Tina, here.

It's Maycember. Like December, but May. In a week or two it gets crazy. All the parties, gifts to buy, places to go, outfits to plan. Are you prepared? Do you have hanging in your closet what you need to get you through the month's shindigs? We're here to help you look fabulous all month long with one simple wardrobe piece. The Dress.

Dresses For Every Occasion

My grey sheath is so faithful to me I could date it. Keep reading to see why I am devoted.

I can see you rolling your eyes at me. You think it's near impossible to find a good dress and you may not even like dresses. It's a nightmare to find one if you hate shopping or have no time to scour the racks and try on different styles. You definitely don't have time if you're an expert at multi-tasking meals/car pool/lessons/homework. Or an attorney or a teacher or anything but a professional shopper and wardrobe consultant. I'm not an expert at many things, but this I am. I know how to put you in a dress. In fact, I have! The May Style Vault comes with a bonus section, Dresses For Every Occasion, dresses for every shape, at all price points, for all types of occasions. All shoppable from one place. Shopping done. Finit. Moving on with your life and looking fab was never so easy. 

Dresses For Every Occasion

I'm a professional shopper. I can practically shop just by looking at the tops of the racks. I'm taking you shopping with me today to TJ Maxx for a lesson in buying dresses. Come on!

What I'm going to do here is show you which dresses you are never to wear and which ones always work, and how to switch up your favorite dress (if you even have one) so you can wear it multiple times this May.

First, no babydoll dresses ever. Ever. Unless you are in fact a babydoll or want to look like one. 

No Babydoll Dresses!

This, my friends, is a babydoll dress. See where I'm pointing to the seam across the chest? We call it a boob shelf. Not attractive. It makes your mid-section look abnormally large and puts your boobs out there as a display piece. And guess what? This is a child's dress. Which is the point I'm trying to make. Don't dress like a child if you have an adult figure. Capiche?

Next, no long dresses that resemble your neighbor's drapes unless you are dressing for a theme party.

No long shapeless dresses!

Why would you subject yourself to a rectangular sack? It's fine for church vestments and graduation caps and gowns. Not for you. So go to your closet and pull out all those old linen sacks you've had since Harold's was around that you wear in the summer. There are better options.

And finally for the no-no's, if you want to get a lot of mileage out of your dress to wear to multiple types of events, stay away from memorable patterns and strong colors. Quick - what dress does Julia Roberts wear in Pretty Woman when Richard Gere takes her to the opera?  

A red gown. Beautiful, isn't it? How many of you instantly conjured this dress in your mind? That's because it's memorable. Which is wonderful unless you need to wear it time after time after time. Photo source.

I'm going to show you how to make one dress look different every time you wear it. So the first rule when it comes to buying a dress is alter, alter, alter. Fit is First. Not too big, not too tight. If you fall in love with a dress that doesn't fit in the dressing room, not so fast. There are certain kinds of alterations you can do to a dress.

Dress too big?

Dress Alterations

This dress is too big in the shoulders and chest. It's a simple fix. Your tailor can take it in at the sides under your arm, and may take out some of the fabric at the top shoulder seam.

Dress Alterations

This dress is too roomy overall, but they don't have the next size down. Easy fix. Take in both sides following the seam from under the arms, through the hips and down to the knees, then take up the shoulders as above, and finally hem it. If the dress is a good price, and you love it and want it, tack on about $30 - $45  for these alterations, depending on where you live and who you use.

 What if the dress is too small?

Dress Alterations

See those darts I'm pointing to? Check the inner seam allowance along the sides and darts. The more darts there are, the more fabric there is to let out to give you more room under the arms and through the hips and fanny.

What about the length? I have had so many clients think they have to pass on a dress because it's too short. You don't if there is some extra hem. Just turn it up and look. A tailor can always face the bottom of your dress if you need every inch of that hem.

Let's talk about how long or short to go. 

Dresses For Every Occasion

If you are petite, go just above the kneecap. If you are average height, stay in the vicinity of the kneecap. The length of your dress then determines which shoes to wear. Wear flats when your dress hits the upper quadrant of the kneecap. You can wear a higher heel if your dress hits along the lower quadrant of your kneecap (it'a all in the millimeters, dolls!). If you prefer not to show your knees, you can go right below the kneecap, but make sure your dress is cut on the bias so it doesn't feel bottom-heavy and make you look short. This fit and flare dress I have on (isn't it darling?! It's from Gus Mayer) is a wee bit short on me, but because it has a full skirt, it is less noticeable, so I can get away with it.

Dresses For Every Shape

Here's what I mean about a longer dress. This longer dress is cut on the bias and actually has an asymmetrical hem (unlike the curtain dress we looked at earlier). The idea is that we need to see the break in your leg between your thigh and your shin so your legs don't look like tree trunks. A bias cut hem creates movement around those breaks when the dress is on the longer side. We found this gorgeous Lafayette dress at Gus Mayer in Nashville.

