Smock dress? Trapeze dress? Swing dress? Babydoll dress? I have seen this type of dress called all of these things across various retailers, but “swing dress” seems to additionally refer to retro dresses that people wear for swing dancing, and it seems “babydoll dress” typically refers to loose fitting short dresses with a waist seam somewhere above the natural waist up to empire waist. I’m going to go with “smock dress” because I like the image of it being a garment to do things in 🎨 I wanted to do a feature post on it because 1) I LOVE IT and 2) it’s not exactly a minimal basic item that just works with most other items.
Here is a close-up of the fabric, from the stock photo. The body of the dress is lined, but not the sleeves. It’s the “ASOS DESIGN tiered trapeze mini dress in broderie” from the regular size range (at the time of writing, only size US 4 is left, but it seems this is one of those styles they periodically release in different colors, I’ve also seen it in red, mint, and white).
I usually get petite dresses on ASOS, but I find that their swingy dresses tend to run shorter. I suspect a petite version would also work on me, but the just above the knee hem feels a little more wearable, and it’s still a comfortable mini length if I raise my arms. I got this is my usual size 8.
I LOVE this dress. It’s not appropriate for like, a job interview, but I can wear it to work (startup casual) with some sharper shoes, and I think it will work for both spring/summer and fall/winter. Eyelet traditionally is a more summery fabric, since in this cut it’s basically a ventilated cotton tent, but the dark color and long sleeves mean I can layer a long sleeve thermal and tights with it for cooler weather and not feel silly.
I also love how much space it takes up. This dress is here. It’s loose, but it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to shrink into the background while apologizing for a stomach pooch. But the texture, tiered design, and slight balloon sleeves also give it enough distinct visual elements, so that when combined with the shorter length, doesn’t end up feeling like the dress is eating me.
I feel like it really embodies the feeling of u/k4ng’s Miyazaki Girl Inspiration Album on reddit, even though it’s shorter than most of the skirts featured there:
a Miyazaki girl/woman is completely comfortable in her own body. She is feminine, beautiful, loved, and coveted/desired without being sexualized or objectified. She is close with nature, animals, the seasons, and every day magic. Even when clad in skirts or many layers, her clothing do not constrain her. It never obstructs her ability to run, fight, dance, or fly.
It’s wonderful, and I recommend giving it a read.
Takeaways for shoe pairings: I prefer the dress with
- a more continuous leg line, either through tan/nude shoes and bare legs or a black boot + black tights, since the top shape of the outfit will be so voluminous, cutting the leg line off with a contrasting shoe can make legs feel disproportionately small.
- more substantial shoe, so I don’t feel like I have dainty little cartoon feet. While that’s a look, I don’t want personally want the full on cutesy doll styling
I didn’t bother even trying it with sneakers or flats, because I wanted to avoid an overly childish look.
Black: Pointed toe block heel ankle boots (Steve Madden), metallic pointed toe loafers (Louise et Cie), combat boots (Dr Martens x Hieronymus Bosch)
I do actually like all of these, but the oxfords being smaller does result in a slightly cartoonish proportion of tiny feet. The docs sometimes can feel too heavy for a look, but here the chunkiness does a nice job balancing out the dress volume. The slightly higher shaft and block heel on the sleeker boots give them enough heft, and since they’re more of a basic item it makes the whole look more “wearable” for me (that is, these are the easy pick, and I expect to end up wearing this combo the most).
Brown: Lace-up pointed toe boots (Seychelles), lace-up round toed boots (Comfortiva), t-strap platform clogs (MIA)
My favorite from this set is the clogs, because the more summery feel gives the whole look more airiness. The flat round boots are alright and I’d probably wear the outfit for weekend errands, but the more drastic color change does make my leg line here shorter, and the round toes give a more youthful look. Which again, isn’t always bad, it just is what it is. I didn’t think to take photos with Birkenstocks, but we’ll have to see how that looks once it warms up again.
Tried it with a couple of coats. Apologies for the overdone image processing, but the lighting in my apartment is pretty weak and I decided to go for things showing up versus the most balanced/natural look.
I find that I liked it better with the trench and red overcoat, because the cleaner cuts were a nice complement to the all the eyelet ruffles, but the hem lengths are pretty close so it doesn’t feel too disjointed.
I prefer the silhouette with the trench, where it lightly follows the flare of the skirt, but the color of the drop-shoulder coat tends to make up for any silhouette slouchiness in my book (it also makes it less pinchy around the armpits, especially with more layers).
I didn’t like the drapey coat. It doesn’t look so bad closed, but at that point it’s basically just the coat without the dress seen at all. Open, the asymmetric draped hem competes too much with the dress, and it feels a little off when pushed further dangling away from the legs. Not I-wouldn’t-wear-it-out-of-the-house off, but they don’t feel like they were meant for each other.
I’d been wanting a shorter dress for a long time, primarily with the idea that I’d wear it with docs. Went with a boxier fit moto jacket so that it wouldn’t smoosh the dress too much. I enjoy the whole genre of docs outfits where they’re paired with girlier items, and this is no exception. I do like that the dark green isn’t as in-your-face girly contrast as the traditional ditsy floral prints or pink.
I’m still on the fence about overcoats with bare legs. I know it kind of doesn’t make sense, but this is my California Overcoat and isn’t actually super toasty, yet it still seems kind of illogical. That said, I love the spruce green and saturated rust colors with the tan and the general lighter/whimsical feel with the subtraction of tights.
Here’s a similar version with tights. Feels a little more grown up and traditional, as far as you can say that about a ruffled eyelet mini dress.
It’s too cold for this now, but I am super looking forward to wearing this when it warms up! The wide brimmed hat really balances the silhouette. Someone once described another outfit of mine as “you look like the proprietor of a butterfly cafe”, and this feels like it really fits that persona. I expect this will be a go-to weekend outfit come summer.
This worked surprisingly well with OTK lace-up boots (an old dark gray colorway of Jeffrey Campbell x Free People “Joe” boots). They’re both pretty visually rich items, but it doesn’t feel overwhleming since they’re both darker colors and the boots are pretty fitted. More of a costumey look, especially with the hair bow, but I had a lot of fun wearing this going out on the weekend.
And that’s all for now! I don’t think I would have sought out a smock dress before, since I usually avoid anything that might result in “boob tent” like the plague, but when I ran across this one it just looked like so much fun and I’m glad I bought it, since the convergence of color and cut and details worked out in my favor. If there are any other items of mine that you’d like me to do a similar post on, let me know in the comments!