The Hunt: Fit and Flare Dresses

tailored fit and flare dressesSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We haven’t rounded up fit and flare dresses in almost a year, so I thought we’d take another look.  It’s such a popular silhouette that I’m going to focus this Hunt on not only work-appropriate ones but on solid, conservative ones that will be workhorses in a wardrobe.  Ladies, which are your favorite fit and flare dresses — and do you have any favorite accessories to wear with them (blazers, cardigans, shrugs, etc)?  

Land's End Ponté A-line DressA fitted A-line dress is one version of a fit-and-flare dress — this one has pockets, is machine washable, comes in a number of sizes (including petite, tall, and plus sizes), and is on a great sale: it’s $39 today.  It’s available in black and pink.  (FWIW, I tend to take petites in Land’s End, and I’m 5’4.”)  Women’s Ponté A-line Dress 
Calvin Klein Women's Sleeveless Textured DressCalvin Klein has a ton of fit and flare dresses — but this one really stands out.  I love the panels on the bodice, which gives it just a touch more structure and interest; the boat neck and high arm holes are also great.  It’s available in black and white, with the black marked to $75 at Amazon (most sizes eligible for Prime). Calvin Klein Women’s Sleeveless Textured Dress
flared-work-dressesThis ottoman-ribbed dress is available in both black and navy, and there’s a lot to like — the slightly interesting knit, the work-appropriate length, and the fact that it’s hand washable.  It has rave reviews at Nordstrom from everyone from 25 year olds to 60 year olds, and is $98, available in regular and petite sizes. Halogen® Ottoman Knit Fit & Flare Dress
Alana Structured Fit and Flare DressOooh: I always love a good sale, and the black version of this $320 dress is now marked to $160 over at Reiss.  (There is also a pale, pale blue — almost a gray — on sale for $208.)  Love the work-appropriate length, the seams on the skirt, and the general tailored, structured feel to this one.  Lovely.  (Another sale worth noting, sort of in this range: the Kadira dress at Hugo Boss marked to $328 down from $545.)  Alana Structured Fit and Flare Dress
Cap-Sleeve Shirtdress in Super 120s WoolIf fit and flares go anywhere soon, they will morph into the shirt dress, which is on the rise. (I’ve recently seen three articles about they’re replacing the sheath dress, which I find hard to believe.)  I have mixed feelings about the rise of the shirt dress: most have better lengths for work, but they introduce a lot of problems with gaping, layering, and crispness that aren’t generally present with fit and flare dresses.  Still: I do like this muted gray version from J.Crew (also available in pink) — it’s $228, and available in regular, petite, and tall sizes.  (Although: try code GOSHOPPING to take 30% off, bringing it down to $160.) Cap-Sleeve Shirtdress in Super 120s Wool
Burberry London Wool & Silk Paneled Fit & Flare DressFor your Monday drool: this gorgeous fit and flare dress from Burberry London.  It’s wool and silk, which already feels a lot more lux, and though I’ve gone back and forth on the slightly curved waist detail, I think I like it. The dress is $1,495 at Nordstrom, available in sizes 2-14.  Burberry London Wool & Silk Paneled Fit & Flare Dress

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fit flare dresses for work



  1. Sydney Bristow :

    That Reiss one is gorgeous. Fit and flare doesn’t really work well for me but that one looks subtle enough that it might.

    • Make sure you look at the rear view. The front is beautiful; the back would not fly in my business casual veering towards business formal workplace.

      • Sydney Bristow :

        Really? I don’t think it is that low. It wouldn’t show my bra or anything. Sadly, it wouldn’t fit so I can’t get it. But if it would fit, I’d be extremely tempted!

      • Wildkitten :

        Yeah that back is making a statement.

      • It’s not that scandalous The Reiss dress would be fine in my office even on formal days. I like fit and flare dresses but need a scoop neckline.

  2. Yes, I was REALY goieng to get a nice black flare dress, but it had a TERRIBLEY big and shiney Silver Zipper goeing down the almost the entire back of the dress! FOOEY! I can onley imagine what Frank would have done had I bought that dress and wore it into work. In the past, he has unzipped me (without my PERMISSION), but here, I would be entirely open in the back to his advances! FOOEY on that! I would have to excuse myself b/f comeing back into the office if he unzipped me. DOUBEL FOOEY!

