Simple Summer: White Pencil Dress + Layered Pearls


BR Factory dress, item # 234795 (now $30-$36), eBay pearls (similar for $15 or $12)
Hermes belt sz 70, Louis Vuitton Speedy 25 bag, Target sandals (similar for $40)

As mentioned in this video, one of my favorite summer work pieces is the classic white pencil dress. Before buying this cotton one from the BR Factory, I hunted around for weeks. Ideally I wanted knit ponte, because it just conforms to the body better and wrinkles less than cotton. Unfortunately, all the ponte options I found (there was an AT version and an unlined BR one reviewed here) were $100-$150 plus numerous alterations needed – and I didn’t want to pay too much for a dress that could easily be ruined by one spilled margarita. 
After a few weeks of debating, I ordered this dress from the BR Factory, sight unseen, on sale for $60 (from $99) plus $5 shipping from store to home. When the dress arrived, it fit as expected like other BR 00P dresses. It was do-able on me without alterations, but I wanted a sleek, more fitted look…

I wish I had a “before” photo, but somehow forgot to take one. These were the alterations performed:
– took in the waist by about 2 inches via the back darts. As you can see from the back, the darts are now a bit long. I probably should have gone the route of taking in via both sides.
– took in both sides of the bust ~1 inch. I couldn’t fill out the bust of this dress, and the stiffer cotton material made that area look empty and deflated.
– tapered in the skirt an inch on both sides to achieve a pencil (vs. rectangular) silhouette
– nixed the wide, chunkier fabric belt which made the dress look dated, along with the wide belt loops
The dress is still not perfect due to the wrinkle-prone material, but it was a solid summer purchase for me. I’ve gotten weekly wear out of it, paired with various colored statement necklaces or simply with cognac accessories and white pearls. I like the small pleats in the front waist as well as the neckline, and the material is fairly easy to clean. Thanks to an alert from Vicky, this dress is now on sale for $30 (regular) -$36 (petites). The style # is 234795, and again, BR Factory stores ship to homes for $5 if you call any store and place an order over the phone.
My second favorite summer purchase was this previously-mentioned blue cabachon stone necklace from Ann Taylor. Thanks to a sale alert from fellow Bostonian Laura, this necklace is now on final sale for just $19.88 (from $98). I “splurged” on it a while back for $59, and have worn it everywhere from work with a bright or white dress, to cocktail events, to casual beach days with a loose shell and shorts. It’s been long sold out online, but call your local stores to try and put one on hold – the stores around me each had 1 or 2 left.

Readers – How do you style your classic white dress?

78 thoughts on “Simple Summer: White Pencil Dress + Layered Pearls

  • Diana S.T. July 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    you look so pretty, the dress design is very clean…. gorgeous!

  • brietta July 5, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Sorry if I deterred you from purchasing this dress but it's because I tend to shy away from things that require alterations. Looks great on you! 🙂

  • Priscilla July 5, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    simple yet elegant! Great!

  • Anonymous July 5, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    i adore how you styled this and love your haircut! you look so young and fresh.

  • jenn~the stylish housewife July 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    i LOVE how you styled this dress! i MUST get my hands on one of those belts! i can't imagine how hard it must be to always have to alter clothes…i really take it for granted that i can just buy and wear 99.9% of the time! i'm so impressed by you! =)

    xoxo, jenn
    the stylish housewife

  • fong July 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    Jean, I've been admiring your Hermes belt and have been wanting to get one of my own. Except, European sizing intimidates me and I'm not sure which size to order. What's your size? (I'm about 24" around my natural waist and roughly the same measurements as you.)

  • Vivian July 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Haha, it's funny because I just blogged a week or two ago about pairing things with white dresses. But I love your look, plus your Hermes belt and your sandals!


  • newpetite July 5, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Gorgeous! Like LBD LWD is also a wardrobe staple!

  • The Little Dust Princess July 5, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    So much work went into this dress! I wish we didn't have to do that all the time.. sigh. This looks amazing on you and the alterations were worth it! Did you DIY or pay someone to do it?

  • lin July 6, 2012 at 12:02 am

    love the white dress. your look is so fresh and classic. 😀

    i don't have a white dress yet but thinking about getting one. you make it look so easy to style.

