This Birdie loves a trend as much as the next, but when it comes to the maxi dress, the Magpie had to dig her little claw-feet into the ground and put a halt on that one. No, my feet aren't really that claw-like, given a good pedicure, but regarding the issue of long, shapeless dresses for someone as short and short-limbed as myself, I have to say, "...really?" Maybe the fashion forecasters and style seers have been gazing too long in the crystal ball and not enough into the real world -- not everyone is a six foot tall, willowy Amazonian. And I'm the first person to put myself in that "What I'll Never Be" category. No matter how clownishly-high the platform wedges are, it doesn't change the fact that these dresses are shapeless armfuls of excess fabric that, while comfortable, tends to render most wearers into schlumpy-dumpy Woodstock exiles, or make friends and co-workers wonder when it's a good time to ask, "So, when are you due?" The trend factor takes maxi dresses from the safe, private comfort of at-home 70's loungewear to everyone throwing on an ill-fitted dress and billowing through the streets or even, dare I say, through the office. Is it Beach Blanket Bingo Day at work? If you checked "no," then save these fun dresses for days not spent in a cubicle.

But I don't want to put an absolute "no" on any trend without giving it the old college try. Not all dresses are built alike, so the best way to navigate this trend is to simply: Think Before You Maxi Dress. My main grump about maxi dresses is the little spaghetti strap "sleeves" or bandeau-style top -- if you don't have to deal with a lot of cleavage, these can be flattering options, so have at it. For girls with girls, go for support-strap sleeves; something that's proportionate to the structure above the waist. I particularly like the wide-strap v-necks; they break up the top area, versus the simplified spaghetti straps that just cut a harsh horizontal neckline across the top. Bias, one-shoulder styles are also more interesting and they create a more defined shape on the body. And be wary of traditional Empire waists; something with a fitted/belted or drop-waist looks better; the bottom half is going to be so flowy, balance out the skirt with a little more torso, just to ensure no one asks the "when are you due?" question.

I'm also a big fan of bold, geometric prints. Personally, I think they modernize the look and can help transition it from beachy casual wear to something you might be able to wear at the office, as long as you throw a jacket over those bare shoulders. You're not going to get around the hippy-dippy aspect of a long, flowy dress; it's more clever to pick a graphic print that contrasts with the idea that you stole this from Stevie Nicks' closet. Another tricky thing is the hemline itself. If you're already enviously tall, go ahead and let the hem lightly sweep against the floor, but for everyone else, it looks like you're a kid wearing mommy's clothes. Get a maxi dress that doesn't have a fussy hem so that you can have it taken up a few inches so you can see your feet. For extra-petite gals, I'd recommend having the hem even a little higher, around ankle-length, just so it appears tailored and intentional. Be wary of the volume of the dress itself -- shy away from the overly-flowy dresses and stick to more column-style dresses with just the right amount of fabric suited to your frame. The nice thing about the graphic printed dresses is the patterns give the impression of more fabric folds without the added weight of material.

So with all these specific things in mind, I'm using these rules and guidlines for myself, in the hopes I can get on board with this trend and get something fun and flowy added to the Jaunty Wardrobe: {1} Chevron-stripe maxi dress by Jay Godfrey from Last Call/Neiman Marcus, {2} Jill Blouson maxi dress by Alice + Olivia from Ssense, {3} Caroline maxi dress by Milly, {4} Liberty one shoulder stripe maxi dress by Ella Moss from Nordstrom, {5} Printed maxi dress by Jessica Simpson from Macys

Jaunty Fine Print:  photos from shops listed above

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  1. oooh, number 4 is screaming my name! I'm a sucker for a stripe AND and asymmetrical shoulder.

  2. Number 5 is gorgeous!


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