The Utility Dress: Part One of a Three Part Series

Part 1 of a three part series that began last week with Part 2. Fortunately, this is not rocket science . . .

If you don’t have a utility dress, I am going to suggest you get one forthwith.
As we discussed last week, “utility dress” is a pretty big tent; I’d say it includes a wide range of neutral colored sleeveless and short-sleeved dresses with the following characteristics:

  • a pencil or slight A-line silhouettes;
  • poplin or cotton duck;
  • a buttoned placket or multiple pockets (if it has both, even better);
  • a self belt.
Front full length
As I am about to explain, perhaps this dress is better characterized as “inspired by utility wear”

Side full length
Perhaps it is simply a dress of great utility?
This dress has a bunch of those characteristics, but it is made of a silk-cotton fabric, so it’s too dressy for getting under the car. But it’s perfect for work.

Unlike many dresses in neutral colors, this one can’t be changed significantly with accessories because it’s too busy too wear most accessories. Collar, buttons, pleats, belt! That’s a lot of visual activity, even when camouflaged by this non-color squirrel brown. I think a bracelet and watch are all that it will support, but tell me if you disagree.
Is it really a utility dress?
I don’t think this dress can support The Dowager or Plastic Jewels

Nevertheless, this dress gets a lot of wear — partly because I love it, but largely because it can look polished enough for a meeting when worn with wedges but not too dressy if worn with flats.
Perhaps it is more a dress of great utility?
Squirrel brown is my color

Undulating, irregular pleats
Undulating, irregular pleats
I forgot to mention the ruffles; they’re too small to qualify as cap sleeves, but are a pretty detail on the armscyes.

This belt is considerably longer than it needs to be, so it has been buckled,
tied, and tucked. It’s not coming undone.
Overlong belt
Overlong belt has been subdued and restrained

In case you are moved, by my testimonial, to find yourself a utility dress, I scouted a couple for you. The great thing about these dresses is: They are available every spring/summer. The style is classic.
These are well-priced and cute, but you could probably find something more luxurious and distinctive on YOOX. Next spring, check Max Mara and Lafayette 148.
Banana Republic Pintuck Utility Dress
Banana Republic Pintuck Utility Dress

Dress: Burberry; Shoes: Taryn Rose; Bag: Coach; Bracelet: John Hardy; Watch: Michele

7 thoughts on “The Utility Dress: Part One of a Three Part Series”

  1. It looks metallic to me… that dress is lovely. I enjoy the modest neckline! The fabric would withstand many a seated meeting since it already looks purposefully rumpled.

  2. Another hit out of the park, Directrice. It just is perfectly you. The color, fit, and those favorite shoes make it, letting your hair that day work it like it so often does. Keep that whole outfit. It’s one and done!

  3. Oh, this one is just gorgeous. I agree with you about accessorisation, though you could wear a different belt and or a top underneath, if you wanted to wear it differently. Though really, it’s so perfect, no need to meddle.


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