The Not-So-Basic Guide To Embracing Spring Dresses

There's something so freeing about an outfit that requires no thought — and no pants. Dresses are liberating, in all senses: from their variety of silhouettes to their never-ending color and pattern options. And though they have been historically categorized as a garment that's innately feminine, girly, and proper, in recent years, they've expanded far beyond that. They're a style anyone can embrace, can rock, and can love — with size, personal style, and any other inhibitions tossed to the curb. But why are we talking about dresses now, when really, they can be worn all year 'round? The change in weather is one factor: The words "spring" and "dresses" often go hand-in-hand, with bare-legged, bare-armed cuts taking precedence above all other articles of clothing. Another is that the most unconventional of dresses are having their moment right now: think gothic florals, off-the-shoulder necklines, and 3-D embroidery that remind even the most naysaying frock-haters that there is a way to integrate these pieces into your wardrobe (even if you swore you'd forever be a shorts-and-tee type of person). Now's the time to change your mindset. And not just because it's April, and not just because it's on-trend: But because there is no item that makes you feel as good as the perfect dress. There is so much more to the spring dress than the "throw-on-and-go" mentality. Let the sartorial suggestions (from us and our models) below lead your way for buying, and wearing, the piece of your dreams.
Dress Things Down
There is something pretty amazing about the fact that so few people have been wearing heels with dresses lately — and our feet couldn't be happier. But truthfully, our sense of style is thrilled, too, because the juxtaposition of a cool pair of kicks with a fancier frock is something that doesn't sound like it should work, yet it does. For a more subtle take, opt for one solid, and one patterned piece; and for those daring to go all-out, double the prints means your look is twice as good (model Paloma Elsesser agrees, the more that's happening in your look, the better: "The M Missoni dress was super-flattering," she says. "It was short, but with a good pattern at the same time, and the movement of the suede jacket was cool, too.")

Embrace Wacky Prints
Establishing your personal aesthetic is all about experimentation: And what better way to do so than by playing with loud patterns, like florals and tie-dye. Though the two may seem so, well, expected, opting for colors and cuts that tread outside the typical pretty pastels and A-line pieces will feel more fresh, and, as model Thistle Brown says, like something Bad Gal Riri would wear. "The [floral dress] reminds me of Rihanna," he explains. "It's a backless Adam Selman dress with extremely small straps and splits, and looks like a beautiful bouquet of flowers — perfect for any spring girl." But what really makes these pieces winners (and the vibe to look to for when integrating such prints into your wardrobe) can be summed up simply: It's "the sexiness and attitude that it makes you feel when you wear it."
Innovative Sleeves
Spaghetti sleeves. Bell sleeves. Balloon sleeves. If there's one thing we've learned this year, it's that the style of your sleeves should not go unnoticed. In fact, the arms of an outfit should be wholeheartedly embraced. Here, a one-shouldered dress gets a more casual feel with a short sleeve, and a simple white dress is made more modern with some lampshade-style ones — ones that happen to make model Maja Ho think of her childhood. The white top "reminds me of when I was a kid, and my mom taught me how to make a napkin swan," she says. "The sleeves were just like that." Should we consider "napkin swan" sleeves the next big thing? If so, we're more than ready.
Play Up The Neckline
If prints or out-of-the-ordinary sleeves aren't your thing, getting creative with the dress' neckline can also help your piece stand out. Model Candace Watson found "the ruffles on the collar" to be both stylish and flattering (ditto to the belted, extended frills of the yellow dress, which she says helped "define [her] curves."). This is one of those low-maintenance outfit additions that will leave you surprised by how universally flattering it is.
Pull Inspiration From Decades Past
With a chiffon overlay and #TBT-esque print, like polka dots, you can get a vintage feel without the hours-long hunt in a thrift shop. Though we're huge proponents of digging through secondhand shops, we're well aware of how difficult it is to find the right fit. That's why modern pieces that give the slightest illusion of being from a past decade can help you look so '70s — and totally confident, too.
Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize
Some dresses really take almost no effort to look put-together. But when you want to add a little oomph, splashing some accessories into the mix can go a long way. Sure, a printed or colorful dress can say so much on its own — but just think of how much more creativity, self-expression, and, of course, fun come into play when a neck scarf or pair of sunglasses is thrown on. Model Lisandra Bernadet says she "[likes] the short, fun, shapeless dresses that are flattering on everyone. You don’t have to think about it," she continues. "You can be comfortable, but also look cute. And what’s also great is I can wear sneakers with it. Or if I want, I can wear it with chunky heels and it all works out well." Accessories are a way to add even more of an edge and personal element to an otherwise simple piece: a lapel pin, a pair of shoes — who cares? It's the little things that make clothing truly feel like your own.

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