Now for what shape to look for in a dress:

Sheaths without many darts and seams work on women who are fairly straight, i.e. more of a flat tomboy figure than a hippy/booby one.

Dresses For Every Occasion

This sheath found at TJ Maxx is a great example of what I'm talking about: sheaths will have a crew neck by definition, and so they need to be cut with a necklace, or in this case a jeweled neckline. Make sure your sheath does not hang like a sack, but is more like a cocoon.

If you are curvy, opt for a dress cut on the bias so the fabric will skim your curves without hugging them, like the Lafayette dress from Gus Mayer above. Fit and flare dresses work well, too, for curvy figures. Think skim not hug, that's what we want.  (I've provided some pretty dresses for curvy women inside the bonus issue of the May Style Vault, Dresses For Every Occasion.)

A universally flattering dress shape, almost all the time, is the wrap dress. You've heard me say this many times. It bears repeating often. 

Wrap Dress

This wrap dress is by Diane Von Furstenburg and was at the Brentwood (TN) TJ Maxx last week. Her wraps can be pretty lowcut, and they run small, but she is the Inventor of the Wrap Dress, so it must be shown. I have sourced some more flattering and better-fitting wrap dresses in the Vault that I think you'd have better luck with.

The traditional sheath, with some shaping, is also pretty universal. Here's how to take one and wear it to all your May events. Ok so no one would do this unless the news is doing a feature on The Woman Who Wore The Same Dress For 30 Days - and this has actually been done; but my point is that one good dress can change your life. Here's mine, and I hooked up Style Vault Insiders with this fab grey sheath in May's bonus issue. If you want to buy it, join the Vault today. It comes in petite and curvy, too.

Dresses For Every Occasion

First look: with a sparkly necklace, a silk pashmina and classic heels. This could take me to a daytime or evening wedding, or an outdoor cocktail party. Anything that calls for a bit dressier than work clothes, but not too fancy.

Dresses For Every Occasion

Here all I've done is add the most useful shoe in the world, a black patent heel, and pearls for a no-nonsense look. This would work for a Baccalaureate or a graduation ceremony, an important meeting, a wedding shower, or a dress-up day at work.

Accessorizing a Dress

Black patent shoes (heels or flats) are like the white jeans of shoes. They go with absolutely everything under the sun. They are magic, too, because they make an ordinary sheath a cocktail dress, or a cocktail dress a little less serious. My best picks for black patent heels and flats that you can buy are inside the Vault. And in fact, you can purchase a pair of my black patent heels, pictured here, in the April Style Notes.

Dresses For Every Occasion

Do you know what a white (and sometimes black) blazer do for a dress? Turns it into a suit. Suits today do not have to be matchy-matchy, but they must be professional. For casual Friday, substitute the blazer for a denim jacket, white or faded blue.

Accessorizing a Dress

Make sure your blazers fit you in the shoulders and the waist. Both a black and an off-white blazer are featured in the May Vault.

Accessorizing a Dress

Another way to accessorize a simple sheath is to edge it up with fun jewelry and shoes. Instead of the classic pumps and boots you've worn with it all winter, try a summer wedge and clutch. The sheath becomes a blank canvas for whatever you're in the mood to style it with, which is why it needs to be a neutral color like grey. Buy your own grey sheath in the May Style Vault.

Accessorizing A Dress

I bring out my gumball-sized turquoise necklace every sumer and wear it with my grey sheath, my LBD, jeans and pretty much everything. It's one of my 2 wardrobe colors (the other is coral), so it gives my neutrals a nice pop.


Are you going to a Mother/Daughter/Son luncheon? Baby shower? Lunch with friends? Add flats and simple jewelry and off you go.

Dresses For Every Occasion

Got a fun pool party or an evening on a patio? Or an end of the year school party? Going away party? Make the dress festive but casual with a leather belt and horn jewelry. And your trusty wedges.

Accessorizing a Dress

If your belts go around your hips with jeans but are too big for your waist with a dress, just tuck the extra leather under and over, then through the loop. I think we have another style hack!

Now I'm sick of this dress and you'll probably never see me wearing it again, at least until September when I have a whole new slew of events to wear it to! Kidding. I think I'm wearing it tomorrow.

Thanks for reading and if you want us to style you for all your May events, check out our wardrobe services. Amy, Barbara and myself love pulling rabbits out of hats in closets. And if you're not in Nashville, better get inside the Vault to get May's must-haves and the dresses in the bonus issue. Items are selling fast and I sourced amazing outfits for every item, with savings over $1,000 this month alone. 

Join the Style Vault Now!

All the best,


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