Tiers of Joy

by Erin on September 13, 2007

Mina sent me a link to the Spring 08 Derek Lam shows. I've not been paying any attention to any of the Spring shows, as obsessed as I've been with figuring out what I'm going to sew this fall, but these dresses are just wonderful:


Derek Lam Spring 08

And check out this one, too:


Derek Lam Spring 08

I'm not sure if I like that deep berry for spring, but I do like the style. I'd do this in shades of blue, shading from pale on top to a really bright band on the next-to-bottom tier, then pale again for the bottom tier. Something very ocean-y and summery, in voile or china silk, not too heavy.

I love that the pockets are in the second tier from the top. Very practical.

And do you know what? If you're going to leave a comment that all those tiers would make you look OMG FAT!!!!, please don't bother. There is more to life than the bogus imperative to minimize your apparent body weight at all times. Just for a minute, put down that burden, okay? Think about how that gorgeous fabric would FEEL. Think about how it would SOUND. Think about how you would MOVE in it, where you would GO in it, what you would put in the POCKETS, even, and not on some imagined optical illusion of a few more inches here or there. Now imagine feeling like that all the time — imagine the question "Does this make me look fat?" didn't exist. How would that change your life? What would you do differently? Would it get you to wear this beautiful dress?

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Jo September 13, 2007 at 8:35 am

All those things would definitely get me to want to wear this beautiful dress! As you say, imagine the feel :-) Perhaps in ochres and golds?

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somethingone September 13, 2007 at 8:53 am

I would wear the dress, and all those lovely full skirts I have that i fear to wear because of the Big Hips. And I could stop trying to build a time machine. (I have a perfect Edwardian figure. Not so much today’s beanpole with boobs.)

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 8:54 am

I actually was thinking about how deep the V-neck is on both dresses…and not a wit about the tiers.

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Latter-Day Flapper September 13, 2007 at 9:00 am

I don’t think they’d make you look fat if you used drapey material. I have the [proportionately] biggest butt on Earth and avoid gathered anything like the plague, but I have a dress with a full, gathered skirt made in very soft rayon and it looks great. You just have to pick the right cloth.Personally, I always get the impression that this type of dress makes everyone look like small people dressing big. (And I love the berry color, but I agree it’s not very spring-y. That green’s a dud, though. I paid extra for a car to avoid having to live with one that color for the next 15 years.)

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jenny September 13, 2007 at 9:13 am

I was looking at these yesterday… I loved them too – and thinking I might try to make one. I’d probably make the waistband an inch or so deeper – I like, and look better with a more defined waist. But it is lovely.

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rose September 13, 2007 at 9:17 am

Oh, I love both of these! The colors (I adore that acid green!) and the berry (I would look great in it, though perhaps not for spring). I think this dress would be flattering on lots of different figures, actually. And as for the plunging neckline — a camisole, I think. Or an insert.

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xstpenguin September 13, 2007 at 9:19 am

I love that colour of green!And I was also thinking about the low cut front rather than the gathers.I love the blue shade idea Erin, but we part company on having the pale colour repeat on the bottom – I *think* that would make one look short(er). But I could be wrong. Make one and prove your point! ;-)Colour/season/weight can be very misleading. My mother has a fleece jacket that is so big and Cookie Monsterish it should be perfect for winter, but in fact is so light-weight that she can only really wear it in the summer (that is Scottish 18C summer). Likewise while Berry colours remind most people of autumn and winter, it’d be cold to wear that style! So in the same vein of “wear it because it makes you happy” one should wear any old colour any old time!She says, currently on a break from finishing a white eyelet shirt intended for the summer we didn’t have and will be stowed away for the summer we don’t have next year. :-D

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Allison September 13, 2007 at 9:19 am

That last paragraph is inspriational and awesome.

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goosefairy September 13, 2007 at 9:23 am

I like the longer one best. Ooooo. Can you imagine it all the way to the floor in navy blue velvet with tiny little rhinestones scattered all over?

