Pre-Shopping For The Piece I Might Need For The Summer Of 2016, Or, How About A Maxidress?


The plum tree blossomed, apparently overnight. Spring arrives, summer follows.

When I was working I experimented with clothes. I bought a skater dress, reviewed different brands of cashmere and button-front shirts, wore corduroys. Come the new season, I hankered after that which was put before me — I followed fashion.

I still follow fashion, but with more discretion. Hanker less, consider more. Less money, more time to think, it works. So as the weather warms up, instead of paging through Vogue only to become incurably obsessed with a Prada dress, I think back to last summer.

Last summer was hot. Last summer I aged out of my shorts. A personal thing, not a pronouncement for the world, by the way. And in consequence, I discovered the joys of a maxidress. Temperate coverage. (I did explain I have a sort of Marilyn Monroe On The Grate With The Wind phobia? Hence long dresses vs. short ones?) I suspect, forlornly, that this summer will also be hot. Probably I will still prefer my legs stay covered and I’ll want another dress. Although this time, given my intentional but not per se fashionable extra five pounds, I’d like a leeeeeetle sleeve.

What choices? Well, the ruched tee dress has become  a style in and of itself.

Joan Vass Ruched Tee Maxidress

From Joan Vass,

James Perse Ruched Tee

and the master, James Perse. On sale. But would this style cling more than I like? I think these have to be tried on.

La Garconne Dress

La Garçonne does a plain, looser tee dress in their “Didion” line. Quite like that.

Neiman Marcus Johnny Was Maxidress

In the world of patterns, this above, from Johnny Was, appeals – the 70s vibe, the offset print, the drape. It’s on sale now, however, only sizes 6 and 8-10 are still available.

Bosco Maxidress

I love this print (trees! upside down trees!), and the sleeves unbutton, so could be rolled up, but silk twill might be too warm a fabric for my purposes. Sure would look good with the Céline bag though, wouldn’t it? I wonder if the designer, La DoubleJ, used the print in anything else?

Maxidress from Free People

Finally, and unsurprisingly, Free People has a nice option, in several colors. Free People brought me my midlife teeshirt, they seem to have this down. I’d probably go for lilac. Reminder: check for sheerness before I venture out.

Maxidress pre-shopping, done. That’s another technique in the Less Money More Time world, scouting the territory to educate my impulses. Do you have your eye on anything for the warmer months? Are you guided by what you see now, or by what you’d previously noted you need?


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  • Good morning Lisa – I love the idea of a maxi dress with sleeves! Why do they always seem to be sleeveless?

    I love Joan Vass but that ruched dress just doesn’t seem flattering, even on the model, and if she doesn’t look good in it, what hope do I have?

    I like the Didion dress (it does look just like something Joan would wear!), but the others seem a little too loose and flowing. I wish there were more in-between the tight and loose!

    11:15 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kate, Good morning! And I suppose they might feel that aesthetics/design require more skin to balance the length of the dress but I wonder too!

  • Surprisingly I like the Johnny Was and the Free People option. Let us know how see-through they really are! Thanks!

    11:15 am
    Lisa said...

    @Linda @ a design snack, Good idea! We have both stores at the Stanford Shopping Center, so I could swing by!

  • Lisa, I adore the flow of a maxi dress for summer and the Free People selection is lovely!

    The Arts by Karena

    11:16 am
    Lisa said...

    @Karena, Thank you! Flow is great in the heat!

  • Funny, I’ve been looking for a maxi dress too. I have some light maxi skirts, which I love. Also funny I want sleeves as well. All I’ve done so far is check Amazon, nothing I like, I will keep looking.

    11:21 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, Amazon – interesting! I tend to start high, and then wend my way down to UNIQLO, J. Crew, and now Free People.

  • I’ve been looking for a maxi dress since last Spring for the same reasons you mention. Unfortunately most overwhelm my short frame. Off to check out that Didion!

    11:24 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie K, It’s really nice and architectural, from the photo, isn’t it!

  • You have a wonderful eye for clothes. I miss these posts.

    I’m pretty sure the T-shirt dresses would feel too warm and clingy on me but Neiman Marcus often has Joan Vass on sale in plus size so I’ll take a look. Ditto for the Johnny Was, although that material looks hard to care for. Have you ever worn anything by Rachel Pally? She does some long sleeved dresses with a bohemian feel, and her knit material is surprisingly forgiving, washable, and cool in summer, too.

    The thing about sleeveless dresses in Southern California (or anywhere where it gets warmer than 75 F year round—it’s only 66 now but heading into the eighties today) is that I can always put on a lightweight sweater or shirt when it’s cool but I can’t do anything about those long sleeves—except suffer—if it warms up.

    Skirts are a good option to consider. I can wear the same long skirts in summer and winter. In summer I wear sleeveless T-shirts. In our abbreviated winter, I wear layers: long sleeves, a sweater or jacket, and tights.

