Can You Wear Whimsical Print Dresses? Can I? Can Anyone, Ever?

I mean “may anyone, ever” but it felt awkward to type, right?

Every time I see a Lisa Perry dress, which is inevitably inspired by some well known artist, I have an immediate impulse to say “Jeff KOONS, lady? I fucking love Jeff Koons! I will give you all the money in the world for this dress! Please excuse me while I hold up 7 banks!” I say that regardless of whether or not the artist inspiring the dress is Jeff Koons. I really just want to hold up some banks.

However, I got lucky this time. Here is a picture of a dress from her Jeff Koons collection (presumably inspired by “Jeff Koons Loopy”):

jeff koons loopy

Sometimes I have a fantasy that one day someone will call me a femme fatale and I will reply “I’m about as fatale as an ice cream sundae.” Like Sally Bowles. In I Am A Camera. Fine. Cabaret. This absolutely never happens, and will never happen, because we don’t live in 1930′s Berlin. Also, I’m not sultry enough to be called a femme fatale, because I’m not some Rita Hayworth type, and I can’t flip my hair, so most people just go around telling me to “relax”. Also, everything about this will never happen.

But if it did, I could skip the wordplay and just point to the dress and that would be hilarious. There’s a thin line between confusing and hilarious, but I’m willing to straddle it in a pretty sultry fashion.

However, I once saw someone wearing this Lichtenstein inspired Lisa Perry dress and I did cross the room and say “hah! Lichtenstein!” That’s a good way to start conversations even if people aren’t wearing Lisa Perry dresses. Just make it clear that Lichtenstein is comical. She stared at me blankly and said “what?”

“Your dress is Lichtenstein” I replied.

“I don’t think that was the designer” she said.

It was this dress. Let’s judge her for not being in on the joke:

lichtenstein lisa perry


But this does raise one of my central concerns about wearing one of these prints, which is that, if it was actually inspired by anything, I wouldn’t know the history well enough to comment on it. I mean, the fact that some girl turned her body into a Lichtenstein billboard without even knowing who Lichtenstein was seems pretty dumb. But what if you bought, say, the Loopy dress and people wanted to talk in depth about Jeff Koons work? I can’t do that! I’m proud of myself for knowing that one particular reference! I worry that wearing a dress like this is a pretty deliberate conversation starter, and you will not necessarily be able to have the conversation it starts. So, that’s worry number one.

Worry number two is that, if you are spending a ton of money on a dress, you want to be able to wear it season after season. These kind of print dresses seem tied to a very specific season. They won’t move effortlessly from year to year, simply because they’re so memorable. Maybe that’s fine if you are the kind of 1%-er who likes to set your dresses on fire in a massive backyard ortolan and foie gras barbeque at the end of each year, but I don’t think anyone actually does that (if you do, you take the first tumbril, I’ll get the next one).

Worry number three is that you can’t wear a dress like this on a regular basis. I hold pretty strongly to the school of having, say, 7 excellent warm weather dresses that you just wear over and over. As long as they are simple and well cut you can shift around your accessories and no one will notice. Except when a dress has a massive cherry on top of it. Then they will notice. They will notice the hell out of that dress. Again, if you have an unlimited budget, and can buy all the dresses, that’s great, but if you have to save up and have a limited number, that’s a problem.

In conclusion, I bought the blue Balenciaga.

Let’s evaluate these cool dresses and think about whether they would have been infinitely better buys.

Share This Post:
    • JaneM

      You should have bought the blue Akris. Sorry you have to work at JP Morgan now.

    • Malkovich

      Leaping out from the commenting shadows! I think the Akris choices could be worn many times – maybe due to the classic cut – while the Lisa Perry choices are fun but one time only. Prada did an excellent ‘picture print’ grouping last year.

    • Christie

      Some of these are awesome! I’m not sure I’d be brave enough or cool enough to wear any of them though. :-(

      On a related note, I always find beautiful dresses and skirts and fall in love with them on the hanger, but then I try them on and my body rejects them like a disease. I can never find any dress or skirt that I love when I try it on. It’s really disappointing and I have resigned myself to the fact that I will always fall back on pants. Any ideas for dresses and/or skirts that won’t do this?

      • Lemona

        What’s your shape? What’s your height?

    • porkchop

      It is wonderful.

      It’s a tragedy when the right girl and the right dress can’t be together.

    • Megan

      Blue Akris. Blue Akris is re-wearable. The cut is classic, the print striking but not in-your-face…

      Blue Akris > Blue Balenciaga.

    • Christie

      @Lemona – I think I’m an hourglass shape. I usually wear a size 12 and I’m 5’4″. I think part of my problem is that I’m not comfortable showing too much leg (especially above the knee) but so many of the cute styles that I love are shorter.

      • Lindsey

        Hi lady! I’m 5’4″ and bottom heavy size 8 or 10. For skirts and dresses: a-line a-line a-line. Pencil skirts are more or less the devil. I’ve tried on dozens and found none that fit well around my thighs, hips, AND waist. I think they aren’t designed for people who have a big difference in their waste and hips.

        And shift dresses look fabulous on very thin women, and it shows off their legs and arms, but if you don’t like showing leg having the leg be the focal point of the dress isn’t going to work.

        Try looking for skirts and dresses that are tight at the waist and above and loose at the bottom. With skirts and dresses that are only tight at the waist you may be a few sizes smaller than your pants size.

        Also, please try maxi skirts! I have one, and have to wear it under shirts because of how high I have to hike it, but it is beyond comfy. I wear it with a tight-ish sweater to give me shape.

        Good luck!

      • Nessy

        I agree with Lindsey that A-lines are fantastic. They flatter pretty much every figure. If you are a true hourglass, though (pretty even on the top and bottom with a nipped in waist) you cannot go wrong with a simple sheath. Seriously, with that pulled-in middle and fitted top, you’ll feel like you just stepped out of Mad Men.

      • Christie

        Thanks, ladies! I’m so clueless when it comes to shopping for clothes and I’ve never really enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll have something to work from now. :-)

    • MR

      My view is it’s the woman’s style that makes the dress, not the other way around. So I’d say pretty brilliant covers you completely.

      • Jennifer Wright


    • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

      You’re right. A printed/whimsical dress is a lot less re-wearable, like Carrie’s newsprint dress on SATC.