Have you ever bought an item of clothing even though you had no idea how you were going to wear it? Of course you have -- you’re human. We’ve all been there. Eh, I’ll figure it out when I get home, I think. Then I get home and the item sits in my closet for eternity because I actually don’t have time to play dress up for an hour to figure out how to make it work.
This time, the item in question is a sheer, floral, button-up maxi dress from H&M. If you don’t have one of these yet, brace yourself because soon you may find yourself standing in the checkout line in a dazed trance with one clutched in your hands. I’ve been seeing these dresses in stores everywhere, possibly because they simultaneously embody three spring trends that refuse to die: sheer, maxi, and floral. I’m pretty sure I only fell for this because by this time of year, I’m easy prey for anything that makes me think of spring.
My thinking process in the dressing room went something like this: Why do all H&M dressing rooms smell vaguely like pee? I should try on some crop tops after this. Why did I decide to go clothes shopping right after Shake Shack? Ahhh, a flowy dress -- that’s what I need. Bohemian isn’t really my style. But it’s important to try new things. But what would I wear it with? Over my bathing suit by the pool, duh. With a giant hat and lipstick. Or over nothing in a flowery meadow, practically naked. And BAREFOOT. That’s it, I’m buying this. Oh god, why is it still so cold out?
Then I took the dress home and it snowed the next day. I came to the depressing realization that it would be quite some time before I could frolic semi-naked in a meadow, so I’d have to find other ways to wear a sheer maxi dress in the meantime.
1. With leggings and ankle boots.
This outfit is perfect for a casual date. I wore it to grab lunch and look through records. Paired with a jacket, the ensemble was warm enough for 30-degree weather.
Depending on how well you know your date, you can get a little racy and layer a black bra underneath instead of an actual shirt. I know my date well enough that he felt free to admonish me: “You know, you can’t slouch like that if you’re only wearing a bra under there.” Noted.
2. With ripped boyfriend jeans.
This is the most comfortable outfit ever, and the maxi dress has the welcome effect of not only dressing it up a little bit but also hiding the fact that my boyfriend jeans make my butt look flat as a pancake and two feet long.
I know some people think that pairing schlubby jeans with heels negates the overall casual effect, but I personally think a pair of low, pointed black heels class it up in a nice way. I found these heels at H&M the same day I found my dress and I wear them all the time.
3. With cigarette pants and a blazer.
I realize that not everyone has a work environment where a sheer, floral maxi dress would fly. If, however, your workplace is relatively casual then maybe try this outfit to spice up your usual 9-to-5 uniform. I basically just tried to think of the dress as a really long, flowy cardigan, and layered it on top of my usual pants and shirt combo. Then I added a blazer and heels to pull the look together.
At first people will see you looking pretty and feminine in a flowing dress. Then as soon as you start to stalk around your dress will billow out behind you and they’ll see you’re wearing pants and know you mean business.
Learn from my mistakes and at least button your “cardigan” so that your crotch is covered. I don’t know why it looks weird otherwise; it just does.
4. With a lacy dress or slip.
This is the most romantic way to wear this dress. Bits of lace will peek out as you walk around and it will be sexy and demure at the same time.
Around the house I wear black ballet slippers with this look, but if I’m going out I put on some giant black platform heels. My mother dressed me all throughout the ‘90s so I get to try all of the trends for the first time now. Sorry for those of you who have been through it like three times by now.
5. With cutoffs and a crop top or bralette.
Spring is definitely on the way because tiny shirts for baby animals have once again started popping up in stores. Crop tops and bralettes always look cute and summery on other people but my stomach is probably my least favorite feature. Nothing personal, stomach -- you’re cute and squishy -- but I don’t want you poking out of my clothes all day in public. This dress gives me the opportunity to actually wear these cute mini tops this summer without having to worry about having my midriff exposed.
And much like the boyfriend jeans, my old cutoffs benefit greatly from the addition of a pretty dress. To top it off, I put on my sandals for the first time in months and then started to daydream about wearing this outfit on the boardwalk.
A few others ideas for how to wear this dress: over a bathing suit (that’s the most obvious one) or leotard, with lingerie (or without) for swanning seductively around the house, over anything that has a big stain you want to hide, with a leather jacket, or with tall socks. I like to wear this dress with a chunky pair of grey cable-knit thigh highs.
Now that you have some ideas on how to wear it, here’s a few places where you could buy one (I don’t see my H&M dress online but you can probably still find it in a store):
Do you have anything in your closet that has you totally stumped? Denim overalls that make you look like a farmer? Velour jumpsuit that you bought online while drunk? Leave it in the comments and no matter what it is, I will help you find a way to -- in the immortal words of Tim Gunn -- make it work.
Kelly is making even more perplexing fashion choices over on Twitter: @picturesqueliar