    I used to think I had to cover up my plump, aging arms in summer but I’ve changed my mind. I now believe in the right to bare arms, regardless of my age or my weight or my conditioning. At my age, my comfort trumps “fashion rules” every time. YMMV.

    I like the flow of the Free People T-shirts. I’m sure I could wear their XL but I have a question about the material. It’s not too see-through to wear alone? If I have to wear a camisole for modesty, that’s a deal breaker.

    11:55 am
    Lisa said...

    @Wendelah, I have the Free People shirt in black and while I wouldn’t wear a bright white bra under, it’s not see-through. I can do more of these posts – am open to ideas. Anything you’re thinking about/looking for in wardrobe land? Happy to help!

  • My likes are very similar to yours in that I can swing from “minimalist” Joan Vass to “boho chic” Johnny Was in a split second. I just think that means that we love fashion. Guilty! But it doesn’t make the choice any easier, since I would say, “Get both. Money be damned!” Which is why I’m in the sinking boat, and you’re afloat. I could also see you in the Didion dress, but I’m wishing it were slightly more grey in tone.

    Am I eyeing anything for warmer months? Haha! Lisa, you’re funny. A Black Crane dress, very minimalist and similar to the Didion, but in black. Also, a white, floaty hippie top to wear over my bathing suit at the beach. Maybe Free People since they do it so well. And cut-off denim shorts. If I don’t age out of a bathing suit, why would I age out of shorts?

    12:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mamavalveeta03, Ah, see, although we could put the Johnny Was and the Didion in different categories, I think they both have a certain simplicity and comfort that works well for Polished Tomboys! I think a Black Crane dress would look wonderful with your hair, and I have a white floaty hippie top for my bathing suit, so, of course I think it’s a great idea:).

    I just buy plants instead;).

  • Love that Johnny Wass. It looks so airy. And I like that one can wear a tank or cami underneath for a pop of a different colour. 70’s vibe rules! Like Kate said above, I find that so many of the body-con maxi dresses are not flattering even on the models. Btw…as a person who sometimes has trouble focusing ..I found I could not focus on your post when I could see those little “Sekindo” videos out of the corner of my eye. Is it just me? Probably:)

    9:08 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, I hadn’t even thought about wearing a different tank under, but that would be fun! And sorry about the ads, they are served by one of my two ad networks and the content is contextual. I don’t approve/disapprove on an ad-by-ad basis. Also, they change every time you visit, or are supposed to. So, good news, next time you are here they should be gone:). But, BTW, please, everyone, do tell me if the ad content/experience here is too disruptive and I’ll figure it out.

  • oh! i vote for the didion dress. i LOVE that, and the whole line, of course, but i’m picturing you in that dress, and you look stunning ;)

    obviously, i like the JP dress as well, but it’s a completely different style, and yes, clingy. something that you don’t just “throw on” but good for feeling easily chic & pulled together…

    12:40 pm
    Lisa said...

    @grechen, Well that’s a vote of confidence I am hard-pressed to ignore!

  • You have made a nice choice
    I would decide between Didion(like the simplicity and than you can play on the empty canvas-or not!) and Free people-I am looking for something like this for years.
    The first two-Walking? Driving? Geting in and out of car?
    I vote for sleeves (although I don’t see any need for it in your case),but when it is too hot,well,let’s forget it
    I don’t understand why long dresses don’t have sleeves and mini dresses usually have-ok,it is balance,but….
    This summer -silk pyjamas trousers would be my name of the game

    12:42 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Those are my two favorites as well. Silk pajama trousers! I love that thought! Too fancy for my suburb but amazing in the right city, or by the sea.

  • Thanks so much for this post! I needed a really good maxi for summer also and this has saved me tons of time pawing through racks of things intended for the college and young mommy crowd. Just ordered the JP grey stripe in one size up from my usual to allow for the rusched hip. Got free shipping too through Neiman Marcus. Please do more fashion posts you find the best stuff. I also ordered the long charcoal grey one you posted around fhe holidays. Wore it Christmas Day with some little red plaid wool Talbots flats. Comfy all day and it looked great.

    7:18 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Charlene, Oh I remember that long charcoal gray dress! Loved it! And you are very welcome. I’ll make sure to do more fashion – is there anything else you are looking for right now other than the elusive Maxi? I hope the JP dress works out, that’s a brand I really like.

  • Was tempted by the Vass but feared the sleeve length would not hit me in a good place. Great dress for somebody though. All good choices you really have an eye!

    7:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Charlene, Thank you!

  • Ah, that gorgeous blossom looks delicious, as do your choices of dress. Adore the first two but agree, they might need to be tried on first.

    I’ve not thought about summery clothes yet. Too cool for that in my mind. I always come around late in the game though.