  • Michelle July 6, 2012 at 12:11 am

    Glad you found your white dress…this looks great with all those pearls! And I am really loving your belt! I saw in the video that it is double-sided? If so, that is great!

  • Natasha xoxo July 6, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Such a classic, white summer dress! Love this look, paired with cognac accessories!

    <3, natasha @ twenty-something blog

  • frikken DUCKIE July 6, 2012 at 12:33 am

    I need that dress!!!

    ♥ Duckie.

  • Ajin Xu July 6, 2012 at 12:38 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Rites of Beauty July 6, 2012 at 12:47 am

    Looks lovely, but I would also be concerned about the wrinkles. I know that you have written about clothing steamers before – do you have one? Any recommendations?

  • AubreyOhDang! July 6, 2012 at 2:01 am

    ooh i didn't know the hermes belt could be so tiny!

  • July 6, 2012 at 2:42 am

    I adore your style! You always look fabulous.


  • Princess Martha July 6, 2012 at 2:49 am

    This is beyond classy, sophisticated and totally summer worthy 😉 Love your style….I will definitely follow you now and make sure I don't miss a post 🙂

  • phiphis blog July 6, 2012 at 3:29 am

    i love this outfit Jean! you elevate an outfit with the perfect accessories. gorgeous for summer!! xox P

  • Jamie July 6, 2012 at 4:59 am

    I love the elegant cut of this dress. And the pearls are the perfect compliment!

    The Blue Hour

  • Joy July 6, 2012 at 10:36 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Joy July 6, 2012 at 10:37 am

    The dress and accessories are gorgeous! Love that your outfits are always so elegant and perfect for work!

  • Arts July 6, 2012 at 11:17 am

    hey Jean, how do you order from BR factory? That isn't the same as BR online right?

  • Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Oh, to be petite and be able to do your own alterations.. I wish I had your powers! I saw this dress in the several weeks ago and wasn't impressed with the cut and shape, but you have wrangled it to suit you perfectly! Can I ask, what is the full length of your dresses/skirts, to get it to hit above your knee at just the right spot?

  • Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 11:30 am

    *in the store

  • ♥ Natalie July 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Perfect outfit I would say. I love the white dress combined with the camel shoes + belt <3 Really nice!


  • Meegaa July 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    very nice summer white dress, i should buy also similar white dress.

  • Kat July 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Love this! The pearls are a nice touch. I'm always afraid of being too matchy matchy with pearls on white but I really like this!!

  • ♥ Cassandra (Backtofive) July 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Really like this look! I think you look really classy and pretty! 😀
    backtofive's twitter

  • Anonymous July 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Jean, you look so polished and put together, as always. I love the Hermes belt and I've been debating whether or not to spend the $$$ on it. If you don't mind me asking, did you buy it used or new?

  • jules July 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    this is a beautiful, classic look jean, i love it!

    i am personally too scared of spillage to buy a white skirt or dress, but i do have a pair of cheapie white cropped pants that i love.


  • Elisse July 6, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Pretty dress! Perfect for summer. I just love wearing white in the summer, especially once I get tan. I do agree that it's hard to keep clean though, and after a few years I feel like I can't wear white cotton shirts because they just don't look fresh anymore.

  • Petite and Hungry July 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    so pretty!

  • Elvina July 6, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I like this dress a lot, but could someone help me to find the direct page where I can buy this dress from? Can I still buy it if I live in UK?

  • Joy July 6, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I love this dress! It's so simple and the cut is so perfect on you, even though I know you altered it. Alterations seem so risky to me. If only I could sew, or could find a professional I trusted.

    Too bad the nearest BR Factory to me is at least an hour away. and who knows if they even have small sizes left.

  • Petite Therapy July 6, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Clean cut and classy!! Never thought to invest in a LWD, but now it seems like an absolute must for the summer!

  • Danielle H. July 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    Hi Jean! Yet another classic and elegant post! Thank you. May I ask what size your Hermes belt is? And also if it's not too much to ask, where did you purchase it from?

    Thanks! Happy weekend!

