Dress: Secondhand, similar here
I don't believe in the little black dress- even when I owned one, I always wished it were red. Though many women prefer separates, for ease, versatility, and impact, nothing beats a fitted dress. When carefully chosen, it can serve as a skirt, top, or stand-alone ensemble. While there's no specific formula for how many you should have, or what types you should wear, a good dress should always have a transformative effect, not necessarily on appearance, but on mood. The best dresses uplift and energize us; they are like armor, galvanizing and invigorating. I think of them as weapons in my arsenal. It can be a power move, wearing a dress to a big interview or meeting- in this day and age (or at least, in this city), it feels original and unexpected.
I still express myself fully through my clothes. When I'm in a sunny mood, I wear the shirtdress. The navy dress makes me feel assertive and confident. Pink is for quiet, introspective moods, when I want to look feminine or serious. Fun, celebratory occasions merit the red dress- I can wear it backwards, with or without a cardigan, for a more office-appropriate look. This summer, I have two sundresses, washable, cotton and linen; I swam through rivers, bicycled, and climbed mountains in them. They're relaxed enough for lounging around or entertaining in the apartment, but respectful enough to wear on a city street or vacation.
I've had one black wool skirt since 2010. It was one of my first really nice pieces, secondhand, reflecting a desire to be taken more seriously at work. I love the subtle flared hem, the way it flips when I walk, and the rustle of the silk lining. Woven wool and hemmed just below the knee, it's one of those seasonless classics I'll still wear when I'm fifty.
Choose fully lined dresses and skirts if you'll be wearing them year-round, and natural fibers for seasonal, unlined pieces. Air and brush regularly to extend life span, and use wood hangers and ribbon loops to preserve the pretty neckline or waist of each item. Wide, molded hangers reduce stress on the fabric- skinny velvet, plastic, and wire hangers won't do the trick!
Read the rest of the simple wardrobe series: