter “Me Too” Shoes @Famous Footwear: $40

That sound you hear is my mother-in-law squealing with delight. Footwear is really the last frontier with me, but I decided I would get one (1) pair of completely non-neutral, exciting shoes this fall and see what I think. Usually, if it’s on my feet, it’s either brown or black. I was looking for a burgundy, but figured a metallic would work too. I really liked these when I saw them (the sole is rubber and looks very durable, the fit was comfortable, there were no heels). You can see how, when paired with the silver and plum shirt, they make a much more interesting statement than just black shoes would. Having those two complementary elements so far away from each other really adds to the “pulled together and stylish” look that I am working to counterfeit.

Total damage: Just about $200.

So… Dress Barn.

Great clothes. Great selection of sizes. Practical (yay machine washable!). But it is expensive. Recommended, especially for people with larger sizes. In order to minimize pocketbook damage, I recommend signing up ahead of time for their coupons, and timing your shopping with their sales. Their standard sale rack was very small, so if you go on your average Friday in September, you’ll likely end up paying full retail price, like I did.


What I wore today: brown knit dress

I have a schedule – more or less – of what KIND of outfits I wear to work for each day of the week. Monday – slacks and blouse. Tuesday – dress. Wednesday – slacks and blouse. Thursday – depends on what I feel like. Friday – jeans and shirt. There are exceptions of course: a client visit, a work-from-home-day, or Red Sox tickets after a day’s work will all affect my choices. (As will the weather.)

Brown knit dress

Brown knit dress

Today being a Tuesday, I wore a dress. My favorite dresses for work are knit dresses. I probably own six or so knit dresses. Why?

1) They machine wash
2) They’re comfortable
3) Done right, they look pretty good
4) They do not wrinkle
5) They are a moderate weight, good for layering (or not)

Did I mention that they machine wash?

Today’s brown dress is a good two season dress. I’m not sure I’d wear it in spring just because brown is not a very springy color. It also doesn’t layer as well as some of my other knit dresses, so I probably wouldn’t bother with it in winter. I pair it with sandals in summer, or with boots, tights and a sweater in fall. It can dress way up or way down, depending on how I want to play it. I could wear this dress to the theater easily. At the same time, with casual jewelry, shoes or a sweater, it doesn’t look out of place in the office. It’s not going to knock someone’s socks off with how amazing I look, but I can live with that.

There are two tragic failings to the knit dress (in general). The first is panty lines. The second is bulges. Knit looks good, but it hides nothing. Part of what makes it comfortable – that lovely give it has – also means it, er, outlines everything and forgives nothing. You will feel comfortable in a knit dress that is too small. You will look sausage-esque. The solution I’ve adopted to both these problems is either a) not to care (especially with my looser knit dresses) or b) to wear spanx. I have a whole paen to spanx lined up, defending them from the very judgement I myself weighed upon them before I actually owned them… but for now let’s just say that they fix the panty line and bulge issues nicely.

So here’s today’s fashion lineup for an 80 degree summer Tuesday at the office:
Straightish/wavy hair with barrette
Diamond stud earrings
Standard makeup
Caramel-colored rose necklace (custom made by Laureen)
Cocoa brown knit dress (this one is Dress Barn – most of them are Chaps from Kohl’s)
Brown sandals

What do you think? Where would you wear this outfit? (Or would you ever wear it.) What changes should I make to be more office appropriate? What outfit did you wear today? Do you have a “regular schedule” of outfits?