Go long: women of many shapes, sizes can pull off a breezy maxi dress

Chicago TribuneAugust 7, 2013 

One of the bright spots of summer dressing is the return of the maxi dress.

Maxis have a lot going for them, especially as a good alternative for those who don’t want to show their legs.

“Any woman of any age and any shape can wear a maxi dress,” assures Gregg Andrews, Nordstrom fashion creative director.

“I’ve seen women in their 70s in Florida wearing long, beachy dresses, and they look great,” says stylist Joyce Sobczyk.

“I love the ease of a maxi. … It’s a great feminine look that you can dress up and dress down,” says Susan Swimmer, More magazine’s contributing fashion features editor.

That trio of testimonials should be all you need to give the maxi a try. They’re in stores now in just about every size and shape.

But like many good things, they come with some risks – including the prospect of looking like you’re walking down the street in your nightgown.

To help you look terrific, I consulted with the experts and put together this how-to maxi dress guide.

Maxi dressing tips

From stylist Sobczyk, theclosetconsult.com:

• Go for color! It’s a statement piece.

• Self-conscious of your arms? Cover up with a jean jacket, sweater, shrug or cropped cardigan.

• A natural-fiber tote, a straw or woven clutch, or a cross-body bag is the way to go. Stay away from a fussy purse.

From Andrews of Nordstrom:

• Plus size? Avoid overly full or A-line cuts; a clean rectangle with a little bit of shape is more flattering and will elongate the body.

• For petite women, knits that skim the body are a good choice.

• Keep it casual. Long doesn’t mean formal; think of it as a long sundress.

• Wearing a maxi dress to an outdoor wedding is a great choice; wearing one to a church wedding is an iffy choice.

From Swimmer of More magazine:

• Thin jersey fabrics cling to your bits and bumps, so consider shapewear underneath.

• No rhinestones; ethnic or earthy jewelry work best.

More tips

• Be cautious about a sun hat: A floppy straw hat can look a bit ’60s summer-of-love. Try a cloche or head wrap for a bad hair day.

• Don’t show off your underwear; no visible bra straps, please!

• Keep it casual! Avoid office-y blazers or structured jackets as cover-ups. A simple cardigan is better.

• Length is crucial. Show your shoes. If the dress drags on the ground, hem it or use a skinny woven or straw belt to blouse (and shorten) it. Holding your skirt off the floor so you won’t trip is a big N-O.

• Heels and platforms are too dressy for an informal maxi. Gladiators, ballet flats or wedges are ideal.

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