  • Danielle H. July 7, 2012 at 5:09 am

    Oops, didn't read that — "sz 70." Sorry. I guess my question now is where you purchased it from? 🙂

  • Janki July 7, 2012 at 9:58 am

    This is just perfect! I LOVE that you are showing classy outfits that don't need blazers. I live in Austin, so it's always hot and almost everyone is super casual. I have been looking for easy summer wear, especially when I go to networking activities. I'm totally copying this look. Been on the hunt for a white dress now (same fears of spoiling due to children and clumsiness).
    I never thought I could pull off pearls– seemed too "old" but you make it work, so I'm going to try.
    Random side note: I saw this class at the local CC about finding your personal style– was $150 for a 2 hr class plus 1 hr mall shopping trip. I just huffed and thought of you and my other petite bloggers and how I can just turn to all of you instead.

  • Suzie Q July 7, 2012 at 10:22 am

    You look great. Love sheath dresses for work, especially BR ones! I didn't even realize there was a site for BR Factory, I'll have to check it out =)

    Suzie Q

  • bibi July 7, 2012 at 11:06 am

    nice`s simple,but chic and elegant.

  • A Petite Treat July 7, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    love this outfit! i especially love the belt and shoes!

    A Petite Treat

  • Vi and Ollie July 7, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Hey Jean,

    Just purchased the BR knit ponte in a 0P, it was on sale for $99 but there was also an additional 40% off. I did have to hunt one down in Palo Alto–the stores will ship to your home, which I opted for(there is a S&H; fee).

  • Kelly July 8, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    LOVE the dress and the belt!! Very elegant

    <3 Kelly

  • fashion-hot July 9, 2012 at 4:20 am

    That dress is so beautiful!! I love the metallic detail of it! Gorgeous!

  • sophié July 9, 2012 at 9:15 am

    lovely! Big fun of simplicity and this look has it all. I have a simple shift white dress from uniqlo which I wear with hermes cuffs and either an old pink chanel bowler or a basket bag from cath kidston. Also a big fun of vintage lotus pearls. Have you heard of them?

  • Vicky Tsoi July 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I am a big fan of yours! You always look so clean and crisp, I absolutely love the way you can make any oufit work appropriate! You have such great style!!

  • Ami July 9, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I went to my local bannana republic this weekend. I could only find size 4p-12p available. Price was 59.99 + 40% off. The dress looks slightly different off the rack.

  • Lela July 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Beaaautiful! Crisp…elegant…just a classic look.

    Enter to WIN my Havaianas SHOE Competition!

  • Genie July 9, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Oooo, what a beautiful ensemble! I really like that you kept the outfit simple with a few cognac accessories, and I'm always amazed that you alter the dresses yourself. I usually like pairing whites with bright hues of yellow, blue, and red. They really make a summer tan pop, and the dress stand out even more.


  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Hi fong – I got size 70 and punched extra holes on both ends, to wear it higher up on my waist and also lower by the hips.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Yep, sure is : ) Makes me want to collect more double sided straps to wear with the buckle!

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:03 pm

    Never came across that brand before! Thanks for sharing.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    I have a steamer from Target but I wouldn't recommend it only because it leaks water all the time. If I end up finding a better one I will share. I suggest reading reviews on Amazon, though. There's lots of options on there!

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Arts – sorry for any confusion. You can't order online for BR factory items (yet, anyways). I called a store and asked them to locate one in the system, then ship to me. Payment was via credit card over the phone.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    Do you mean the measurement in length? Sorry if I misunderstood, but this dress measures 32" from the top of the shoulder to the hem. I also have a previous post on various skirt lengths and how they look:

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    THank you! It's pre-owned and I received it as a birthday gift, but before then I was also bidding on ones pre-owned. It's one of those things that I feel don't lose any "specialness" with age.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Hi Elvina – sorry for the confusion but there is no website. I had to call the outlet store and I think they only ship domestically : /

