Revived Favorites: Retro Print Shift Dress + Oranges


Dress, jacket and clutch – old H&M;, Sandals – pre-owned Prada via eBay, YSL ring

Last night, I had a great time being on a panel about Asian American women and fashion (hosted by ASPIRE). It was my first time talking about blogging as well as my career path and goals, and it was a treat getting to meet so many interesting women and to hear about their aspirations as well. One of the questions asked was how to truly gauge if clothing fits and flatters your figure. A trick that’s worked for me is to snap photos of yourself from the front, side, and back and inspect for unsightly gaps, tugs, pulls, and bunchiness. Cameras pick up things that get overlooked when one gazes into a mirror. Clothing that fits should usually graze your figure – not constrict nor swallow it.

Before —–> After

I initially realized this simple tip while drafting this oldie post, and have had many more “yikes” moments reviewing photos since then. One such occasion was with this H&M; dress. I fell in love with the print and convinced myself that shift style dresses were meant to be non-fitted. Only after seeing multi-angle photos did I realize how wildly unflattering and nightgown-esque it was.


A next step to understanding fit is learning about simple adjustments that can make a big difference. Thankfully, this dress just needed some slimming along the torso and sleeves…

…which made an immediate impact. Next, I chopped off the bunched arm openings to streamline the “shift” silhouette even more. I then shortened the length on the main dress and sleeves to show more skin and balance out the covered-up torso.


These small alterations made the dress feel so much more contemporary, and were simple enough to do at home. I left the original hem in to be let down as I age and grow more conservative : ) The length as shown worn with mid-heels was perfect for a spring dinner out.


I’ve gotten into the habit of wearing jackets draped over my shoulders (provides warmth, while preventing the elbows from rubbing constantly on a desk and wearing out). Unfortunately, a consequence is colleagues being stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of a four-armed woman.


Readers – What are your tips for gauging and understanding fit? Have you ever come to stark realizations after seeing yourself in photos?


58 thoughts on “Revived Favorites: Retro Print Shift Dress + Oranges

  • Reply PinkOrchids June 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    You look lovely! For some reason this dress reminds me of the Lacoste perfume advert a few years back, all you need are those white boots the model wore! The Orange blazer compliments your outfit very well!

  • Reply Cher June 7, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    What I do? Stare at myself in the mirror. LOL. But in all honesty, that's what I do. For the most part, I can generally figure it out pretty quickly unless I really love something and am in denial about the fit. It helps sometimes to try on something similar in shape that you have (that fits perfectly) and compare. And it also helps to start pinching and pinning things in areas to try and figure out what exactly is wrong if it doesn't jump out at you right away. Photos help as well. If you don't have a 360 degree mirror you can't always see how the item fits at all angles. It can knock some sense into me when I'm in denial about how a certain item fits because I want to keep it so badly. It makes me sad, but it's money saved.

  • Reply rainbow nails June 7, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    I love your outfit in this post! I'd love to see you post how to do alterations like on this dress. I'm new to sewing. I last my mom last year. Just now I'm going through her clothes. We were basically the same size. There are a few dresses that are too big and could use alterations like the ones you did to this dress. I'd love to wear some of her retro floral dresses this summer if I can get them the right size!

  • Reply lisacng June 7, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    What a great DIY and the result is amazing. Really is flattering even tho still a shift dress. I have to take more photos of myself!

  • Reply Joy June 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I think the patterned dress and jacket look great together! Very cute outfit!

  • Reply Natasha Fatah June 7, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    Great pairing!
    You look lovely!!

    ~Natasha Fatah~
    ~Natasha Fatah~

  • Reply dietingfashions June 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Yes, my mistake is always thinking what I see in the mirror is usually dead on what everyone else sees. Not true. After taking photos of outfits, I realized what look good in the mirror is only one dimension. I haven't gotten into habit of getting things altered, which I need to start doing.


  • Reply urbanjunglefashion June 7, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    You did a fantastic job modifying the dress to fit your body type without sacrificing the overall integrity of the piece.

  • Reply Kat June 7, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    I agree! I was JUST noticing some things in my own photos like… 5 minutes ago. I see where you're going with this and I see the improvements in your revived shift dress! I'm going to have to inspect my other outfits now!


  • Reply littleblacksweats June 8, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Those Prada sandals are amazing… and love that you found them on ebay!

