Blouse Under Dress

I saw (or think I saw) many more dresses with sleeves in AW2016, and therefore conclude that a trend is building. Women want dresses with sleeves and the market may be responding.

Personally, I like sleeveless dresses. But I want the ability to add sleeves. Therefore, wearing a blouse under a sleeveless dress — Blouse Under Dress — is a pilot-program that I’ve been working on for the last year. (Mind: I haven’t been working full-time on this. It has instead been a sporadic undertaking.)
M' life's work!
M’ life’s work!

side view falling flowers
The fruit of m’ sporadic life’s work
I have a few working theories about Blouse Under Dress:
First, the best Blouse Under Dress combination is a blouse that matches or comes very close to matching the color of the dress.
Second, it is very difficult to find a blouse that matches your dress, particularly if you buy most of your clothes on the Internet, as I do.
Third, a blouse that comes close but clearly doesn’t match your dress may be very effective.

Now, a case study!
I hope that we don't have to break into teams for the case study
I hope that we don’t have to break into teams for the case study
This dress is a cherry red. I thought it was an orange-red, until I bought this blouse — which is definitely an orange-red — and realized that the dress has blue undertones.
Do they match? Non. But do they work together? Oui! Do they work together even though I’ve previously told you tone-on-tone works best when the undertones are the same? Oui. I am sorry if that seems arbitrary.

Why do these two reds work together? I wish I knew. But as I have repeatedly disclosed, I am neither a trained colorist nor a particle physicist. I am just a lawyer with good taste.
Note the pretty details on the dress: the visible darts at the waist.
Also note the pedestrian walking her sweater-wearing dog. Both are giving me the side-eye. The Photographer and I have totally different responses to the interest of passersby when we are outside taking photographs. He loves the attention; I want to —-poof– disappear.
Deconstructed details
Deconstructed details; Directrice attempting to render self invisible with her mind

Lazy-man's solution
A lazy solution but very effective
This blouse has a traditional shirt collar. I thought a mandarin collar would look better, so I have simply tucked the wings of the collar inside the shirt.

And now an interlude, in which I show you some little details.
My beautiful brooch; a Christmas present from The Photographer
My beautiful brooch; a Christmas present from The Photographer

Another angle; no hugging while wearing this brooch
Another angle; no hugging while wearing this brooch
The shoes you told me not to buy; scroll up and note how elegant they look in the profile picture
The shoes you told me not to buy; scroll up and note how elegant they look in the profile picture

Back to business!
The search for a red blouse went like this. I visited a few sites where I do my shopping — JCrew, Shopbop, YOOX — and used filters to search for red blouses and found two blouses that looked like possibilities. The red one above, from JCrew, is a cotton-silk blend, which means that the fabric has the texture of a voile: light, sheer with a little sheen, and a slightly crisp hand.
Here (to the right) is the other blouse. It’s kind of dreadful, but I saw possibilities for two reasons. First, it’s polyester and sheer, which means that all of that volume can be easily compressed and probably look smooth under a wool gabardine dress. Second, with all those colors, I figured that surely some of them would work with the orange-red/blue-red dress.
Free People Hendrix Printed Blouse
Free People Hendrix Printed Blouse; Directrice predicted that something in this hot mess would work with the red dress

Slightly dreadful blouse under dress = perfection
Slightly dreadful blouse under dress = perfection
You tell me. I think this combination is beautiful in every respect.

I did have the sleeves altered. You may have noticed that in the catalog photo, the sleeves are voluminous. I had them slimmed down.
For the eagle-eyed, note that I have switched bags. A dark red bag looks very nice with the dark sleeves against the bright red of the dress.
Such a lady
Such a lady: the apogee of m’ sporadic life’s work

Beats the hell out of me
Why does this combination work? Beats me
I will tell you a secret.
Come closer, because I am whispering. When the blouse arrived, I thought it was so ugly that I almost didn’t try it on.
If you only take away one thing from all of my writings, let it be this: It’s always good to try things on. You’ll always learn something useful, even if it’s just that you were right.

Here is a closer shot of the blouse.
The background color is a burgundy leaning toward rust covered in cornflower blue flowers that are outlined in a salmon orange/pink. Think about how horrible that sounds when put into words. And yet . . .
As The Dude would say, It ties the room together
As The Dude would say, It ties the room together

The ruby red of the blouse does appear, just above the round neckline of the dress.
Gathered neckline of blouse
Gathered neckline of blouse

* Finis *
That’s all I have for today.
Dress: Jil Sander; Bright red blouse: JCrew Classic Popover in Falling Floral; Dark red blouse: Free People; Shoes: Tory Burch; Bags: Coach; Brooch: Denisa Piatti, visit her website here and see my trip to her studio
The Photographer thinks I look like a queen in this photo. I think I look like a queen surveying her subjects, finding them somewhat wanting, and deciding to carry on as though everything is satisfactory because that’s what monarchs do.
The disappointed monarch works with the material available
The monarch works with the material available

29 thoughts on “Blouse Under Dress”

  1. Beautiful dress and shirt combos. I am inspired to do the same. One caveat: your dress needs to be shorter! (Just like your jeans need to be skinnier.)

