Making Clothes Work For You Part 2 – The Jersey Maxi Dress


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For the second installment of making clothes work for you, I wanted to touch on something near and dear to my heart; the maxi dress, and more specifically, the jersey maxi dress. In fact I think it would be quite interesting to do an entire series of posts dedicated to jersey alone, since it is such a beloved fabric of so many. Walk into any Gap, Old Navy, Target and you’ll see rows of jersey dresses lined up like little soldiers.  It’s inexpensive to produce, it holds color and print extremely well so that you can have all sorts of fun prints and bright colors, and it feels comfortable. But it can also accentuate one in all the wrong places if you’re not careful. So today I wanted to do a little comparison of a couple of jersey maxi dresses (that I in fact own) and give you a breakdown of why each dress works and doesn’t work. So shall we start with my favorite one of all? IMG_9119 I fell in love with this dress when I first saw it on the Anthropologie site months ago when I was still pregnant. When I recently found it marked down 70% off I was skeptical if it would work for me and my postpartum frame. It was such a spectacular deal though I had to give it a try and it ended up fitting quite well and accentuated just the areas I wanted to feel good about, and hid the problem areas of my tummy and thighs. IMG_9131 Why does this dress work so well? First, the waist is actually elasticized so it is forgiving. One would think that the addition of the tiny little pinch pleats around the waist would add bulk, but it instead hides the tummy by draping over the area and concealing it. The flowing jersey fabric continues to drape nicely, right over the hips and backside. The 3/4 sleeves are very slimming on the arm, and the slight scooped neckline and fitted top makes the girls look not half bad, hugging them in just the right spot. My favorite part of all though is the dipped back, showing off what I think is the prettiest part of the back, but still covers up bra straps.
IMG_9128 Now let’s talk about why this dress doesn’t work at all. It actually looked quite cute when I was pregnant, but now that I still have a bit of a pooch it continues to accent it but it’s not so cute anymore now that there’s no baby inside that pooch. IMG_9138 The neckline does nothing for my bust line, literally just hanging there. And because there’s no type of waist, it hugs the tummy, hips and thighs instead of draping over them like the first dress does. IMG_9149 IMG_9145 And the racerback makes my back look thicker than I think it actually is. Or maybe it is in fact that thick!
IMG_9157 You may be saying to yourself, duh Andrea, this dress obviously looks horrible on you, what person in their right mind would wear it like this? And you’re right, it is obvious, but as I did with the last post, I wanted to go with the obvious, more extreme example to really highlight just how drastically the right silhouette can change how you look, especially when it comes to a tricky fabric like jersey.  It is comfortable and lightweight and easy to care for, but if you don’t choose carefully, you may end up not looking as great as you could.  There’s just a few things to pay attention to the next time you’re out shopping.

You want a dress with some sort of a gathered waist line so that you can make the fabric hug your body where you want it to hug you instead of hugging you in the wrong places.  You’ve gotta tell the fabric what to do, not the other way around.  Second, you want a flattering neckline that will highlight your chest, not flatten it out.  A slight scoop or v-neck is always nice, and you want the bodice to be fitted, not loose or else it will just hang there like the pink dress above.  Third, the arms are important!  If you’re self conscious of your arms look for short sleeves or better yet 3/4 sleeves and avoid thick straps that add bulk or cap sleeves.  Spaghetti straps can be good if they go with the overall feel of the dress. Lastly, with jersey especially, you have to watch how it hugs you at the hips and thighs because jersey likes to cling to those hips like no other.  That’s why a flowing waistline is so important for not only the waist but the hips as well.

I know this post was very specific but hopefully it’s still helpful.  Fabrication and silhouette are so key in picking out clothes that will flatter your body.  As you can see, the wrong silhouette in a tricky fabric will leave you looking blah when you could be looking your best.

Andrea Howe

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • I love jersey dresses for my wardrobe, but you’re so right about finding one that is forgiving and works well for your body. I love the grey dress!

  • Melissa says:

    I wish I’d read this post before last summer when I tried SEVERAL maxi dresses that did NOT work for my shape. So true about the gathered waist and the neckline!!

  • christin says:

    As I was reading, I was like OMG SHE’S SO TINY AND SHE JUST HAD A BABY! Holy CRAP! Like, seriously, you do look amazing for just having that adorable babe. But I love this post because it is so incredibly important to understand how to dress. And I think maxi dresses are easily one of the most unflattering pieces that a lot of women wear. Fantastic post!

  • april says:

    OK, these tips are great….and with Spring coming Im going to be buying some maxi dresses, so Im going to keep these tips in mind! Thank you! xoxo

  • Katie says:

    I love these posts!! Please, keep them coming! You look so lovely postpartum, and I love your honesty, too. Not many people would post the pics of the unflattering outfits, but I think this is exactly what we need to see. Feel great about who you are and dress the body you have to look and feel your best. Soooo good!

  • Jenifer says:

    Love these pp posts! I’m 5’4 so a maxi dress in any firm doesn’t work but I still love reading! In my next life I’m hoping to break 5’5:)

  • Heather B says:

    I stumbled on to your website last week and I LOVE this series. I have never had a baby but
    EVERYwoman could benefit from reading these brilliant posts so I am pinning and sharing
    them. THANK YOU.

    • Andrea Andrea says:

      Thank you Heather, for stumbling on me and for leaving a very lovely comment 🙂 And thank you so very much for sharing, I truly appreciate it 🙂 xo

  • Anna says:

    I don’t normally comment on blogs, but I just had to tell you how much I love and appreciate this series of posts. I just had my second baby on August 27, and I still have about 15 pounds to lose, but I’m not really worried about it at this point (the weigth came off so much quicker the first time around!) I feel like I am stuck in a rut of wearing the same yoga pants every day. Thank you for showing me how to enjoy and look good in my postpartum body! You’ve inspired me to bring my regular clothes out of storage and play around with them to find some looks that work for now.

  • Susan G says:

    Great advice! It helps to know WHY something does or doesn’t look good, instead of just THAT it does. And that Anthro dress looks fab on you!

    • Andrea Andrea says:

      That’s exactly what my friend Jules said and why it encouraged me to continue this series. We often look at things and see that they look good or bad, but why do they?!? It doesn’t often jump out at us unless it is pointed out 🙂

  • Priscila says:

    Great series Andrea! What a difference the right cut and material can make.

  • Amanda says:

    I think the grey dress look beautiful! I really like the back cut.

  • Ashley says:

    Oh man, that Anthro dress is so fabulous! It looks amazing on you! I LOVE maxi dresses too, but my issue is that I am tall and they are hardly long enough. I like the look of a maxi grazing the floor. I always have my eyes out for some that are extra-long!

  • I learned the same lesson with a maxi dress I bought last spring. I so wanted it to work- but when I saw a photo of myself wearing it realized that the lack of shape and the style looked like a nightgown- but that doesn’t mean all maxi dresses will look and fit like that- so this is a good post on showing how to find a good fit!

  • Rachel G says:

    I’ve never worn a maxi dress for the exact reason that that they oh-so easily cling to the wrong parts of you! I tend to like the structure of woven cotton dresses a lot better–but maybe a thicker jersey material would work better.

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