Before stepping out on my Journey of a Thousand Dresses, I had exactly two experiences with wrap dresses. Neither left me convinced I would be comfortable and look good in that style.
One dress was a potato brown Eileen Fisher dress that came to my mid-shin.
I can hear several of you out there saying, “Potato brown? That’s the problem right there!”
And you’re right. Potato brown is not my color. I don’t know why I thought I could pull it off, but when I bought it I had all kinds of ideas.
The length was pretty awful too for someone of my height. The whole thing made me look and feel like a dreary and droopy monk.
The other experience I had was a red dress that, looking back, probably wasn’t that bad. But in both dresses I felt “exposed”–like I couldn’t cinch them tight enough to keep from flashing the world when a gentle breeze wafted by. I also believed my “pooch,” which is what I call my lower belly, was on full display and that was the last thing I wanted to show off.
Wraps for Everyone
According to Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, wrap dresses have been around in some form for centuries. They are, he says, perfect for every body type–even ones with pooches.
I do admit that I liked how they looked on others. I used to sigh with envy looking at photos of Diane Von Furstenberg and her cronies revealing her iteration of them in the 70s. She looks so effortlessly chic.
This Journey of a Thousand dresses was an experiment. It was meant to break open my preconceived notions about casual dresses and test what worked and what didn’t. So, after hemming and hawing and lots of uncertainty, I took a step and gave wrap dresses another try.
All the wrap dresses seen here are Old Navy, except for the blue-patterned one.
I purchased them all secondhand from eBay.
Before I felt ready to wear these dresses in public, I gave them a spin in the kitchen. (I said I took one step out of my comfort zone–not a mile.) As a regular food writer for Beer Connoisseur Magazine and resident home chef, I spend a lot of time there. I shot these photos while making Chocolate Banana Bran Muffins for Hubby. (Recipe at the bottom of this post.)
It didn’t take long for me to discover how versatile and comfortable these dresses are. They’re so easy to move around in. It’s like wearing a robe, but nicer!
The issue of tummy exposure became less of an issue when I tied the belt in the front instead of to the side. Patterns on the dresses helped camouflage that area as well. It still bothers me at times, but on days when I feel particularly poochy, I wear something else.
(Wrap) Dressed for the Kitchen in Comfy Shoes
Wrap dresses also go with practically every style of shoe. I can dress them up with heels or slip on a pair of flats for a more casual look. Sneakers are cute with them as well, and when I’m cooking, it’s a must to have comfortable, closed-toe shoes. Not only do I want my feet to stay happy while I cook, gravity can be a devious trickster when it comes to knives. It would really put a damper on the experience if I lost a toe while chopping ingredients.
Wraps in the Wind
I still wear these dresses at home more than I do out and about. The few times I attempted to go outside in them in May it was crazy windy. I had to hold the top and the bottom closed with both hands so as not to have a Marilyn Monroe moment. It was sexy when she did it. It would be embarrassing if I did it.
New Friend, No Pants
In my search for solving the wind problem, I made a new Seattle blogger friend named Meg Chaney. Her blog is “Good Morning Seattle: An Urban Love Affair.” As you might guess, she focuses on local Seattle goodness, which includes Seattle fashion. Her writing is fun and happy-making, like eating a popsicle outside on a hot summer afternoon. I can’t help but smile and think the world’s going to be okay when I read her blog.
Meg has a No Pants Policy that starts in April and ends in September. In other words, she wears dresses–i.e., no pants–for five months. That is quite impressive, especially when you consider that Seattle’s spring can be a lot like Seattle’s winter. And, like me, she lives in Seattle proper, so she spends a lot of time walking around town in these dresses.
After I read her No Pants Policy, I wrote her and asked how she deals with the wind-up-the-skirt problem. Her response made me like her even more:
“Because of my body type, I generally need to wear a-line or fit & flare styles…which the wind just LOVES. I flashed all of Lower Queen Anne once – eek! I’ve tried bloomers, bike shorts, boy short undies…and nothing really worked well. So I started thinking about my grandmother’s generation and how THEY would have handled this situation. After berating me for wearing skirts that are too short (‘But Grandma, times have changed, I swear.’), she would have asked why I wasn’t wearing my slip. (‘But Grandma, I’ve never owned a slip in my life… Oh.’)
You gotta love a girl who listens to her grandmother when it comes to solving life’s problems. And she’s right — slips do keep the wind from revealing all!
I have a half-slip I wear under my dresses now which provides a great deal of peace of mind. But I’m also in the process of test driving these bad boy bloomers to see if I feel even better when stepping out into a windy day.
I know what you’re thinking. Why would you take such a sexy garment like the wrap dress and mess it up with bloomers that look like something Olive Oyl from Popeye would wear? All I can tell you is that the look of fear I have on my face as I walk across town holding onto my dress with both hands is far less flattering than anything I have hidden underneath it. With a slip–or possibly these bloomers–I can walk through town with my head held high…so long as I don’t think about the dowdy bloomers beneath!
Wrapped Up and Ready to Go Out
After trying all these dresses at home, it was time to go out into the real world. This last dress is one that seems just a little nicer than the others, even though it is also by Old Navy and bought secondhand on eBay. It’s a bold striped dress that reminds me of the original Diane Von Furstenberg dresses. I saved it for last because this is the wrap dress I wear for slightly nicer occasions.
The shoes I wore with this outfit are Clarks. I purchased them last year from Amazon. I’ve loved this style of shoe since I can remember. This particular version is a little too tall for walking long distances, but I wear them when we drive or Uber somewhere.
Although it’s been a little too warm for the jacket I carry it with me in case it gets cool after the sun goes down.
The brand is Glamorous and was available last year at Nordstrom in Seattle.
I can’t find it online anymore, but there’s a similar one available here.
The necklace has extra-special significance. It is a gift from a loyal reader and friend–Jude from Minnesota.
Jude came out to Arizona in February to hang out with the bloggers that attended the meet up I hosted there.
Jude brought me the necklace as a thank you gift for hosting the meet up. It’s a special piece from Northern Minnesota. I treasure it. Whenever I wear it I think of her and the great memories we made in Arizona together.
Wrap It Up
My previous belief about wrap dresses had some truth. They do require strategic thinking when it comes to feeling confident and secure wearing them in public. But now that I have a plan in place, I wear them all the time. They’re so comfortable and so chic–how can I not?
Chocolate Banana Bran Muffins
Makes 24 muffins
3 cups All-Bran Original Cereal
2 cups milk or milk substitute
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar or sugar substitute
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup egg whites (4 egg whites)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 ripe bananas
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl, combine the All-Bran and milk. Set aside to let the milk soak into the bran as you prepare the dry ingredients.
In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
To the All-Bran mixture, add the egg whites and oil. Beat well. Mash or slice the bananas and add them to the bowl. Lastly, stir in the dry ingredients until everything is just combined.
Spray two 12-serving muffin pans with cooking spray or line with baking cups. Portion the muffin mix evenly into muffin cups. (I use an ice cream scoop to make this easier.)
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Once cooled, they can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave for about 10 seconds. Or freeze them to eat at a later date.
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