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    Hi Danielle! Thank you very much : ) The belt was a gift but I do know it was pre-owned because of some wear & scratches. Before receiving it as a gift I did a lot of research on eBay and was bidding on some from Japan (more smaller sizes available there). There are lots of fakes out there so be careful if you're shopping the pre-owned market. It was really hard for me to gauge authenticity so I used TPF, but I heard they no longer authenticate Hermes belts.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Janki! I cannot image how hot it must be in Texas. I'm happy to hear you'll be able to recreate this look once you find your perfect white dress that can sustain kids and spillage : ) Very funny about the $150 class…I can't imagine what they can teach in such a short period of time! Finding personal style takes experimentation, trial and error, and patience.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Nice! That one was a very good option for the sale price, and I believe it will wrinkle a lot less than cotton. Just be forewarned it's unlined so make sure to wear skin-colored undergarments : )

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Your white outfit sounds lovely with the accessories! Haven't heard of vintage lotus pearls…will look it up.

  • PetiteAsianGirl July 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    Thanks for sharing the pic – that's the same dress alright. It looks better once the fabric belt is gone and tapered a bit.

  • Anonymous July 10, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Thank you so much for responding! Yes, that is exactly what I meant. I love the post on skirt lengths. It's brilliant! I measured my very short legs and I need skirts and dresses to fall three inches above my knees. =T Somehow I don't think that would be appropriate for work?

  • sophié July 10, 2012 at 4:46 am

    search on e The best ones are from 1920-1970's The 80's ones are ok but you can definitely see the quality drop. The really good ones come in the original red lotus box and have fab clasps. Best of luck finding a set – as you are a pearl afficionato I think you will appreciate them. xx

  • Danielle H. July 10, 2012 at 5:40 am

    Thank you for your rather prompt response, Jean. Yes, so true, there is a great amount of fakes out there. Would you recommend just buying the belt straight right out of the Hermes store?

    Also, I really like your Target sandals from this post. I actually have seen them in your other previous posts as well and was bummed that they were old, which just meant I could not find them in store anymore. So I'm considering buying the very similar Nine & Co. sandals that you linked in the brown color. If you didn't have your Target sandals yet, would you consider buying those ones?

    Thank you! Hope your start of the week is going well! 🙂

  • Anonymous July 11, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I'm sure you hear this like a broken record, but you having amazing style. I think you can pull a runway fashion show out of a salvation army store. Anyway, just a side note.. You seem to have amazing skin! Is this hard work on your part or just genetics?

  • Queen B. July 11, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Hi !
    I am petite also, 5'1 and I really can't decide on which Longchamp Le Pliage bag to get.
    Small Shopper tote, long handles
    Medium Short Handle ??
    I think the short handle looks so classy.
    What do you think ??????????

  • Anonymous July 12, 2012 at 3:54 am

    Queen B,
    Jean already made a post in regards to your question:

  • ash2504 July 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Hey Jean,

    I have been following your blog for over a year now, and you are so insightful! I used to think clothes would never fit me right, but you have given me some hope. I struggle mostly with casual wear, and since I'm in high school, that's the majority of my wardrobe. I'm 5 feet tall, 90 lbs and not anticipating a sudden growth spurt lol. Do you have any specific advice for my specific situation? Maybe any brands or stores you would recommend more than others? I've experienced particular battles with finding comfortable and affordable jeans, casual and formal dresses, and completer pieces like blazers and jackets.
    Any suggestions you could give would be extremely helpful.

    Thank you! Ashley

  • lisacng July 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I'd be afraid of white, like you said, a spilled drink. Or me just sitting/rubbing against something. I love the neutral accessories and warm sun on your face!

  • Erica July 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I love this look, so elegant and classic. An Hermes belt and pearls are a great way to dress it up–it reminds me those are two versatile items I need to splurge on! I would love it if you checked out my blog to give me some feedback, your site is inspiring! =)

  • Karen (littlepiecefnb) July 18, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Beautiful styling! I don't have a white dress like that because I always seem to get my light-colored clothes dirty. haha

  • Lisa July 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I stumbled on your blog and really appreciate all of the info for petites! I love the look in this post, and especially the multi-strand pearls. Very classic. Do you happen to have any idea what size the chunkier pearls are? I'd like to look for some that size but am not sure quite what to look for.

  • SoeItNYC July 31, 2012 at 10:31 am

    OMG! I don't think this dress is available anywhere anymore :o( Ami, where is your BRO located? Maybe I can try to call them to see if they still have any left.

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