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You Need This... I Promise

The Maxi Dress

can you tell how tired I am of taking photos of myself? (in the maxi tie shirtdress)
The saying is "you can run, but you can't hide" — but it's kind of the opposite with a maxi dress. You can't run, but you CAN hide. Hide your legs, I mean. I guess you could hitch up your skirt for a full stride, but generally speaking, if you are sprinting, the shorter the better. Even if you aren't able to make quick escape, a long, full-length dress is great for so many other reasons: fashion, femininity, modesty, "I don't really like my legs." I can't think of any other time in fashion when there were so many options. The long hemlines have been huge for several seasons now, but I feel as though it has exploded this summer. Everywhere I look, a woman is wearing a flowy, flowery dress that comes down to her ankles.

We all have hangups about body parts that have been planted in our heads by mothers, bad boyfriends, bad girlfriends. There is no villain like Regina George in Mean Girls. We all love to see her scream when she finally figures out that the Swedish nutrition bars she has been eating are meant for rapid weight gain rather than weight loss. The only year I was on the cheerleading squad in high school, the coach insisted that we have weekly weigh-ins. Can you imagine? I was 15 and we were all starting to fill out figure-wise. It was humiliating. I wish I had had some Swedish nutrition bars for her. Let me tell you, that woman was BAD.

But a maxi… now that is one forgiving dress. You may not pass the weigh-in, but you will still look amazing. You don't even have to shave your legs. My friend KP absolutely does not wear anything short. Ever. The always-glamorous Rebecca de Ravenel is always in something long and chic. My dear friend Grace from Philadelphia has made herself dozens of palazzo-style pants over the years a la Katherine Hepburn, and she has so much style she could care less about what is in or out. But she covers her legs no matter what. All these woman are chic and stylish and have made wearing long their "thing." Maybe it's because their legs aren't their favorite "thing" about themselves. But how would I know? I've never seen them! Mystery…

I have fond memories of my first maxi dress in the early seventies. It might be mixed up in my head with the same year we were first allowed to wear pants to school – but either way, fashion was so intertwined with feminism around this time. Micro-mini, long maxi, bra, no bra. The bra part wasn't relevant to me yet (I was 11!) but the point was to choose for yourself. It was a terrific hippie-style flowered calico maxi sewn by my mother. I have to admit, it was actually pretty weird to wear it to school. I felt like I should have been in a play or something. (And remember… running around in it wasn't so easy.) But I had begged her to make it for me, so I couldn't come home and tell her how silly it felt going out for recess in it. That same time period was also famous for the hostess skirt. A long wrap style made for "entertaining." Something casual and extra at the same time. My mother sewed herself a patchwork one that I would kill to have now. It was SO chic. So chic, in fact, that Laura Vinroot Poole is lounging in a skirt that is crazily similar in a feature in Garden & Gun from many years back. One of my favorite fashion portraits ever. Her whole look is fantastic – she looks fantastic – but man, I covet that skirt.
Laura Vinroot Poole shot by Stacy van Berkel for Garden & Gun

The past few years have felt like one long buildup to the boho, romantic, anywhere-and-everywhere maxi dress. The thing I love about ours is how not costumey they are. Feminine, but not too ruffly. I love a floral just as much as anyone but the solid colored linen feels so sophisticated. And, frankly, easier to take into transition weather. There is this maxi shirtdress with ties at the waist that we have done for a few seasons now because it is the chicest thing ever. You can wrap it in a few different ways around your waist and it is truly a "one and done" kind of piece. If you like a little more femininity, the new Brianna Smocking Dress has puffed sleeves and a square neckline. It is kind of like a more grown-up riff on a princess dress. I wrote about the housedress last summer during the pandemic and how great it can be to feel like you are making more of an effort… even if you are just running around your house. Even as things are opening up again, this has not changed. Women dressing up for themselves without sacrificing comfort… that is not going away. A maxi length is just so so great for this. Breezy and light when it is hot outside… and it just makes you feel pretty, whether you love your legs or not.
From Ann

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