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?
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  1. Lela wrote:

    Beaaautiful! Crisp…elegant…just a classic look.

    Enter to WIN my Havaianas SHOE Competition!

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  2. Ami wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  3. Vicky Tsoi wrote:

    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!!

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  4. sophié wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  5. That dress is so beautiful!! I love the metallic detail of it! Gorgeous!

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  6. Kelly wrote:

    LOVE the dress and the belt!! Very elegant

    <3 Kelly

    Posted 7.8.12 Reply
  7. 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).

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  8. love this outfit! i especially love the belt and shoes!

    A Petite Treat

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  9. bibi wrote:

    nice`s simple,but chic and elegant.

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  10. Suzie Q wrote:

    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

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  11. Janki wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  12. Danielle H. wrote:

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

    Posted 7.7.12 Reply
  13. Danielle H. wrote:

    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!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  14. Clean cut and classy!! Never thought to invest in a LWD, but now it seems like an absolute must for the summer!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  15. Joy wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  16. Elvina wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  17. so pretty!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  18. Elisse wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  19. jules wrote:

    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.


    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  20. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  21. Really like this look! I think you look really classy and pretty! 😀
    backtofive's twitter

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  22. Kat wrote:

    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!!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  23. Meegaa wrote:

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

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  24. Perfect outfit I would say. I love the white dress combined with the camel shoes + belt <3 Really nice!


    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  25. Anonymous wrote:

    *in the store

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  26. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  27. Arts wrote:

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

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  28. Joy wrote:

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

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  29. Joy wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  30. Jamie wrote:

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

    The Blue Hour

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  31. i love this outfit Jean! you elevate an outfit with the perfect accessories. gorgeous for summer!! xox P

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  32. 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 🙂

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  33. I adore your style! You always look fabulous.


    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  34. ooh i didn't know the hermes belt could be so tiny!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  35. 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?

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  36. Ajin Xu wrote:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  37. I need that dress!!!

    ♥ Duckie.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  38. Such a classic, white summer dress! Love this look, paired with cognac accessories!

    <3, natasha @ twenty-something blog

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  39. Michelle wrote:

    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!

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  40. lin wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.6.12 Reply
  41. 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?

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  42. newpetite wrote:

    Gorgeous! Like LBD LWD is also a wardrobe staple!

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  43. Vivian wrote:

    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!


    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  44. fong wrote:

    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.)

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  45. 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

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  46. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  47. Priscilla wrote:

    simple yet elegant! Great!

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  48. brietta wrote:

    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! 🙂

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply
  49. Diana S.T. wrote:

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

    Posted 7.5.12 Reply

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