  • Reply Karen June 8, 2012 at 1:02 am

    I loooveee how you altered the dress! Such a huge improvement. The more streamlined sleeves really made a different.

  • Reply nikolia June 8, 2012 at 2:30 am

    a very beautiful dress .. and in conjunction with this jacket so stylish!.хохо

  • Reply SewPetiteGal June 8, 2012 at 5:05 am

    LOL for keeping the original hem to be let down as you age and the 4-armed woman comment. Your fit posts have made me more discerning when shopping, but I still get duped sometimes. Case in point, I thought your dress looked lovely before until you showed me the after!

  • Reply this is lemonade June 8, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Beautiful as usual. Your posts are so inspiring. Thankfully I don't *need* to alter my clothes often, but seeing what you do and how you pair some patterns/colours has increased my sense of adventure when I shop!

    I'm still never going to buy that orange, because I know it's a disaster on me. However it really looks so vibrant on you. And, I LOVE the sandals -I've like to find something similar. I hate showing toes at work but I don't have anything as an alternative to pumps (is that what you call then? Court shoes?)

  • Reply béa June 8, 2012 at 5:54 am

    Wouah, you're really talented to match colours 🙂 I have a very pale skin and dark brown hair and it's difficult to find clothes which don't make me look "a bit off-colour". Would you have any suggestion? Thanks a lot 😉

  • Reply DaintyandDecadent June 8, 2012 at 6:07 am

    I love the orange blazer and print on the dress! It's all very retro chic 🙂


  • Reply Kimberly June 8, 2012 at 6:49 am

    Love the orange with this print & the overall retro vibe! I completely agree – sometimes we take pictures that I never use on the blog because I realize afterwards how bad the outfit looked…it's a great way to learn, though! 🙂

  • Reply B well put together June 8, 2012 at 7:44 am

    The shoes are gorgeous!

  • Reply ♥ Natalie June 8, 2012 at 8:39 am

    This looks so beautiful on you! <3

  • Reply Always Maylee June 8, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I love your tips. You look beautiful in this dress and jacket, the colors really compliment you.

    xo, Yi-chia

  • Reply myhanh June 8, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Wow- what a difference the alternations make! Although to your credit, I remember you wearing this shift with a thin belt last summer!

  • Reply Akosua Matthews June 8, 2012 at 11:27 am

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply Anonymous June 8, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Where did you learn how to do alterations? Any books/websites you can recommend? I have all the materials to sew but have yet to take the plunge on my clothes (or creating clothes from scratch), mainly because I am not yet sure I completely understand this elusive concept known as 'fit'.

  • Reply Suzie Q June 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    I love the orange color hue of this outfit. The dress is so cute with a retro vibe to it. The ASPIRE event sounded lovely and great styling tips that you provided =)


  • Reply Ping June 8, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Jean, I love love love those prada caged sandals. The color is gorgeous too.

  • Reply FW June 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I saw your FB post about the ASPIRE event. My husband was in Boston for work this week and it just so happened that he was staying near the Boston Library, so I told him to stop by since he knows I love your blog. He said he stuck out like a sore thumb since he was one of the very few males in the audience. I wish I could of been there!

  • Reply Jyoti June 8, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I like the dress a lot more after and I totally agree that it looks more contemporary. Also I love the shoes!

  • Reply AubreyOhDang! June 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    i think shortening the sleeves was a good idea, though I wish the bunching style could've stayed intact. i like how the sleeves of the dress peep through the jacket.

    i always thought draped jackets were merely for pix. when i see it in person, it never seems practical. when i do it myself, slips off everytime. I actually feel more constricted. but for sitting at a desk, it definitely works to keep bare shoulders warm.

  • Reply June 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I love this outfit. She shoes are really pretty. But the whole outfit looks amazing. Really love it.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl June 8, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    I think your complexion/hair combo would look great in jewel tones, like fuschia, turquoise, cobalt blue, etc. The easiest way to pair them is with a neutral like ivory/cream. Have you tried?

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl June 8, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I took a class for beginners (in China, though) and I highly recommend anyone interested in learning how to sew to do the same. I would have no idea whatsover how to get started, and books confuse me.

