Full length dresses and optical illusions

Have you got special plans for New Year’ Eve? Are you one of the lucky people invited to a black tie “do” where you have the chance to dress “to the nines”? If you are wearing a full length ball gown/evening dress what style will suit you best?

Earlier this year I wrote a couple of posts about Michelle Obama as she attends many formal functions and is often photographed wearing a full length dress. It struck me that the shape that looked really good at knee-length (a fitted skirt) looked less good at full length (the teal column dress with corset). A full-skirted dress was nice on her during the day, but  for an evening look it had the absolute Wow1 factor. One of the most important things about a floor length dress is that it really alters the proportions here, so some of the old rules many need to be reconsidered.

Another long dress wearer would be Princess Diana. She looks amazing in the sheath dress, but fairly awful in the full skirted number.


Let’s see if we can analyse what is happening here.

Both ladies are tall with toned figures so they both look especially nice, and regal, in evening gowns. But the full length dress is one that strikes the viewer as a complete package – they tend not to have strong horizontals (actually the Herera dress does, but we will come to that in a moment). Therefore the underlying body shape is less easily disguised, or conversely it’s advantages are shown off more directly.

So for evening or maxi dress wear it is best to stick to your very best look. For a straight body (Diana) a straight silhouette is best. For a shaped body (Michelle) a shaped silhouette is best. In both cases follow the lines of the body and create a harmonious line. In terms of the horizontal lines on Michelle’s dress this serves to slightly reduce the impact of her height (at nearly 6″).

Now let’s think about applying this to a 5 5″ woman with a shaped figure (me!).

Over Christmas I cut out this dress. It’s another YSL classic from the Mondrian collection. I used the pattern before to make my Favourite Dress. I have always wanted to make the sequin version of it, since seeing Pattern Vault’s version. When I was looking through fabric for SWAP I thought this pink sheeny silk which I got as a remnant with sticky tape stains from Missan in Berwick Street, might be perfect for my Pucci pant suit. But then I remembered I had bought the fabric to make Vogue 1556. And this Christmas I found the perfect sequin cloth from Simply Fabrics in Brixton. I may include this in my SWAP as I had a little incident with some wax on my other YSL party dress. 

When I examined the cloth I discovered I had enough to make the full length version. I thought about proportions. A shift dress is not my best shape. Think this would look better on me (curved bodyline) at knee or floor length? What do you think?

19 Responses

  1. Kim Hood

    I think the fabric will create enough impact to look special at knee length, and you look great in the dress you describe as your favourite so that would be my choice.

  2. Jay

    I’m voting knee length, but in your place if I had enough fabric I’d cut floor length and try it, then lob the extra off if it didn’t work.

  3. thedementedfairy

    I’m with Ruthie- the minute I looked at the longer length drawing, I winced. Nightie. Strange cool-aid drinking cult nightie. Stick with the shorter one. Mind you, another [to me, at least] very 60s look is a long skirt with a matching shell top worn over it. I think you’ve rocked a previous take on that, and perhaps the almost-invisble horizontal, plus additional waist shaping, might do the job? Worth a look for future black tie events perhaps.

    • fabrickated

      I think your instincts are right DF – I didn’t see the cult nightie at first but you have a point. And yes I have a fondness for long skirt and shell top! I don’t really get enough black tie events – one or two a year!

  4. Nat @ Made in Home

    What sort of do are you going to? How black tie is it? I love the Pattern Vault’s version with the sequin at knee length, it may be easier to wear for another event, especially if you cannot wear your YSL one anymore?

    • fabrickated

      I will wear it for the annual dinner of the Chartered Institute of Housing in February, but undoubtedly for other events too. WIth long sleeves it will be suitable for the colder months. My other version is very suitable for warm weather as it is sleeveless and made from linen.

  5. Hélène

    Full-length would have a more dramatic vibe, which is fun for a New Year’s eve party! At 5’5″ with heels, you shall look fantastic.

  6. Linda T

    Princess Di looked great in most any dress IMO. I could look at her fashion and be entertained all.day.long. As far as First Ladies – “most” of Jackie K fashion one of my favs.

  7. mrsmole

    I’m with Jay, cut it long and see if it works and then cut off what you don’t want. How does it look when you just wrap it around you in both versions? Do the sequins weigh it down and make too much of a statement at the shorter hem?
    hard to tell without touching the fabric combo and when is the deadline???

    • fabrickated

      Good questions. I hope to make this up by mid February for the Housing dinner. I am favouring the shorter version although I have no plans for the saved fabric. I would get more use out of a shorter dress, and I also think it would look better on me.

  8. Anne

    Mmm. I think I prefer the idea of the short one particularly add you look so great in the other Mondrian but see the advantage to Jay’s and Mrs Mole’s suggestions. I’m sure you’ll look terrific whatever you decide.

  9. Sarah

    Did you see CarmencitaB’s long Mondrian dress? It seems the long version—with no slit—can be impractical, if that’s a consideration.. Whatever you decide, looking forward to your sequinned V1556! We could take a photo together next time I’m in London 😉

    • fabrickated

      I did see Carmen’s long Mondrian and noted her points about walking in it! Actually I am a little suspicious of the long version – did YSL have a long version originally or is this just Vogue including another option to make the pattern more commercial, do you think Sarah? And the idea of us wearing our frocks together fills me with joy. I really, really hope you will visit London soon as I would be so keen to meet up. Please do let me know if you are even thinking about it.

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