Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dressing "Ladylike"

black, red, and beige floral dress (Anne Klein)
black belt (came with the dress)
black slingbacks (Nine West)
pearl drop earrings (Target)

The recent great posts about throwback fashion from Anne-Marie, and a shopaholic intervention for Liz provide a nice context for some of the thoughts I have about this outfit.  I wore it awhile ago to my friend's wedding rehearsal.  I chose it because I liked the classic silhouette and the feminine floral pattern.  I thought about pairing it with a pair of four-inch black suede pumps that would have added some edge (that doesn't sound edgy, but trust me, they are).  However, I went with these lower heeled black slingbacks to match the sweetness of the dress and pearls.  Overall, it's a very traditional, feminine look.  Ladylike.
(please see the comments on Anne-Marie's bygone girliness post - there's an interesting discussion of this term and its connotations)

Now, I love feminine looks, no doubt, but I don't really think of myself as a "ladylike" dresser - that is, a traditional, more conservative dresser.  Then I thought about my (recently conquered) shorts-phobia and my closet full of skirts and dresses with modest hemlines.  I thought about my minimalist approach to accessories.  And this outfit really made me consider my love affair with floral prints.

Floral prints can cause anxiety.  Academichic did a series on florals this spring, noting the vexed relationship modern women often have with this perennial print.  Indeed, they are an unabashed feminine print, evoking delicacy and traditional.  Fashion gurus often take issue with the print, often advocating contrasting it with leather, denim, spikes, etc. to rough up the soft flowers.  I, on the other hand, have never had any problem with florals.  In fact, I realized the floral is my go-to print.  I own quite a few pieces of (usually neutral) floral print items.

Maybe I should start rethinking my opposition to labeling myself as traditional or as a more conservative dresser and just embrace my tendency to go for "ladylike" looks.

  • Do you have a go-to print or color, and if so, what is it?
  • What's your take on floral prints?  Like 'em?  Hate 'em?  How do you style them - by embracing the femininity or with contrasting notes or something else?
  • How do you define "ladylike"?


Scholar Style Guide said...

Katie, I'm really intrigued by this newly diagnosed "ladylikeness" you describe here. I went back to your intro post to see: you didn't describe your style as "ladylike," but you did use the term "classic" and you wrote that "easy elegance is key." Do you think there's an intersection between all of these terms, or do you understand them to mean different things? Is there, for example, a version of elegance that is not necessarily "ladylike"? I'm intrigued because these are terms I don't normally use to describe my own style.

I own very few floral prints. I'm also terrified of bows. I think my preference for buckles and geometric prints is a manifestation of my tomboy roots. This also makes me curious about whether you've always been into florals or if you've embraced florals more as you've moved into adulthood.

You look fabulous in this ensemble. I do like that the red in the print adds a bit of "edge," and though the print is a floral, it's so large that it commands attention (to me, many floral prints give off a docile vibe).


Scholar Style Guide said...

Liz, I'm so glad you've raised the issue of "elegance" in relation to "ladylikeness." For a few weeks, I've had noted photographer Garance Dore's post "What is Elegance?" in the back of my mind. I haven't reached any conclusions about it yet, but perhaps this discussion will help my thinking. Here's her post:

Dore's qualifications of elegance don't center on a woman's dress. (Aside from her admiration of well-groomed people. It's the penultimate quality on the list, so I assume she doesn't esteem it as highly.) This I appreciate. However, her qualifications do focus on conduct. She mentions that "politeness," "attention to others," and "sincerity" connote elegance. I wonder, wouldn't these characterizations also more generally signify a "good person"? Is that what "elegance" means, being kind or even *genteel* enough to get along in society? And, if we accept Dore's definition, have we not landed squarely in the world of Eliza Doolittle in the 1964 film "My Fair Lady"? In which case, the term "Lady" again becomes problematic.

Isn't it ironic that "My Fair Lady" was popular during the "Mad Men"-era? This term seems heavy with potentially messy social implication to me.

At any rate, Katie, I love this dress on you, and I would certainly agree that you dress in a way that gestures at traditional femininity. That said, the prints you've shown here all feature the color black, a hue we wouldn't exactly classify as "subdued."


Scholar Style Guide said...

Maybe this is what you mean when you say "classic with a twist"?

Also, I like it when redheads like you wear red. :)


Katie B. said...

Katie -

I'm an avid viewer of this blog (and I'll admit sometimes I just look at the pictures and don't read). I went to college with lovely Liz and was pleased when she sent this link along to me via Facebook.

I must say that the black and red floral dress, in my opinion, is your best look that I've seen posted. I've enjoyed many of your other outfits, but upon seeing this picture I'm pretty sure I literally said out loud, "Wow, she looks GREAT in that dress." It is quite flattering and obvious that you feel great in it!

So, KUDOS to you!

:) Katie B.