  3. I am always going back and forth about fit and flare. I’m a “straight” average-sized figure. I tend to try to draw attention away from my waist, and my hips/rear are not “problem” areas for me. In some dresses, I think fit and flare can be great because the style can minimize my middle by adding volume below. But sometimes I just get self-conscious about how the dresses are very fitted at the waist. I find that ruching at the waist is my best friend.

    Thanks for including some styles without belts! I hate when the belt comes built-in!

  4. West Coast :

    PSA: Saks just put several items I had been looking at on sale (jackets from Vince). If you have been looking at anything, it might be worth checking back today.

  5. FirstYearAnon :

    TJ- I’m a first year associate at a firm. There’s this 2nd year (or 3rd? He clerked for a year) who has been giving me assignments and critiquing them all in a way that a senior associate would. It’s driving me crazy -I’m happy to work together with him on things and work as a team but to be treated like he’s my boss giving me directions just seems not right. His emails are always condescending and full of ‘advice’. Am I off base for being upset and if not is there anything I can do?

    • Welcome to law firm hierarchy. He might not be a senior associate, but he is senior to you.

      • Yep. This is how it works. Everyone senior to you is your boss. Super fun.

        • +1. Is he work product any good? If it’s not, chances are people know that already. So just do your best to work with him, ignore his condescending tone, and CYA so it’s clear that you’re doing a good job on your piece.

    • Anonymous :

      Yes, I think you’re off-base. At my firm, a person at the firm two years after a clerkship would have been considered a third year. Third years regularly directed first years on cases (on which they would also be overseen by a partner/senior associate). Once the dynamic was established from higher up, it would be expectsed that the third year would take responsibility for the first year, delegating appropriate assignments down and giving feedback/advice on such assignments. It’s a food chain in law firms – if you’re below the next person in seniority, yes you are working “together” and “as a team” but there is a clear hierarchy. Unless you have reason to believe that the higher ups on the case or other relevant people don’t know that this person is giving you work (although if you’re billing your time, I don’t know how this would be the case), I think you need to get used to it and know that when you’re a third year you’ll be doing the same. As far as him being condescending, I get that that’s frustrating, but I unless it’s wildly inappropriate, you should take the advice given.

      • +1. I’m a third year and frequently delegate assignments to first years. I have far more experience, to the tune of perhaps 4000 hours, in the practice area I’m in and working for the partners in my group, so a first year is not my equal – it’s my job to critique their work. It’s not great that he’s condescending, but you can’t take the mere fact that he’s offering advice as condescending either.

    • Also, if he’s giving you assignments, you should be glad that he’s giving you the criticism that you might otherwise be getting from someone higher up than him. Consider the possibility that his “criticism” might be protecting you from looking incompetent to someone who actually has power/prestige/etc.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree with what others have said about the hierarchy. Consider that it’s possible that he’s not taking it upon himself to dump his work on you but that partners are assigning him to assign you work and mentor you. I often have partners ask me to delegate projects to younger associates, primarily because they don’t have the time to manage the project/answer questions, etc. Or, he’s so busy that he asks the partners for help and they tell him to turn to you. Either way, if he has enough work to dole out to others, he’s probably liked by the partners.

      He shouldn’t be condescending to you, but probably not a lot you can do about that unless it crosses the line into inappropriate. Take what you can from his advice and look for opportunities to work with other people.

    • Anonymous Associate :

      You are off base. I am a third year, and routinely siphon work off to more junior attorneys (research tasks, drafting portions of briefs, etc.). I was in your shoes two years ago. This is how work gets done on teams-more experienced team members manage projects/aspects of projects and direct more junior team members in their work. This is also how more junior people learn. Once you are a third year, you will understand first-hand and get why third years and first years are not considered equals, although both can be very valuable members of a team. There is a serious problem in team management if first and third years are doing the same tasks, not to mention major billing issues.