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Tracy September 13, 2007 at 9:58 am

I LOVE #16 in that collection, the blue/black/gold stripe with the halter top. I like the subtle shaping of the waistbands too, and how how the proportions of the tiers change.

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sarah September 13, 2007 at 10:06 am

I have to agree with the commenters above, I didn’t think about the gathers at all — actually I think those petticoat style skirts can be very flattering to all. I looked at that dress and thought “cute, but not on my boobs…they’d be trying to escape every second I wore it.” And I don’t think it would look half so nice with a camisole added underneath.

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MinaW September 13, 2007 at 10:12 am

Not to take away from what Erin said, with which I totally agree, but in my costuming experience this style actually is very flattering on people who are large in the middle and rear. (This from my slender-waisted days, loaning one of my costumes to a lady who was substantially built, and who looked fantastic in it.The important characteristics are: wide band at high waist, very flared skirt, (not straight!) gathered or not, & long length, at least as long as the longer of the two of these, even better full length. That makes you look taller, because of the high waist. Yeah, a camisole, or even a long-sleeve top to make this wearable for winter. I suspect we’d want an inset in those armholes too. But isn’t it great to see pretty dresses showing up again? And I like it that he shows real hair too.Mina W

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Jenna September 13, 2007 at 10:14 am

It really is a lovely dress, and I think the blue idea would be beautiful. The berry is nice, but I think I might try putting one of these together and just go for a solid progression of light to dark. Less purple, more a rose to crimson kinda thing. With a lovely shawl I have, I might have figured out my Christmas party dress.As to your last paragraph? I can’t agree more. Several years I had to take a good long look in the mirror and decide what I was going to do. I’m at no point the conventional “look”. 6’2, busty as all get out, and with the rest of the proportions to match. I could either drive myself crazy trying to force my body into some mold that, let’s be honest, it would never fit…. or accept the way I was and as long as I was healthy, be happy. I could lose every ounce of fat and would still have to deal with the fact bone doesn’t shift!The day I truely accepted myself was the day before my first date with my husband. I’ve never looked back. Its funny. I wear clothes now that I would never have worn back when I was in my teens, but as I near 30 I have figured out if YOU think you look great, it permeates your walk, and others think so too.(All that being said, I AM glad styles are shifting to normal women wear…. I’ve given up buying clothes and make my own to avoid the Britney Spears Belly Bare.)

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Jenna September 13, 2007 at 10:24 am

I love acid green, but it makes me look like I have jaundice. But an ombre-like layering of green colors, with dark on the top and pale on the bottom, would be pretty. It would also emphasise the fullness and swishiness of the skirt.And I love that berry color myself; I’m thinking about doing my wedding dress in a color like that.Like XSTPenguin, I’m also more leery of the plunging V neck than I am of the shape itself. If you’re a busty gal, a baggy, deep V neck is a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen.

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Kate in England September 13, 2007 at 10:29 am

If we’re talking graduating colours, would this be the opportunity I’ve been looking for to use one of these Dip-dyed ombre georgettes?

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Ladygrande (Texas Marie) September 13, 2007 at 10:34 am

Be sure to check out the Ralph Lauren collection also! Lovely designs – hats and gloves on the models (not exactly color appropriate, but lovely!).

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 10:36 am

I already am fat, I wear what I want!!!! I LOVE both dresses! I can’t pull off that green near my face, but maybe dark Teal…..

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jenny September 13, 2007 at 10:40 am

If you like these, you might also check out the Donna Karan collection for Spring… gorgeous, gorgeous. And a lot of them read like a “dress a day” drea: 1950s silhouettes, full skirts, pockets!

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Deirdre September 13, 2007 at 10:56 am

Love these dresses! I figured out last summer that I look good in tiered dresses with v-shaped necklines (hourglass figure). So I look forward to this style (and this time around let’s hope there’s no calico involved — Holly Hobbie, anyone?)

