At some point last week, a friend and I were eating at one of my favorite little sushi spots in town, when I saw a gaggle of girls ( yes, I said gaggle) passing by the restaurant's large open windows. It's summer, so I wasn't at all surprised to see that 5 of the 7 girls were sporting "maxis;" but what caught my attention, other than the shrill giggling, were the dresses the girls had chosen and just how they were wearing them.
Before I give you the breakdown, here's my thesis on long summer dresses. It seems there are really only 4 styles when it comes to maxis: the bohemian, the whimsical, the virago, and the wandering bridesmaid.
First, there's the Bohemian. The industry has been pushing the look for God-knows how many seasons now, but for one simple reason: It works. The natural, carefree feel of this look showcases the maxi dress at its finest. Its ease and minimalism are refreshing, and make a smooth transition across situations, so you can hold a picket sign at a peace rally at 2pm, do some shopping at Whole Foods around 5pm, and still look hot on your dinner date at 8:30.
After the boho look, perhaps the most popular is the Whimsical. These darlings almost ooze estrogen they're so girly. But the longer length takes the florals and other prints from being juvenile to having a womanly allure. It's the opposite of the school girl fetish where less is more... here, more is more, and still just as enticing. Though if I have to be honest, the whimsicals are almost strictly day and beach/resort wear. I love the foley+corinna dress pictured here, but I'm not sure if it can pull off a sit-down dinner post 4pm. Brunch, definitely. Night on the town...I'd need some convincing.
Of all the maxi personalities, my favorite is one I like to call the Virago. It's fun, but not goofy; romantic, but not girly; chic, but not trying too hard; and simple, but by no means understated. That description may seem to be a) contradictory or b) impossible, but dichotomy and versatility is at the core of the Virago style. These dresses are often bright solids or moody neutral patterned frocks, with detailed straps and ties. They're like an open canvas and can take lots of jewelry, or none at all, depending on your mood or what you're up to that day. "Shop. Dine. Lounge. Party. Look fabulous.--" that is the Virago creed!
Last, and certainly least, the bastard child of this whole trend, the Wandering Bridesmaid--which brings me back to my poor little muffins in front of the sushi restaurant. In every trend, there is the danger for failure. It just comes with the territory. With the long dress, the most preeminent of those dangers is wearing the wrong fabric and cut, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and looking like you tried to recycle your maid of honor dress from your friend's wedding or the last dress from you sorority semi-formal. In and of themselves, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these dresses (usually!), but if you go strolling down the street in one, you will get some looks, and most of them will not be pure admiration.
Of the girls I saw walking past, 3 were in refab bridal party dresses, one was in a surprisingly pleasant floral, and one of them, bless her heart, nailed the bohemian look in an effortless little tie-dyed number that looked a lot like this one. Very Nellie Furtado, pre-Timberland. $20 bucks says she is the one that got the most numbers that night, from people who actually intended on calling her, because nothing says self-confidence more than the lack of stretch satin!