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The Case for Getting All Dressed Up for No Good Reason
10.16.17

In partnership with Needle & Thread

This exercise is admittedly impossible while reading, so retain what you can just after this colon then follow the instructions along with me: Close your eyes. Picture that dress in your closet you haven’t worn yet because you’ve been waiting for just the right occasion. It’s probably a fancy event you’re waiting on, right? Something involving a call for black tie, or a wedding where your college friends will not be attending and therefore “stains” are not your primary concern. Something grand, dramatic…and as of yet, not on your calendar, which means your dress just hangs there, sad and unworn, collecting dust rather than memories.

(I’ll wait.)

I’m the worst offender. I treat certain clothes in this one section of my closet as though they were collectable figurines with the plastic still on them. When I moved, however, I donated/sold so much that I began to look critically in my closet and ask how much I actually wear — or plan to wear — each item that took up space. It’s easier to get favorite-but-forgotten jeans and shirts back into the rotation, yet so much harder with special pieces.

But special pieces aren’t special because we reserve them! They’re special because we’ve assigned value to them, because we fell in love when we bought them, because we picture ourselves as better versions of us when we wear them.

So then I said to myself: You know what? Screw occasion. Why can’t I wear that which sparkles or is designed for the ball room on any old Wednesday? Why can’t I wear ruffles on a Tuesday? Why couldn’t I, in theory, wear a floor length dress with ruffles and bows to take photos, or to ride my bike, or to get my morning coffee?

I could, it turns out. I can. But far more fun is to have a model act out my fantasies with four Needle & Thread dresses (and one Needle & Thread blouse) instead.

Wear Your Gown to Get a Morning Coffee

Needle & Thread Climbing Blossom Gown styled with a Rebecca de Ravenel shirt dress, Dries Van Noten x Linda Farrow sunglasses and Laruicci hoop earrings

Throw a streetwear-appropriate house coat over your dress (in this case, a robe of pink shirting over an embroidered Needle & Thread gown) to ensure that wherever you pause to stop in the name of a.m. leisure really feels like home. And since you’re being fancy, skip your regular drip; order a latte instead.

Wear a Dress to Go Biking

Needle & Thread Andromeda Dress styled with Brother Vellies boots and George Keburia sunglasses

Not revolutionary, really, but since when does a breeze get old? In the name of safety (don’t forget a helmet!), pad your arms with an autumnal cable knit and make a series of sequins, sparkles and glitter your reflective gear.

Wear a Dramatic Dress to Play Photographer

Needle & Thread Lumiere Gown styled with Sleeper shirt, Charlotte Olympia shoes and Ambush sunglasses

Whether you shoot for profession, hobby or dreamed-up scenarios, there’s no sense in aiming to get the shot if you haven’t got on the right look. If art imitates life, and it absolutely does, why not dress for the photo you want rather than the camera skills you currently have? I paired this pink Net-a-Porter Needle & Thread exclusive dress with red accessories is in the name of alternative exposures and light experimentation.

Wear a Sheer Sheath to Get Flowers

Needle & Thread Daisy Chain Dress styled with Equipment pants, RAEN sunglasses, Maryam Nassir Zadeh shoes and Roxanne Assoulin earrings

If there’s anything that could brighten a day or room more than flowers, it’s a sheer sheath that is actually a dress, one that you removed the lining from so as to wear the overlay as a top with striped pajama pants. It says “I work from home, but my desk chair is actually a chaise lounge.” Is that a relaxed sigh I hear? Man oh man, do I love that sound.

Wear Your Finest Top to a Sweets-Focused Picnic

Needle & Thread Ruffle Blouse styled with Fleur du Mal pants, MR by Man Repeller shoes, Muzungu Sisters caftan around waist and Stine Goya neckscarf

First of all, I think we turn too much of our picnic-centric-focus on the meat. Why isn’t there a more strictly-enforced cheese, baguette and dessert ratio rule when it comes to muted gingham, anyway? Never mind. Pick your battles, as they say, and today, try a buttoned-up frilly puff-sleeve top, like this one by Needle & Thread, with literally anything you can imagine on the bottom. Tie a scarf around your neck if you need color, or to pick up what the long shirt tied around your waist is holding down.

I’ll tell you what you don’t have to do: feel constrained for a second longer about what you can or can’t wear and when. The world is your black tie invitation. You RSVP by pure virtue of getting dressed for the occasion.

Photos by Edith Young.

