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Ask Belle: Belle’s Basic Work-Dress Styles

Hi Belle,

I just got a promotion and I want to add a few things to my work wardrobe.  I don’t own any dresses (it’s Minnesota, we wear pants), and I want to buy a few.  Could you suggest some dresses that cost less than $200?  Love the blog!


I love dresses, but there was a time when I didn’t own any either.  Then, I bought a wrap dress and simple sheath, and I was hooked.  So let’s talk about the three styles that will give you a stylish functional wardrobe.

The Sleeveless Sheath


Jones New York Mallory Sheath (Navy: $69; Black: $119)

In my view, every woman should have one basic, sleeveless sheath dress in her closet.  You can wear it on its own, or layer it under your favorite separates.  Choose the neutral you wear most often, black or navy.  The secret to making an inexpensive sheath look expensive is tailoring.  I always buy a size slightly bigger than I need and have a tailor fit everything to my body.

This Jones New York dress is nice piece at a decent price (also in plus-sizes).  Calvin Klein also offers a basic sheath in white or black for $99.  Need a v-neck?  Try this dress from Ellen Tracy.

Want something just a little bit different?  Calvin Klein offers this dress with a black-on-black texture, and this dress with a ruched front, that looks a bit like origami.

The Wrap Dress


BR Gemma Wrap Dress ($98, also in petite)

A wrap dress is my dress of choice for not-so-casual-Friday and a night when I have dinner after work.  The BR Gemma dress is a mid-price basic that comes in prints or solids, and can usually be purchased on sale.  The charcoal color is sublime.

Need something under-$50? Old Navy has you covered. from Sierra Trading Post. Prefer the security of a faux-wrap? Karen Kane makes the nicest one I’ve seen.  Plus-size? Try this affordable dress from NY Collection.

If keeping things modest while wearing a wrap is a challenge for you, there are a few solutions.  The first is to have a tailor put hidden snaps or buttons inside the dress.  I prefer this method because it doesn’t alter the look of the dress.

You can also wear a camisole.  Shimera is my favorite brand (also in plus-sizes).  Something with lace trim is also a nice option.

The Long-Sleeved Dress


NYDJ Lily Jersey Dress ($188)

If you want long-sleeved dresses, there is no place better to go than NYDJ.  They have a wonderful selection of dresses in different styles and colors, most of them with long or elbow-length sleeves.  I adore this cobalt blue dress, and this mixed-media dress is a fun option.  The brand also offers petite and plus-sizes.

Need something under-$100? This color block dress from American Living is a nice choice.  I also like this simple sheath from Kenneth Cole.



  1. YouSaucyMinx says:

    Just want to throw this out there…as a plus-size girl, I relied on a black pants/colored top/sweater uniform, because the dresses I did find were unflattering or cheaply made.

    Then from another blogger I found Kiyonna, which makes gorgeous plus-size dresses. I ended up buying 3 of the essential wrap dress and love them to pieces!

    December 22, 2014/Reply
  2. A.J. says:

    North Dakota resident here. I wear dresses every day in the winter because I can wear fleece-lined tights with them. Way warmer than dress pants. A lot of my work dresses are Calvin Klein via TJ Maxx, and they’re almost always under $50.

    December 22, 2014/Reply
  3. Sarah says:

    I live in Minnesota and I wear dresses to work all the time, especially with fleece-lined tights.

    December 22, 2014/Reply