growing a minimalist wardrobe: dressing up.

December 30, 2014

growing a minimalist wardrobe - dress up Last week some of very closest friends in the world gathered together to celebrate the wedding of one of our dearests.

More suprising than the fact that all of us are still friends, is the fact that it turns out that you can gather together a group of women who’ve been friends for upwards of twenty-five years and the conversation that is most heated is whether it’s ever appropriate to wear stockings with peep-toe shoes. This isn’t meant to be a sexist slight. And rest assured the conversation also covered deep thoughts on Adnan’s innocence and maternal health in India. But the fact that the lot of us were at once stymied by and impassioned about hosiery begins to suggest that even thirty years in, playing dress up can be cause for consternation.

Without naming any names, here are just a few of the deep thoughts that surfaced in this past week’s conversations about dressing up:

“Is this dressy enough?”
“Can you still see my bra straps?”
“Is this too flashy?”
“I think I went too Kim Kardashian.”
“Do you have those nipple band-aid things?”
“Can I nurse in this?”
“Have you ever worn Spanx?”
“Who the hell named them that anyway?”
“Can you wear Spanx when you’re pregnant?”
“Do my shoes dress this up too much?”
“Do my shoes dress this down too much?”
“My mom suggested that I just wear a black bra and ‘go funky.’”
“I thought you said you were wearing pants.”
growing a minimalist wardrobe - dress up I don’t think that this particular group of women is especially dress-up challenged. I think that playing dress up is just hard. growing a minimalist wardrobe - dress up For me, a dress for a special occassion feels inherently at odds with my own minimalist wardrobe. While I own a few things that can be dressed up or dressed down, most of what I have allows me to look neat and clean most of the time, but not dressed up per se. By definition, a truly dress-up occasion is something of an outlier. And for a wedding, or any of the other fancy gatherings where I might find myself at this time of year, my dressier take on jeans and a t-shirt approach doesn’t quite work.

When I find myself with somewhere truly fancy to attend, I admit that I tend to lose my nerve. I buy a dress or borrow a dress that doesn’t feel remotely like me. Inevitably I do a last-minute dash to pick up stockings or beg for and borrow a bra that will work. I hem and haw about shoes. I go sans coat rather than worry about finding one that will work. At the end of the night, the biggest relief is just being able to put on my pajamas.

After spending so much time writing about my minimalist wardrobe here, I decided that even if I couldn’t escape every element of the dress-up crisis, this time I would at least choose a dress that felt decidedly like me. After eyeing it for weeks, I decided on this beautifully draped velvet dress made by Elizabeth Suzann. The wide hem and low-v reminded me of my own wedding dress, just made shorter and jauntier and cut from sumptuous velvet instead of cotton. It wasn’t a magical dress—I still had to borrow the right underthings and hem and haw about stockings or no—but it came pretty close. It’s a dress that actually can be dressed up or down. Paired with slim black slacks and a simple necklace, it will be just right for a low-key New Years Eve celebration. Paired with a vintage crystal necklace and a pair of satin heels that I unearthed for the occassion, it was every bit formal enough for a fancy winter wedding. Best of all, it was a dress to feel good in. Comfortable and elegant are two words that don’t get paired often enough, but this dress delivered and then some.

Specifics about the dress that I chose, aside, if there’s a dress-up philosophy that I most want to cultivate it’s that one: choosing dresses that are at once elegant and comfortable and that I won’t hesitate to reach for again and again. Now I just need to finally be a grown up and stop borrowing strapless bras from my mom.

And what about all of you? Am I the only one stymied by dressing up? Tips and tricks you have up your own sleeves warmly welcomed!

Disclosure: I decided to feature this beautiful dress by designer Elizabeth Suzann because it was a true delight to wear and a wonderful addition to my wardrobe. I purchased the dress myself, but I did receive a discounted rate. As always, I’m thrilled to support independent designers doing exceptional work.

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  • Reply Anonymous December 30, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    you looked stunning in this dress! and to tell the truth, I never noticed if you wore stockings or not – (or anyone for that matter) but if you did I sincerely hope they were sandal toed!!!! ; ) xoxo

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      haha! xoxo (mrs. z?)

    • Reply Anonymous December 31, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      : )) happy new year!

  • Reply Small Acorns December 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    What a beautiful dress Erin. I think velvet always looks timeless and effortlessly smart and stylish.

  • Reply Cindi Brumpton December 30, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    An aside comment Erin as I was reading your Building Minimalist Wardrobe series today. I am a knitter and tend to do a lot of hand washing. Wool is a natural fibre and the lanolin in it does mean that we do not need to wash wool as frequently as some would think. When I do wash wool, I use Euclanan's products because their addition of lanolin means that you do not need to rinse the garment. Their lavender one is gorgeous! (Please note that I do not receive any compensation or discounts for recommending this product. I buy it because I love it!)