      If anything, you should be happy he is providing comments/explanations of his edits instead of just taking your work, changing it, and not even letting you know what he did to it. It takes time to do that, which we have very little of.

  6. I haven’t tried any of these but the halogen looks like it would be pretty but beware exposed zipper. The Lands End and Hugo Boss dresses look like the neckline would be too high, from prior experience (hits my neck weirdly).

    However, I just bought the Lands End sleeveless keyhole Ponte sheath dress in a flower print for my son’s graduation (a hot outdoor event) and it was a dream. Flattering, cool and pretty and has great reviews. On sale for $35. Will be able to wear it to the office with a cardigan or casual jacket. They have it in several colors, prints and black, so I just ordered the black for $50 to wear under jackets or sweaters.

  7. What would you say is the female equivalent of tan pants, button front shirt with tie, and navy blazer (or other sports coat, but if a navy blazer, the type with brass buttons)? Where I work, the men at my level almost always wear a coat and tie, but often it’s not a full suit. Trying to figure out what that formality level looks like in women’s clothing. Separates? I feel like separates can often look more formal — like on a level with a less traditional men’s suit color (e.g., tan or olive , vs navy or charcoal). I wouldn’t mind dialing back a notch some days, especially in the summer, but since there aren’t really women at my level, I’m not totally sure what that would look like.

    • Lefty lawyer :

      Dress and non-matching jacket

      • That or skirt/pants, blouse, and non-matching blazer. I think the important part is that you wear a blazer, but not a full suit. If you feel like you’re still to formal, try fun printed dresses/skirts/blazers (not all at once, obviously).

    • I do a lot of skirts with non-matching blazers, or dresses that are more formal on their own without a blazer. I also think pants + blouse + jacket (not suit) can be a women’s equivalent. I used to work with a woman who had beautiful camel colored pants, a nice navy jacket with brass buttons, and gorgeous silk blouses. I thought she looked so chic and feminine, even though it was the classic male outfit.

      • +1, and in the summer, the skirt+non matching blazer+ blouse is my favorite outfit – I do a lot of sleeveless silk shells and blouses and leave a few blazers in my office, which makes my walk to work in commuter sandals, untucked breezy silk sleeveless blouse, and skirt much more bearable, even pleasant.

    • Skirt or dress plus non-matching blazer. I think you also have more latitude for prints and color.

  8. On maternity fit-and-flare: I’ve been getting a ton of use out of the Liz Lange Wear to Work dress from target. It’s washable and holding up really well- I wear it at least once a week. It was useful as early as 12 weeks with a belt. Warning though: order down 1-2 sizes.

    I like it with:
    *denim jacket and scarf
    *cardi and a chunky necklace
    But since it has little sleeves you can also just wear it by itself.

    I’m not normally a dress-wearer but being pregnant in the summer has changed my policy on that one.

    • Same to your last sentence. I wore three dresses last week – that would normally take me at least two months to accomplish.

  9. FYI the jcrew dress is excluded from the promo

  10. Kat–instead of just “here,” is it possible to make the text of the links descriptive in some way? It would be very helpful to see at least the brand and perhaps a brief description of the item. I have mostly given up on the links in these posts because it’s frustrating to spend time clicking on a dozen mystery links and land on items from a dozen brands that I already know won’t work for me.

    • Also +1, please.

    • Anonymous Poser :

      Agreed. Thanks for suggesting this!

    • + 1 from me too. Besides, some of the links just went to the general pages on websites for me. So couldn’t even tell which dress Kat was referring to.

    • Agree! I don’t click on these because (1) I have no idea what is “on the other side,” and (2) I refuse to reward lazy blogging.

    • +1. Many sites redirect me to their generic European homepage which means I have no idea what exactly you’re pointing at (Anthro are awful for this) – plus I end up clicking through to lots which aren’t even available in my country.

    • I agree. That would be really awesome. Thanks!

  11. Anonymous :

    + a million

  12. Hi! Thank you for including so many phenomenal options for those of us on the “cusp”. You are the first person that I’ve seen use this category and as a 14/16 I appreciate it. Love your blogs!

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