Ask Belle: Red Dresses for Work?

Feb 9, 2015

Hi Belle,

This may be overly brave, but I’m looking for a red dress for work.  Do you think red is appropriate?  I just think red is such a power color.  I’m not afraid to stand out.

Can you help me find an office appropriate dress for less than $150?  

Sincerely, Meera

I appreciate bold.  Many years ago, I had a lipstick red business suit.  I loved it.  I’ve spent too many hours searching for another one.

Red can be a tough color to wear in certain environments.  In a very conservative office, it might not be appropriate.  If you work in a realm where you staff your boss in big meetings, it’s probably not appropriate for that.  The reason being that you don’t want to take attention from a superior.  But if you think it’s right for your office, try it on a more casual day and see how people respond.

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Ava & Aiden Scallop Dress ($109)

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Felicity & Coco Midi Dress ($118)

lg-1sheath

Ava & Aiden Ruched Side Sheath ($99)

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Maggy London Side-Ruched Dress ($118)

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BR Sloan Sheath ($84)

*Do not wear a red dress with red shoes.  Ever.

Plus-size? This flouncy red dress is a fun option.  I also like this Calvin Klein a-line dress with a pleated skirt.  Petite?  This Felicity & Coco dress is a sleek choice.  Tall?  The BR Sloan Sheath comes in a longer length.

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  1. Susan says:

    I used to have a beautiful red fine corduroy shirtdress by Liz Claiborne. It fit wonderfully. I loved that dress. But every time I wore it to work, someone would say ” I like your dress, but I would never have the nerve to wear it!” It surprised me every time. People must really notice red. I wore it a lot less than I wanted because of the reaction it got.

  2. Crystal says:

    I absolutely agree on the red shoes. And for work, I would also think twice–*very seriously*–before wearing any animal print. With a bright red dress, it’s too likely to push the ensemble from “bold” to “of questionable taste and judgment.”

    • Belle says:

      I agree. As much as I love my leopard pumps, with a black suit they’re an accent, with a red dress, they’re a 1992 throwback.

  3. b says:

    Word of caution with the Ava & Aiden dress… I got the same dress last year and it is very pretty and fits nicely, but it was a rusty, muted red. Not even remotely he red in the picture.

  4. Pancakes says:

    I think what can really help is tempering the red with a black suit jacket and conservative heels.

    • Belle says:

      I’m not the biggest fan of black and red together. If you like it, by all means, but for me, I like a softer look. So I’d also suggest ivory or navy.

      • Pancakes says:

        I can definitely agree that it can sometimes look jarring, but it depends on the red; I always go for a slightly softer or orange-undertone red. I don’t like a really bright or blue-toned reds. I think ivory would look really pretty, but I think navy and red can look too patriotic, yacht-like, and/or flight attendant-y.

  5. lindsey says:

    What color shoes? I feel like black, to your last comment response, is too harsh. Nude? What about in winter in DC cold?

    • Belle says:

      A nude-to-you works. I also think grey or snakeskin could work. I don’t think there’s a great solution for tights. I would probably go to old school nylons.

  6. Amanda says:

    Just a word of encouragement for the potential red dress wearer — I’ve worked in the banking/financial services industry for over 10 years now. It’s definitely one of the more conservative industries and I have always had a red dress or two in rotation and always received very positive acknowledgements. I think that accessories, length, cut and confidence are all key to making sure it is professional enough but I think if you get those things right, the dress can be a workhorse in your wardrobe. I think it also helps if you are known as someone who dresses well/professionally on a regular basis. If you are someone who regularly makes questionable choices, this might be seen as another questionable choice.

  7. Joanna says:

    I agree with Amanda above- if going for red, tone down accessories and make sure the cut of the dress is very appropriate. I had a conservative red shift dress that I wore with a blazer at work. I tested it on around the holidays- an excuse that I had a holiday party after. worked just fine.

  8. GAGOPGirl says:

    Thank you for covering red dresses! I love mine!

    I wanted to add my yes and amen to Amanda’s comment about confidence. I remember seeing a girl wearing a beautiful red dress. It was well cut, and looked great on her, but her posture and countenance said “please don’t look at me. I want to blend in.” and it destroyed what could have been a great look. If you are going to wear a red dress, wear it with confidence. I attended a young professionals Lincoln a few months ago, and planned to wear a black and white Tory Burch dress. But the morning of the event I stood in front of my closet and thought “what do I feel most confident in?” and reached for my favorite red sheath. The event was great and I felt like a million bucks!

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