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  • BB

    UM Y E S

    I have recently incorporated this philosophy in my morning routine and when I pack for vacations. I wore out a long pink pleated dress that I would’ve worn to an event to go eat Korean for lunch…and subsequently got soup stains all over it by the end of the meal. Thank god I discovered that dress was machine washable — but even if it wasn’t, still no regrets about being the pinkest/fanciest person in that family-run Korean restaurant for an hour that Saturday!

  • Catherine Schepp

    My mom insists on using her finest silver and china every single day even though it’s harder to clean. When I asked her why, she insisted that “elegance is a lifestyle” and she was sick of waiting for occasions that never came. I’m excited to try to apply this suggestion to my wardrobe as well.

    • Sundae

      Oh I love this! My work wardrobe is glorious (functional but lush), cause I figure spend tons of time wearing it and I want to feel great not drab. It’s a choice I made in the past two years – to make the effort. It’s amazing the effect it has on people. Elegance is a lifestyle indeed. You are what you choose to be everyday.

      • Katie M

        ‘You are what you choose to be everyday’, love this 🙂

        • Anna Ryan

          OH HEY KATIE

          • Katie M

            Fancy meeting you hear Anna? 😛

      • and how you choose to Look in your moments, too.
        that is You– why not use matter and materials that are finer
        that uplift, delight (sensitive, sense-ing) human heart

        love when woman meets vision meets art meets style
        meets actually doing the damn thing!

    • Áine Hegarty

      My family does this too!

    • Rachel

      Elegance is a lifestyle is now my new motto

    • Lizlemon

      Wow yor mom though, love it.

    • Selena Delgado

      so much yes..

  • Oratile Moloko

    I am still struggling to just dress up for ‘no occasion’.A few months ago I promised myself that I would dress up just because I wanted to but that promise is yet to be fulfilled.My biggest huddle is that I don’t feel comfortable dressing up when everyone around me is in leggings and hoodies.

    These were my sentiments on this issue -http://www.theoraeffect.com/nowhere-to-go/

    • Rachel

      I feel the same way about dressing up for no occasion. I always used to tell myself that it’s better to be overdressed than under dressed. For some reason when I was in high school I was never bothered by being overdressed compared to everyone else but now that I’m in my 20s I feel more self conscious about it for some reason. Which is really weird considering my style have vastly improved since high school haha

      • Oratile Moloko

        I actually had no problem with being taken as overdressed before university as well but now I am feeling like I would be judged for putting effort in my looks.When did effort become a sin ? I think a change of environment has had some influence as well ,because I was in London for 6th form and had to move to a smaller town for university so I am trying to fit in and dress like others ,which is really boring.We will get there though ,we need to show off our style maturity lol

        • effort becomes a sin when those surrounding you make NO effort themselves
          and seek to waylay their thoughts on this by making silly remarks in regards to what you do… yaay for you at least visioning getting back into your ‘show of style!’

  • Rachel

    I’m trying to incorporate this idea into my wardrobe now, especially when buy new things. I want less tshirts and jeans and more nice dresses, interesting tops and dress pants. I feel like I get into a rut of comfy clothes and then I don’t feel happy about getting dressed. It’s even harder when you live in a cold climate and all you want to do is bundle up in a wool sweater!

    • Kat

      Uniqlo’s heat tech line should be your friend – toasty leggings and long sleeved tops to layer under “lewks”!

    • wool is cool!

      simply belt the bulk and add a brooch or a wrist of bracelets
      or make it a deep v-neck and then wear lush blouses underneath

      there is much that can be done even when your focus is on warmth

      i like to layer skirts under other skirts (shorter pants that can’t be seen)
      and do tights (perfect for wrangling your body’s natural warmth)

      great to hear you have made the connection between your feeling
      and the way you dress (or not) and then making the effort to do what’s good for your heart!

  • Caroline Tribe

    I bought a hella powerful suit from Banana Republic about five months ago and have been waiting for the right time to debut it, so it has sadly been sitting in my closet collecting dust and just being looked at. But you know what I’m going to wear it to my internship tomorrow because I feel like a boss ass bitch in it and I want everyone to know that I am one, thank you very much !!!

  • Emily

    honestly I went through a pretty intense phase in high school wherein i dressed up all the time and wore red lipstick almost every day, paired with anything from a dress and combat boots (those were the days) to my mom’s old burnt orange down vest hahaha. I thought I looked so great. looking back, I was definitely doing a little too much for high school in a small ca town… but it made me feel confident and stylish and unique and that’s what mattered most!

  • Halle Elizabeth

    Occasion-shaming is as apparent as weather-shaming. In high school I used to wear skirts and dresses all the freakin time and people would question, sometimes condescendingly, why I was so dressed up. Screw it, I don’t need a reason!