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Yes! It's kind of amazing how many wears a wool sweater can get before it needs washing (I honestly usually go the season!)

  • Reply Miyabi_Na December 30, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Umm..this is absolutely gorgeous. I love that you can wear the neckline 2 ways. It totally isn't a style would have looked for, but now I'm enamoured! Thank you for sharing! I will have to explore this label more…

  • Reply Traci December 30, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Wear what you feel good in. That's the only rule you need. :]

  • Reply liv December 30, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Just beautiful. So elegant, so simple. Perfect.

  • Reply Jo in London December 30, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    That's a lovely dress and midnight blue is a great colour – much kinder to the complexion than black.

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      Agreed! The color is amazing.

  • Reply Archana December 30, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    My special dress is always the simplest little black dress, that i wear all the time. Its got a fitted top and a flowy bottom. But this time, i put on some jewelry, wear a red lip, and sparkly heels. I see everyone spending hours to get dressed and feeling insecure about getting it right. It takes me 5 minutes. But by the end of the day, i always get told as to how nice i look and mostly, how comfortable i look.

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Sounds like you found a winner!

  • Reply Loribeth Tanner December 30, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I have two or three dresses that work as business with a blazer thrown over and look a little more party with a fun necklace thrown on top. Love this post! I always feel like having "fancy"
    clothes takes up so much more room in my closet!

  • Reply Mary December 31, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Shoes are always my problem in the dressing up category. I really need to bite the bullet (read: spend the moolah) and get a pair of timeless brown leather flats that will look nice with dresses and pants. All I want is one pair! One pair can do it all, yes? I hope yes.

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Me too! I unearthed a pair of pumps to wear with this dress, but I'm still on the hunt for a perfect pair!

    • Reply Mary December 31, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Oooooh… have you heard of Nisolo? They came up in my hunt for responsibly made footwear, and these flats might be just the ticket. Now, to sit on them for three months to make sure I REALLY like them :).

  • Reply Mary December 31, 2014 at 3:30 am

    It's a beautiful dress. And dressing up is fun, but to find the right 'underthings' can be a challenge. 🙂

  • Reply astanoch December 31, 2014 at 5:10 am

    Adnan's innocence? Are you referencing Serial?? That was such an intense series, so happy they are making a season 2!

    • Reply Erin December 31, 2014 at 3:37 pm

      Yes! So intense!

  • Reply Jillian December 31, 2014 at 7:30 am

    That dress from Elizabeth Suzann is my number one pick for holiday dress up too. Now I want to see what you would pick if it was summer time dress up! Keep up the good posts. Jillian

  • Reply laurendoeslife December 31, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    NYE and holiday dressing always stresses me out. Due in large part to the balance of looking festive while staying warm. I love the dress you found though! And, I really do appreciate how transparent you are about loving the dress and paying full price to support a designer you love. I'm sure you could have called the designer and gotten it gratis, so bravo to you. (and if someday you decide to go that route- hey- that would be fine too 🙂 But it certainly is a ringing endorsement to the special-ness of that dress. Cheers to a wonderful 2015!

  • Reply Anonymous December 31, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Erin,

    I really like this dress! Just wondering, did you have the V-shape in front or in back? And were you wearing any slip or tanktop-type thingy underneath?

    And I love your blog! I love your writing, which is full of grace and honesty. Thank you!

  • Reply Kate December 31, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    This dress is really beautiful. Your post is well timed, since I'm pondering what on earth to wear for a NYE party tonight (and spent my office holiday party in some old Target velvet shoes that promptly went to Goodwill the next day – so uncomfortable!). If you want to tackle the evening footwear issue, I would be all ears!

  • Reply Meg January 8, 2015 at 8:08 pm

    Always fun getting the girls together 🙂 And I vote "yes" to hosiery – especially those with a sandal foot!

  • Reply Ju January 24, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Hi Erin, I was wondering what you so with all of Faye's clothes as she grows out of them? I have a 3 month old little boy and live in a 2 bed apartment but I like yourself hate clutter or extra stuff that we don't need. But I can't bring myself to part with a lot of his outgrown clothes as we do plan to have more children in the future and it seems wasteful. Any storage tips would be brilliant please. X

  • Reply jesse.anne.o May 18, 2016 at 1:47 pm

    I have a few basic black dresses (non-cotton) that I can dress up with a necklace, clutch and shoes. I tend to do oxfords or monk strap shoes with everything so it’s mostly the necklace and clutch with some bolder lipstick. I feel like I already have partially pink hair so I don’t need too much attention besides accessories.

    Basically, I try to make it as modular as possible.

    • Reply Erin Boyle May 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      Modular: I like it!


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