  • Reply PetiteAsianGirl June 8, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Omigoodness! There were four men in the audience so I'll assume your husband was the one I didn't get to meet. I wish he said hello, as the other men who attended (either with or in lieu of wives) were wonderful to chat with. He was very brave to come and I really appreciate it – I hope you'll get to join him in visiting some day and we can meet : )

  • Reply {jin} @ herimajination June 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    the alteration made such a huge difference! love the pairing of the orange jacket and the yellow sandals! looking classy as always 🙂

  • Reply Anonymous June 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Jean, care to share your career path and goals with those who were not lucky enough to attend the session?


  • Reply Style Compile June 8, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Reply newpetite June 8, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    You look lovely!

  • Reply phiphis blog June 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    you are so talented to be able to do these fixes at home and even envision how to do it. i love how you re-vamped it!
    there are so many pictures after the fact where i've said "why did you think you could wear that.." O_o – lol. you look stunning! xox P

  • Reply Anonymous June 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Love those shoes! You look splendid in that orange blazer. I remember looking at it at H&M; and passing on the purchase. If I had seen how good it could look, I would have totally bought it!

    You are so right about photos exposing unflattering clothes. For me, I notice the problems when pictures have been taken after a night out. Some clothes look great during the try-on, but thirty minutes to an hour later, they fall apart. I've had problems with dresses that puff up on me in unexpected places when I sit and such.

  • Reply MizzJ June 9, 2012 at 1:43 am

    You look adorable in this outfit and it's amazing what a few alternations can make to an item!

  • Reply Anonymous June 9, 2012 at 1:51 am

    I just wanted to drop a comment saying I check your blog everyday

    Your my favorite blogs because ou are so down to earth
    I love how you manage to be a fashionista while on a bargain and budget

  • Reply Martina June 9, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I am following u, nice blog! hope u follow me back?

  • Reply Becca June 9, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Hey Jean- love your blog! I must admit to reading it all the time, even though I'm not petite at all. In fact, I'm acually quite opposite. I'm 5'9" so I am always on the look out for 'tall' sizes that fit, much like you are with petite.

    I have a random question that I hope you can help me with. I'm moving to Beijing in a couple of months (for my husbands job, for 3 years) and am super excited to have affordable custom tailoring and garment construction options. Do you have any you recommend or any tips on finding a good tailor? I'm planning on trying out a few different tailors before settling on one that I hope to be loyal to. Would love if you could give me some pointers, if you have any.

    You can email me back becca_sanders 23 (at) yahoo . com (without the spaces). Thanks!!! Any other tips for China would be greatly appreciated as well!

  • Reply Genie June 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    I love the print of this shift dress as well as your heels, they're so cute! I usually go shopping with somebody who is blunt about whether or not an item flatters my body, so I don't usually run into fitting issues. But on the rare occasion that I do, I usually have to hem items myself so that they fit better.


  • Reply Mica June 10, 2012 at 3:08 am

    Great tips, thank you for sharing! It's good to see the difference a few alterations can make 🙂 I like your pairing of that dress and the orange jacket too!

  • Reply Lien June 10, 2012 at 3:31 am

    I actually remember this dress from one of your posts last year and at the time, I didn't think twice about the shape of the sleeves but after seeing it post-alterations, it makes me wonder what else I could be overlooking in terms of fit and such. You did such a great job altering this dress- I love that you hemmed it a few inches shorter too! Lol, I think it's time I start to learn how to alter my clothes too…

  • Reply lorraine June 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Jean, have you tried theory frayne pants?

    They are on sale on shopbop at the moment.

    Its so hard to find nice fitting pants if you are petite so I thought I'd share! I bought a size 2.

  • Reply Rinny June 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I love the color palette in this outfit and the shift dress looks great on you post-alterations. I think the camera trick you mentioned is the best method to see if something fits. You can't really see behind you when you're just looking into a mirror.

  • Reply FW June 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Yup, he was the one that disappeared after the panel discussion. I think he felt out of place to mingle with all the ladies. I hope to join him on one of his many business trips to Boston in the near future!

  • Reply Michelle June 10, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Hey Jean!!

    I love how you slimmed this dress!! And I always love seeing that H&M; purse…so glad that it gets so much love!! 🙂

    Also want to say that I love your pics from the Philippines! My favorite was the foot bath that you and Nick received! 🙂

  • Reply Karen (littlepiecefnb) June 11, 2012 at 3:01 am

    Great tips Jean and the minor alterations make a big difference! I think I need to start taking more photos of outfits to gauge whether or not to keep them. =)

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