    7:21 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, You have a style all your own! And, I had so much fruit on the plum last year, I wonder if it will happen again?

  • This one does not have sleeves, but I think it looks like you (and I like it):

    7:43 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan D., :) Thank you!

  • I love the Didion because at 5’3″ the other choices would overwhelm me, but this one looks like it would work and is a wonderful blank canvas. Any of these would look great on you though :)

    9:09 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jane, Thank you. And I would love to see a closeup of the Didion fabric, they say it’s ribbed – I had thought it was woven at first. Hmm.

  • I like the Free People one the best. The narrow skirted options look like they’d be difficult to walk in and might cling in the wrong place. I suppose my idea of the perfect maxi dress is breezy and flowy, good for hot weather when you don’t want anything to touch you.

    9:30 am
    Lisa said...

    @rb, For us in Northern California heat waves are rare, and I always feel like they put me into another country – almost vacation – so then I am prone to flowy too.

  • Funny thing, I just bought an almost-maxi dress. Sleeveless, black jersey. I think it will travel well. Though that Johnny Was appeals to my Inner Hippie Chick. :-)

    10:02 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan (une femme), Great minds! I can totally see you with an Inner Hippie Chick. Does anyone who grew up in Norcal not have one somewhere?;)

  • I love that you curate ideas from many sources and don’t stick with what is consided “appropriate” for an older woman. I love J Crew and though I buy Free People for my daughters, I have never considered looking there for myself. Keep your fresh ideas coming!

    10:13 am
    Lisa said...

    @Denise, My pleasure! I think appropriate should be determined by the wearer and their community, not by brand marketing:).

  • The Joan Vass is nice. The web site shows another view and it’s got kind of an inner skirt panel behind the drape that would give a leggy impression without full-on knees.

    I like Free People but that dress reminds of of a MuMu.

  • I like the first dress, but the Johnny Was and the Free People dresses look more appealing for the humidity we sometimes get in the summer. Increasingly IO love a maxi-dress or skirt with a simple top and had better start thinking about summer soon.

    10:27 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, I would probably wear a long floaty dress every day of the week in your climate, except, wait, air conditioning. I always forget how that works!

  • Beautiful dresses! I especially love the bottom one!

    KK @Preppy Pink Crocodile

  • I have an emerald green maxi dress from JCrew, 3 years old or so, that has a really beautiful neckline, this is the summer I plan to actually wear it. I need to find a belt for it and then it shall be perfect. I like a maxi dress in an interesting print or with a bit of structure to the neckline or sleeve, oh gosh that upside-down tree print, love it, it’s very Liberty isn’t it.
    I think the maxi dress outfit suits California perfectly. XO

  • For you- absolutely La Garconne…….


    I bought the above James Perse midi length dress in both black and white. It looks really great on, is SO comfortable, and I’ll wear with a lightweight cardigan or jean jacket, or bare. They look great with Birkenstocks or sneakers too. I tend to like more flow-y dresses when they’re longer than knee length. More summer-y looking or something. I do love the Didion dress and that tree print dress from Matches, although I think a bit harder to style?

  • I like the solid ones best because they’re more versatile and less noticeable. You could have fun accessorizing them. And please, nothing too baggy. Five extra pounds or not, you have a fabulous figure! You shouldn’t be walking around in a sack.

    I’m in the market for some new summer pants. Specifically, something to wear when I’m not wearing white jeans. But there are too many choices.

    Honestly, the cropped / flared / highrise / lowrise options have me me curled up in the fetal position.

  • The La Garçonne! Yes!

    Last summer I bought maxi skirts. That way I could determine sleeve length all by my lonesome.

  • I like the Free People, but I’d try a size down, despite the extra five (which is nothing). You don’t want it to look too much like a muumuu. Not sure if that’s spelled right. I also like the La DoubleJ, but wish it had a shorter sleeve and a vee neck for summer – the print is nice, and black and white are always sharp. I don’t have to tell you that the shoes are as important as the dress. What do you think?

  • I really enjoy your fashion posts–thank you for finding some dresses with sleeves! If you feel that you have aged out of shorts, have you looked into “soft pants”? They’re those pants kind of shaped like sweatpants (narrow ankles, loose at top). I got a pair last year for summer in LA. They look best on slimmer figures, like yours. Just a thought! Lots cooler than jeans!

  • Your plum tree! So beautiful.

    I really like that James Perse, but I think it’s probably is clunky, which is a no-no for me. Being in the UK there is no guarantee of warmer whether (ha!) however I really like this

  • Clunky?! Clingy. *eyeroll emoji*

  • Thanks for responding, Lisa! Not at the moment, but I would love to know your take on the best crisp white shirt. I replace mine about every two years and brands seem to disappear and new ones evolve. Any favorites that you have?

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