AdviceStyle + Ask The Edit

Ask Belle: Building a Dress Wardrobe

Hi Belle,

I’m starting to see the benefit of wearing more dresses to work and on travel. However, my dress selection is in desperate need of an upgrade. Could you do a post in the near future on a creating a proper dress wardrobe? I seriously need five dresses. Thanks!


Five dresses?  I think I can handle that.  But let’s break it down first.

If I were going to start or rebuild a dress wardrobe for work in the cold weather, I would choose two sheath dresses, one wrap dress, one jersey dress and one sweater dress.

In my opinion, one of the sheath dresses should be a neutral like black, grey or navy, and one should be a color.  For the wrap dress, I would recommend a print.  The jersey dress is the piece you reach for when you’re not feeling your best and you need an easy dress that will be professional, but comfortable.  And for the sweater dress, I would choose a sleek one that can be dressed up or done.

Clear enough?  Maybe a visual-aid will help.

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 2.23.56 AM

kate spade Darlene Sheath Dress ($398) // Trina Turk Fenella Dress ($298) // DvF New Julian Dress ($365) // Lauren Printed Jersey Dress ($139) // Ann Taylor Colorblocked Sweaterdress ($119)

Black Sheath.  This structured Kate Spade sheath dress could easily be  worn during three seasons.  However, the price is a bit high.  I also found this more relaxed, but classic Jones New York Scarlet Sheath ($119) and this sleeveless Tahari seamed dress for $138.

Plus-size ladies should check out this Tahari Levine wrap-effect dress with a half sleeve.  Petite ladies might like this LOFT textured sheath.

Colored Sheath.  This wine-colored Trina Turk dress is lovely with the pleated details at the shoulder and hip.  I also liked this cobalt Ivy & Blu dress with a 3/4 sleeve and this Felicity & Coco purple and black side-seam, colorblock dress, both under-$150.

Wrap Dress.  This dress is a great choice for lazy days when you have a closet-full of nothing to wear.  If you want a bold print, this Jones New York dress has a blue, grey and white leopard print ($99).  If you prefer solids, Ann Taylor has a lovely belted, wrap dress in twilight blue (also comes in petite).  Plus-size ladies should check out this Land’s End wrap in a blue and green chain print.

Jersey Dress.  Having an easy, jersey dress in your wardrobe that you can dress up or down is a great option.  I like this Lauren dress because the side paneling is really slimming, and the navy color makes it a good choice for multiple seasons.  I also found this inexpensive ruched side dress from Kohl’s and this Donna Rico twist-front jersey dress that comes in a handful of colors.

Sweater Dress.  I like this Ann Taylor sweater dress because it’s fitted but cozy.  It also comes in a gorgeous burgundy and purple colorblock.  If you need something under-$50, I also dig this ultra-soft sweater dress from Target.

Petite readers might like this ruched sweaterdress from Ann Taylor.  For plus-size ladies, I found this simple Mossimo sweater dress, or this colorblock Amy Byer dress.



  1. A says:

    Just picked up this dress and LOVE it!

    October 17, 2013/Reply
    • EK says:

      The description says knee-length, but in the pic, it looks much shorter. What are your thoughts?

      October 17, 2013/Reply
  2. Michelle says:

    I love a good jersey dress for days when I just want to be lazy, but have to go to work. My staples are from Michael Kors. I really like the way they hold up. Some that I have found have nice slimming rouching or leather accents. They are also often at TJ Maxx 🙂

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  3. Leah says:

    I love animal print dresses, but have had a hard time purchasing them for work… can you do a post on “appropriate vs inappropriate animal print” post?

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  4. Lina says:

    Man, this is amazing- so helpful! Exactly what I needed for the fall…

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  5. Amber says:

    I love this. I’m trying to wear more dresses, but I insist on wearing tights, so I think that limits me a little. I’ve had surprisingly good luck with sweaterdresses and ponte dresses from Target. I find one I like and then get it in multiple colors.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  6. Heather says:

    Rue La La is the absolutely BEST place to build a work dress wardrobe!!! At least once a week they have great career labels like Tahari and Ann Klein on sale- 70% off. I’ve gotten ALL of my work dresses from them all for $30-65 (normally $90-150), and get a ton of compliments on them daily!

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  7. Stefanie says:

    Thanks Belle for answering my question! This is extremely helpful.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  8. LS says:

    Love this post, Belle. Thank you!

    I just picked up this dress from ON in black and absolutely love it. It’s very flattering but not clingy.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  9. EK says:

    Which link is for the dress in the pic that is second from the right? I thought I clicked on every link and didn’t see it…..?

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  10. Addison says:

    Belle mentioned this Old Navy Sweater dress in a post awhile back and I love it! It might not be dressy enough for some offices, but it’s fine for mine and I love wearing such a cozy dress. It is 5% angora and some reviewers complained that it was itchy, but I don’t find it to be itchy in the least.

    October 17, 2013/Reply
  11. Christina says:

    Belle, would you consider doing a complimentary post on what type of blazer or sweater you would wear with each style? I wear more dresses than anything else, but find I wear the same style (boring) cardigan most days. I’m desperate for some inspiration, and I know you are a frequent dress wearer as well!

    October 17, 2013/Reply
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