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 11:08 am

I love both colors, and they would look good on me. I wear berry, green, pumpkin, and all the fall colors that look fabulous with my complexion all year round. If you are concerned about the plunging neck line, make it a little less plunging to corral your boobs. That is the beauty about sewing-you can change it to make it work.LindaP.S. I love this web site!

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La BellaDonna September 13, 2007 at 11:09 am

I wear necklines like that without thinking twice because, um, they give me someplace to put what I have. There are Good Things to Try: (yes, more Sewing Seekrits)Stretch some clear elastic on the underside and stitch in place; this way, at least the neckline doesn’t gape and let your treasures escape and hit passersby in the eye;Do the same trick with stretch lace;Fill in the neckline with a couple of rows of non-stretch lace down each side, filling in toward the center;File in the neckline with a lace insert;Wear a camisole;File in the neckline with a little dickey (aka “stomacher”) that you’ve made to coordinate out of that really pretty trim you don’t know what to do with, and velcro, snap, or hook-and-eye it in place (this is for those of us who get too warm to wear another full layer underneath, most of the time). (I just realized that I actually have that kind of trim that goes with both those exact dresses, BTW.)And Minaw is quite right; you can hide a multitude of hips under those skirts. The ladies with big hips/thighs/backsides should fear these least of any skirts! Kate from England, I think the ombre georgettes would be gorgeous; most of the layering of colour with the fabric strips produces that effect.By and large, my tendency is to go from lightest colour down to dark on bottom, mostly because this way, the light colour reflects up to my face, and the dark colour (hopefully) hides any contact with floors, puddles, cathair tumbleweeds, etc. If you do use a lovely lightweight drifty fabric, you might consider running a narrow horsehair band behind the hem, extending past the edge just a little bit, so it takes any abrasion. (That’s another reason the darkest layer is on the bottom of my skirts; I machine stitch hems, these days, unless they’re historical pieces, because I walk on them.)And also: What Erin said.

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 11:17 am

I think if it was sewn up in afine jersey it would great onthose of us with extra pounds.It would drape beautifully.

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 11:22 am

Negative Nancy here to say, I love you. I love your blog. I love that you write about how dresses feel, and sound, and move, and that you invite your readers to think about what it’s like to LIVE in clothing instead of worry about whether it makes them look fat. I wish this were a trend in mainstream fashion: privileging women’s subjective experience of their bodies over others’ assessment of their appearance.

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MinaW September 13, 2007 at 12:13 pm

For something like the ombr georgette in a dress, check out the Zac Posen dresses I’ve referenced here:http://wrwcolors.blogspot.com/2007/09/gorgeous-dresses-everywhere.html

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Nora September 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm

“I wish this were a trend in mainstream fashion: privileging women’s subjective experience of their bodies over others’ assessment of their appearance.”This is a really interesting question to me, anon; my first thought was, well, that will never be a trend, because to sell a lot of things you have to first sell anxiety, e.g. anxiety about looking “au courant,” or thin, or whatever (the thing is the remedy for the anxiety, right?)But then I thought, but why should it be so hard to sell the feelings Erin describes, which are more reliable, actually? The sounds, the textures, the colors. Then I thought, well, for clothing to really feel fantastic it has to be pretty well made, which means more expensive, longer-lasting, etc.; which means less stuff sold (even if at higher prices). And really, for stuff to feel extra-fantastic it has to really fit the person who’s wearing it. And that doesn’t work so well with the off-the-rack industry.There’s potential here for a whole different kind of fashion industry (with a long tail?) – but all these musings are probably better addressed by Erin in another post. But Erin, I just love your basic point. If women prioritized how they felt over how they looked they’d be even more of a force to be reckoned with.Sew on, sisters!

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Shauna September 13, 2007 at 1:09 pm

If I had that dress I would twirl.