    • Today, I get to be peacemaker and say, “Everyone is correct!” My dress is a hair too long. I think it’s about one inch longer than it should be — despite Fatima’s and my best efforts to get this right. (I did shorten it by a few inches.) Sometimes you can’t tell until you have the dress has been hemmed and you are wearing it with the blouse underneath, the right shoes, etc. The thinnest part of my leg is just below my knee, at the very top of my calf. My knees are very wide — I did not inherit my mother’s beautiful stems! — but for some people, the middle of the knee-cap is an excellent place for a hemline, too. Just not me . . .

  2. I think the dress is gorgeous. I wondered if someone would say it was too long — yep, first comment. From my vantage point (computer screen), it hits you at a slim part of your leg and is therefore flattering.

    I’m not normally a fan of layers but think both blouses are beautiful under this dress. You would definitely catch my eye if I spotted you walking.

  3. Beg to differ: the elegant proportions with the beautiful long sleeves would be off, were the dress shortened. Perfect as is, I say.

    Lesson learned: hide 2/3rds of an ugly garment and the remaining 1/3rd can be lovely.

  4. When I saw the Free People shirt under the dress (as I had the honor of viewing your combination in person), I was transfixed and delighted by the intricate style of the collar and the beautiful colors. And yet, the photo of the blouse alone is truly horrible! All the more impressive. Finally, much appreciation for the Big Lebowski reference — a movie that, traditionally, has not been tied to high fashion.

  5. Dresses with sleeves how I miss thee!

    I like both combos, the solid color with a print looks both chic and work-appropriate. Red is a very versatile so I think you can’t go wrong on the blouse color.

  6. First: I love your blog. These clothes are way out of my price range but: I sew, oh ho!
    Second: I am so very impressed that you are able to do Blouse Under Dress without it reading Frumpy Jumper.
    Third: To my eye, that lovely red dress is calling out for a belt. And since I am learning, I wonder if you tried one and decided no, and if so, why?

    • Hello Rise! You ask a very good question. I didn’t think about wearing a belt because of the exposed darts at the waist — so pretty — but you’ve given me a new idea. Could I wear a white blouse under this with my CGI red, patent leather belt and black boots? See previous post Re-animating a Classic. I think it might be great.

  7. You are such a hoot! And I have to agree (and giggle) with Rise (comment above). I’m afraid that on me, combos such as yours would scream, “Frumpy Jumper.” On you, they are lovely. I envy your creativity and love the inspiration!

  8. Yup, I’d look totally frumpy in that combo. I vote for the cherry red blouse.
    Based on the background in your photos, I’m thinking I might run into you one day when I visit my family in Washington. That would be fun. I promise to nod discreetly.

  9. Re dresses in general, I too have noticed a trend in women wearing dresses on TV, meteorologists, news women, commentators, etc. seems like all the females on theses types of shows are wearing dresses, some with sleeves and some without. I haven’t worn a dress in years but seeing the nice styles makes me want to go out and look particularly since I lost 50 pounds all over in the past year. Only problem is, what would I wear a dress for as I am retiring soon! And no fancy or dressy events coming up, bummer.

  10. How beautiful that the photographer thinks you look like a queen. And buys you such brooches for Christmas. I love these outfits. A silk blouse would work perhaps best for this purpose (better than cotton, say) because of the thin and, well, silky fabric. I will try this approach to my wardrobe when our soaring temperature drops. Today is very hot and humid here in Australia. No sleeves here today.

  11. Ps one more thought, that the blouse under red dress perhaps makes red dress less of a statement (in its own right) and more an ensemble and therefore more wearable as less intense?

  12. You are a brave woman to wear those shoes outdoors, attractive but temperamental as that mirrored finish can be. They would be carried in their cloth bag to the carpeted office with me!

    • I am, Sharla — Hanes Silk Reflections. I am a little old-fashioned in this regard, but when the temperature drops, I think they provide a nice polished look.

  13. I like the second one better because the sleeves are soft, but i’m not sure if the color combination is quite as good as the first one. I have two dresses that I like to layer over tops, but I’ve mostly gone with knit tops to keep the bulk down.

  14. You’ve inspired me. Today I’m wearing a Liberty print floral blouse under a navy sheath dress. With a floral brooch, for more flowers. I love it, thank you.

  15. dear directrice! i felt i had to write this reply, even days after the original post. i read your suggestion of blouse-under-dress and was initially dismissive. sure, it was charming on you. but i do not have sheath dresses.

    except! i completely forgot that i do have a sheath dress! it is sleeveless, and thus i do not wear it in the winter. i pulled it out this morning and tested it with a blouse that had extra full sleeves. it turns out that blouse-under-dress is charming on me as well.

    thank you for the inspiration!

  16. I love both these combinations.
    I appreciate the double cleverness of this – both getting a number of different looks with the one dress (I love dresses, but it can often be impossible to have a different outfit with the same dress) – and extending the life of the dress, as I should imagine one could get through quite a few wearings with different &/or re-laundered blouses, before the dress would need to be laundered itself, having been worn over the blouses.
    Also, I really want to say to Sheila – you could wear a dress, just for fun, purely for your own enjoyment, to do pretty much anything. I do it all the time, though I never have any kind of dress-code whatsoever 😉

  17. Very Pretty Red Dress. Such great ideas Blouse underdress, can give it a try once. This top is making quite the comeback. We should all have a sweet blouse in our wardrobe.


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