I’ve been getting into the swing of things in my new job. And word has started to get around about me and my dresses. From students to colleagues, the lovely words and glances, inevitably followed by some kind of self-deprecating comment about how they wished they too could wear dresses like these.

It is sadly inevitable – how much more critical we are of ourselves than we are of other people. And we set all kinds of rules for ourselves. Everything from “I’m too tall to wear heels” to “I’m not supposed to wear mini-skirts after 30” to every magazine on every shelf telling you what you “should” wear if you have x, y, z body type. I for one am ready to go rogue.

As I’ve been building my new routines (which generally involve well-worn paths to my office, lecture theatre, and various cafes), I’ve apparently also been building quite a reputation. I’m well aware of the fact that I do not dress to blend in, so it’s no surprise that others on a similar daily path will start to notice a trend involving full skirts, embroidery and novelty prints. A gaggle of them cornered me at our last faculty social gathering to ask the question that is always inevitable, “How on earth do you find so many beautiful dresses??” The characters change, but the question is always the same. Convinced I have some sort of magical powers. I usually joke back and talk about how “I don’t find my dresses. I swear they find me.”

But the truth is, I have a very specific secret strategy. I’ve been hesitant to share it – I know a lot of women who guard their shopping secrets, unwilling to share with their fellow vintage huntresses. Well, the day has finally come to share the secret….

The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic

The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic
Original 1950’s ad, Photo via Atomic Blonde Vintage
The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic
Outfit planned using Dressed for iPhone

The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic

Okay gals, here goes. Here’s my secret:

Buy. The. Dress.

Before you start laughing – I’m actually serious.

Because you see these dresses every day. Really – think of all of the times you’ve seen a dress that made your heart skip a beat, but you passed it by. Muttering excuses about how you “have nowhere to wear that” or how “it would look ridiculous on you.” Fitting yourself squarely into a restrictive box with walls of all of those “rules,” letting yourself be defined by your height, your weight, your body type. So you cast a wistful glance at the dress, sure it would look better in someone else’s closet. Convinced you will go back after you’ve lost the baby weight, toned up for summer, or when you have a special party to attend.

Ladies, Buy the Dress.

Because months will go by, which always leads to one event or another where you actually do need something special to wear. But by then, Murphy’s Law dictates you will never find the right dress. After hours of searching, you’re fed up and exhausted, so you buy one that’ll “do.”

Or because you have a goal to lose 5 (or 10 or 15) pounds, you will wait to buy the dress you really love. Instead, you buy one that’s just okay for now. That hides the lumps and bumps.”It’s okay,” you think to yourself. “I’ll treat myself when I have the perfect body.”

Or you spy a dress that makes you quiver with fashion lust, but you shouldn’t be spending money on yourself, so instead you buy the one on sale that’s just sort of…fine.

And you know what inevitably happens? Do this 10 or 15 or 100 times, and you end up with a closet full of garments that are kind of Meh. That don’t make you feel amazing. That were bought to serve a purpose. Fill a gap. That are fine. You are worth better than fine. You are worth all of the beautiful dresses.

The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic The Secret - The Dressed AestheticThe Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic The Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic

Imagine the alternative: imagine just buying the dress. The dress in the magazine. The dress on Other Women. The dress that makes your heart skip a beat. And the minute you hear that voice that says, “I have nowhere to wear that” you squash her. And you buy the dress.

Or you spy a beauty in a shop window, and the little voice of doubt that tells you “I could never pull that off” pipes up, so you stick a sock in her mouth. And you try it on. It makes you feel amazing. You Buy the Dress.

Or you’re browsing online and find a dress that looks like the ones you admire on other women. But you think “that’ll just never suit me. Maybe after my diet takes…” and you zip her criticism shut. And instead you buy the dress. You ignore the number on the tag and you Just. Buy. The. Dress.

Because you deserve to have a wardrobe full of things that are better than “just okay,” You deserve to open your closet and feel the same frission of excitement you feel when you walk by the perfect garment in a shop window. Every time. You deserve to feel amazing. Not once you’ve reached some arbitrary milestone – right now.

And when you have the wedding or the last minute dinner invitation – you already have a closet full of things that are confidence builders. When you have to attend a party where your ex will be there with his new girlfriend, you already have the killer dress that makes you feel like a million bucks. You spend the day luxuriating in a bubble bath instead of racing from shop to shop, frantically trying to find a dress that will reduce him to a puddle of regret, only to come up with one that’ll “do.”

Screw that. Buy the dress.

This dress represents one of those moments for me – She was achingly beautiful, if completely impractical. But it made me feel Hotter than Hades. So I bought the dress.

The Secret - The Dressed AestheticThe Secret - The Dressed AestheticThe Secret - The Dressed Aesthetic

I‘ve said this to women before – who scoff. Sure, they say, if I had your waistline. Your confidence. Your wardrobe. Your fill-in-the-blank-with-the-thing-you-somehow-lack-that-is-the-miracle-ingredient-to-self-worth (you may have even been thinking one of those! Busted). Trust me – I too am a constant work in progress. And I have been 25 lbs heavier than I am now and I have been 25 lbs lighter. And I was certainly not 25x more or less happy. I spent a large portion of my life covering up and trying to hide. And I’ve had my own rulebook like everyone does: – I’m 5’9 so I should only wear flats. I’ve got a large chest and so should never wear strapless. I’m pale, so shouldn’t wear bright colors. I have x so I can’t wear y.

But I got to a point where I just decided to screw the rulebook. Now I have just one rule: Buy. The. Dress. If it makes me feel amazing. If it makes my heart skip a beat. If your woes are more financial (we are all sadly bound by our wallets), do what I do: start a special account you put $5 in every week, so you’ll always have a bit of cash to splurge with when the right dress presents herself (or even $1 or $2 – the point is, start). If a dress is expensive, I save my pennies (case in point). But I don’t discount myself. I don’t diminish my self worth. I don’t come up with a reason why I am not good enough for the dress. Because when all is said and done, the dress has to live up to your standards, not the other way around.

Buy the dress. You don’t need the event. You MAKE the event to wear it to. Heck, in that dress…gorgeous, you ARE the event.

Now go, buy it. And then come back tell me how good it felt…



Outfit Details:
Dress: Atomic Blonde Vintage (similar modern or vintage herehere & here)
Necklace: Bought in New Zealand (similar)
Belt: Alannah Hill (similar)
Handbag: Bettina Darling (similar here & here)
Shoes: DSW (similar here & here)

Lip Color: Grace


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The Dressed Aesthetic