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tea September 13, 2007 at 1:57 pm

Funny you should mention the feel of the clothing over the look of it. This summer I bought a delightfully lightweight polyblend charmeuse on clearance ($2/yd. ! what!? yup.), and made a Duro. Uncut, the fabric was graduated with a heavy hand-drawn floral pattern along one edge and small, scattered flowers throughout the rest of it (all shades of blue). Perfect for making contrast bands with the heavy floral and the base of the dress with the light scatters. I simply love this dress. It’s too flashy to wear once a week, so I’ve had to meter it out throughout the summer so as to not overwhelm others with seeing me in it so often. But every time I wear this dress, I feel incredibly fantastic. Today I am wearing it for perhaps the last time this season because soon it will be way too cold to do so. I feel like I am floating in magic all day. I am on a constant hunt for similar fabric so that I can make a million other things out of it. I had no idea how much I would love it at the time I bought it, which is why I didn’t buy the whole bolt. The only drawback to this dress is that I absolutely, without question, look like a houseboat in it. I cannot, however, imagine allowing this to deter me from wearing it because the fabulous feeling overrides any sense of concern over others thinking I have gained 100 lbs. overnight. As another commenter above mentioned, instead, I think I look like a small person dressing big. And there is a wonderful, protective feeling about being in a giant costume all day. I feel like I’m putting on a dress and taking on another persona, almost. Any day I wear this dress is going to be a good day. Which is why I like to wear it to doctor appointment days, like today. This dress is a safety net. Also, I wanted to chime in about color: the berry and the acid green are what I love most about the posted dresses. But I like the idea of another commenter about shades of yellow, too. Very good call.

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Kelly September 13, 2007 at 2:50 pm

Erin, once again your prove why you are my hero. :-) You tell us, sister!

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Jonquil September 13, 2007 at 3:00 pm

I *just* bought the ruffle attachment for my Bernina, and in fact have a rose rayon tiered crepe petticoat all cut out and needing only final assemblyg. Clearly I am in tune with the Zeitgeist.

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Angela September 13, 2007 at 3:02 pm

They are beautiful. I also want the matching triangle of hair that the models have!

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Holy Smokes! Am I the only person in the world who thinks these dresses are ugly? They would look cute on a 7 year old, yes. I love dresses because they’re beautiful and make me look like a lady (unlike my jeans and old t-shirts that I’m constantly in for lack of decent nursing wear). If the feel and swoosh of the fabric and the feeling of a “costume” are what are so appealing, why not just wear a big silky Mumu? With pockets! Please!!! I’m now finished ranting.~Erin Ann

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Kate in England September 13, 2007 at 4:12 pm

“Then I thought, well, for clothing to really feel fantastic it has to be pretty well made, which means more expensive, longer-lasting, etc.; which means less stuff sold (even if at higher prices). And really, for stuff to feel extra-fantastic it has to really fit the person who’s wearing it. And that doesn’t work so well with the off-the-rack industry. There’s potential here for a whole different kind of fashion industry (with a long tail?)”Nora – I sure as hell hope you’re right! Kate in England[formerly a copy-editor; now studying for a degree in bespoke tailoring, womenswear]

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rb September 13, 2007 at 5:14 pm

But it would make me look fat!Actually, pregnant. And I’m tired of getting asked when I’m due. Be gone, empire waists.

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deanne September 13, 2007 at 6:48 pm

those dresses are gorgeous, and i love your comments on them – who cares “how fat” they’ll make you look? they’re beautiful and would feel good and sound good! we need more people like you making commentary on today’s fashion! Cheers!

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keli September 13, 2007 at 7:22 pm

SING IT, SISTER!ha! i’m a lurker but i loved that and i had to comment…

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Anonymous September 13, 2007 at 9:14 pm

Just to illustrate Erin’s point further:I have a pear-shaped figure (small chest, slim waist, well-padded posterior). After years of fretting about my weight and unfashionable figure, I made a decision a few months back to stop worrying about the size of my behind and just enjoy being healthy and fit. Shortly after, I got an empire line dress in pale yellow with beautiful embroidery along the bodice and hem, and a full, knee-length skirt. It would probably make an excellent maternity dress, but I don’t care because it’s incredibly comfortable, and makes me feel happy and light whenever I put it on. I was wearing it the other day, when I bumped into a guy I’d gone out on a date with about a year ago, and who’d never called back. This time, he couldn’t stop commenting on how radiant and lovely I looked. He contacted me the next day to ask me out (I said no). It was a wonderfully satisfying moment. :)And I would definitely wear that berry coloured dress. It’s simply gorgeous!

