How to Wear a Floral Dress Without Looking Like a Doll

I have a closet full of contradictions. To the right are folded the trends I thought I would never get over (poplin, collarless blouses, self-frayed jeans, white sneakers) and to the left are all the trends I thought I’d never try, but fell into anyway. At the top of this list are the only two garments I own by Vetements: a pair of jeans (that I love so much) and metallic pink boots (that I have never worn). Among the rest of the trends I love but thought I’d never try: knee-length skirts (I have a complex from attending Orthodox Jewish day school); shapely trousers; cropped, fitted sweaters and tea dresses. So many tea dresses. I can’t stop saying tea dresses!

For the tea dresses, I blame the panoply of runway designers who genuinely impact the way we want to dress. I never get over how easy it is to manipulate a consumer into believing they are having a unique or independent thought (“I never knew I loved tea dresses but just like that, randomly, out of nowhere, I do!”). Of course, it’s not actually random or out of nowhere: Céline had long-sleeve, ankle-length dresses running rampant down its Spring runway, Gucci has been heralding the shape since Alessandro Michele took his post, Maria Grazia Chiuri has turned Dior into a case study in ladylike dresses and Dolce & Gabbana are probably rolling their eyes. They’ve been doing this since fruit was still just fruit — hold the print.

My problem with dresses, generally, is that they say too much. They’re too convicted about who they are. When you wear a dress, you wear a single sentiment for everyone to acknowledge. In one, you might be a vixen (I hate this word). In another, an absolute dame. And in a tea dress, you’re delicate and dainty and floral. But I’m more complicated than that! I have so much more to give — to say! So here are three ways to wear very feminine tea dresses without feeling like you’re not you. Or I’m not me. Or whatever.

You probably can’t even tell that this dress is essentially the motherload when it comes to meeting your in-laws (here’s a link to it pre-me). It is as proper as they come. And it’s beautiful, but for today and right now, I feel more jovial than a mere dress; I want a peplum, I want another print, I want shoes that make me feel like if not handled thoughtfully, I could easily look like Jessica Simpson.

This was a cool case study in turning a dress (dainty and tank-y) into a skirt, adding shoes that further perpetuate the inherent femininity of the dress, but then fucking that shit up with a Matrix-style patent-leather trench that genuinely makes me feel like I can fly. Moving on!

Finally, for the sake of demonstrating that if you hate layers or don’t want to obliterate your dresses with shirts and belts and jackets and the like, here’s one that lets the dress be what it is with unexpected sock boots (easily replicable) that conceal the entire ankle and a pair of sunglasses because I have apparently established that you need them to tell your story.

I’m so glad it’s Friday — what should we do tonight?

Photos by Edith Young.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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