    • Kimberly Slater

      Agree!

    • and why can’t Life be reason enough??

      i wonder why everyone is always usually so busy
      (spending lots of money and effort) on dressing soooo down and drab

      missed opportunity indeed. everyday is a new day to make your visual statement

      Nature does it all around us, the birds flowers insects rocks, all carry such colors
      depth of texture fun style and celebration of presentation!

  • Jessica

    Decided to wear a floor length black halter dress (that I last wore to a wedding) to my local dive bar this evening.

  • Sarah

    I’m often the most dressed up person in the room, but getting dressed in a super cute outfit just to run errands or pick up coffee because it makes me feel better, more like myself, and more confident. I good outfit can lift your mood, and it makes people notice you (in a good way).

  • Lotty

    Absolutely love this post–dressed to the 9s for absolutely no reason might actually be my life motto.

  • Ai-Ch’ng GB

    I agree that some clothes are fancy only by matter of the value we assign to them. But then I think of an antique, intricate, fully hand-embroidered silk pirate shirt with the whole shebang of ruffles and silk ribbon ties everywhere, and it’s hard to think of that as anything but absolutely and gorgeously luxurious.

    Maybe that’s where the, “wear-everything-with-sneakers/birks-with-or-without-socks” philosophy of dressing has come in – to temper the full-blown fanciness of these obviously luxury items.

    As I get older (faster and faster with each passing year), the super-fancy ocaaison-oriented items I had stored in my wardrobe, I’ve either given away/sold because they’re no longer comfortable/can’t fit back into after a year of serious yoga/HIIT sessions on steroids/both combined (couldn’t eat less… I tried, but just could not: got way too hungry and tired).

    What have I kept? Just the super-fancy items that still fit comfortably after a large dinner of pizza, pasta and dessert (no forward slashes between any of those, fully intended – see what I mean about it being a futile exercise in keeping all those lovely clothes that are now too small for me?). And, instead of wearing my usual jeans and oversized T, my denim overalls/coveralls/skinny strap tent maxi denim dress to cover my torso and about seven fifths of my legs, I wear the super-fancy dresses and tops with jeans, with sneakers, or flat boots (because I also gave away all my heels – too uncomfortable).

    Since I’ve started to think of the fancy stuff more as just a cover-up for my torso and legs, it’s removed any awkward self-consciousness completely (that, admittedly, only lasts as long as I’m in front of the bathroom mirror. Fortunately, once I leave the bathroom, I forget what I’m wearing, unless it’s too tight, or tripping me up – and then the seller-consciousness kicks in). The thought that I’m also wasting these items by not wearing them every second week also makes me feel easier wearing them out to the grab the groceries. After twelve years of doing this, my eighteen year-old son now doesn’t mind walking next to me in public, and he no longer suggests that I wear over my outfits, an oversized cardigan before entering Parent-Teacher Meetings.

    I do think, however, it’s easier to make that ornate dress look less startling on the street in the colder months, because you can break it up with the chunky sweater/leather jacket/hoodie/denim jacket and heavy boots. However, I have toned down the ornateness of most of the ornate outfits in summer by tying a plaid shirt around my hips and under the skinny straps of an evening dress, or beneath a sheer top, wearing a wife-beater (is it OK to call it that still? It’s those men’s white singlets that I used to see gangsters in movies wear just with their baggy woollen belted pants, and their hats, with a cigarette hanging out the corner of their evil sneers).

    My full admiration still goes to the people who wear with full confidence and no apology whatsoever, their ornate tops/pants, skirts, full-length dresses with their knee sequinned boots – no toning down in the slightest.

  • Dale Chong

    I am here for all of these.

  • Suzan

    That picnic look is glorious!

    And I can relate to keeping special garments hanging in my closet, having them wait for a special event (when I usually decide to play it cool and dress it down a bit and so I end up not wearing the special garment). The worst is when you finally do have an occasion for it and you take that item out of the closet and well… you don’t like it that much anymore. Or it doesn’t feel right on your body. Or it suddenly seems so dated (because it spend 3 years in the closet). Sad! So I’m completely down with wearing everything you have (had to be reminded of it though). Just because you have it. And paid for it. And love it.

  • C. Killion

    …and then there are the days when I am just happy to get out the door decently covered, with matching shoes.

  • Constance

    Like my grandma say: better be overdressed than underdressed.

  • Tess

    I wore a needle and thread gown to prom, have a lotta love for that dress and the brand behind it

  • Gaya Chalik

    I want those glitter boots. asap