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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    Posted 7.5.14 Reply
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  3. SoeItNYC wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.31.12 Reply
  4. Lisa wrote:

    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.

    Posted 7.22.12 Reply
  5. Beautiful styling! I don't have a white dress like that because I always seem to get my light-colored clothes dirty. haha

    Posted 7.18.12 Reply
  6. Erica wrote:

    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! =)

    Posted 7.14.12 Reply
  7. lisacng wrote:

    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!

    Posted 7.13.12 Reply
  8. ash2504 wrote:

    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

    Posted 7.12.12 Reply
  9. Anonymous wrote:

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

    Posted 7.12.12 Reply
  10. Queen B. wrote:

    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 ??????????

    Posted 7.11.12 Reply
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.11.12 Reply
  12. Danielle H. wrote:

    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! 🙂

    Posted 7.10.12 Reply
  13. sophié wrote:

    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

    Posted 7.10.12 Reply
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    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?

    Posted 7.10.12 Reply
  15. Thanks for sharing the pic – that's the same dress alright. It looks better once the fabric belt is gone and tapered a bit.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  16. Your white outfit sounds lovely with the accessories! Haven't heard of vintage lotus pearls…will look it up.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  17. 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 : )

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  18. 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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  19. 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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  20. 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 : /

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  21. 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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  22. 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:

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  23. 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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  24. 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!

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  25. Never came across that brand before! Thanks for sharing.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  26. Yep, sure is : ) Makes me want to collect more double sided straps to wear with the buckle!

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  27. 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.

    Posted 7.9.12 Reply
  28. Genie wrote:

    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.


    Posted 7.9.12 Reply

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