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Maureen September 13, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Hi,I just plain love the dresses and covet them and would wear one no matter what!!Maureen

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Laura September 13, 2007 at 10:36 pm

The colors are lovely, but I have to echo Erin Ann – tiered skirts make me feel like I’m about 12 and dressing like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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LA MIGRAINEUSE September 13, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Hate the green, adore the berry–enough that my brain is trying to categorise them as different cuts.As for the bulk of the skirt it’s not about fat for me–rather I flinch at the feel of the extra fabric at the top of each tier when I’d sit down.Man I wish I hadn’t sucked so much at sewing.Still, I have a gazillion more dresses than I did a couple years ago, and even though I’m considering wearing black to a wedding in a few months, you’ve expanded how I think about them.

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Kate September 14, 2007 at 12:01 am

Erin, you are SO right about so many things! I think the empire waist is great for hiding figure flaws. Not sure I could get away with that sleeve but worth a try. Love the idea of ombre but think velvet would be too heavy. Just think how pretty the dress in silk would look with with a floppy straw picture hat balancing out the width of those tiers. GO for it. Pretty makes you feel pretty makes you feel good! K Q:-)

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saidee September 14, 2007 at 2:39 am

Love the dresses–both colors–love the conversation and I agree with you, Erin. I’m so glad you are willing to speak out on these issues in a public forum. And it’s so fun to read comments like the one about LOOKING like a houseboat, but FEELING fantastic, so wearing the dress anyway. Life is just too damn short to live any other way!! I remember saying that once I got to be my friend Corenne’s age, (she was over 50 at the time), I would wear loud colors, horizontal stripes, all the crazy, fun and often unflattering clothing that she wore with panache. Finally Someone said to me–I was in my 30s–why are you waiting? So I haven’t, more or less, and now I’m 59. I do have a ways to go to live up to Corenne’s standard, though!

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Pencils September 14, 2007 at 4:58 am

This reminds me of a line from Buffy the Vampire slayer regarding a purple sweater: “No, the fact that you’re fat makes you look fat. That sweater just makes you look purple.”

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WendyB September 14, 2007 at 9:35 am

Pretty … they remind me very much of Ossie Clark.

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robyn September 15, 2007 at 7:13 am

Your last paragraph is gold! But before reading it, I was thinking “Hey, I could wear those and look good!” The key would be in the fabric, and cutting the tiers so they wouldn’t be bulky.I’m saving those photos for spring inspiration, and copying your last paragraph to stick on my mirror.

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Anonymous September 16, 2007 at 12:37 am

I’m a pear with a slim waist, and I love full skirts. They don’t make your butt look big, because it’s quite obvious all that volume isn’t you, it’s the fabric. Which doesn’t mean I don’t agree that we need to quit being so scared of looking big./Monika

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Diana @ So Fash'on September 21, 2007 at 2:00 am

love tires and ruffles! I would constantly live in such dresses!

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Jen September 21, 2007 at 10:34 am

Wow, I couldn’t believe that circular quilting/embroidery foot. I think I must have one as well.Also loved the bias binding foot. I have a lot of extra feet around — I should check to see if I already have one before I order one.Erin, thank you so much for the site. Wow, can’t believe I’ve actually found someone who stares in the face of “What Not to Wear” and says “Oh yeah?” Thank God! I love the styles, love the links. I’ve found my soul-website-mate!JenMiddle-of-Nowhere-and-Thank-God-for-Ebay, NC

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Riley September 22, 2007 at 9:03 pm

i love them…they again remind me of the ones that jcrew does….riley-whatshappeningfashion.blogspot.com

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