The not-too-dressed-up dress and run-around shoes

Introducing Know Your Seasonal Style, a new series for That’s Not My Age. Now I know you’re sick to death of seeing me in that army green jumpsuit so to liven things up a bit I thought it would be useful to offer an edit of the collections, each season. To showcase a small selection of items from larger retailers and independent brands, the kind of things that grown-up women might want to wear. Rather than pictures of me in my own clothes. Kicking things off with the not-too-dressed-up dress – one of the wardrobe essentials highlighted in Know Your Style. The dress for women who don’t often wear dresses and who (like me) appreciate uncomplicated, faff-free style. Oh and as well as feeling effortless, the other criteria is: it has to look good with flat shoes or trainers. This not-too-dressed-up, drop-waist dress is from Kin at John Lewis, whose latest summer collection is very fine. The colourful, abstract pattern is quite adventurous for me but I just focused on the backdrop of navy and khaki green and revelled in the glory of resembling a Matisse cut-out.

Photos: Claire Pepper


Know Your Seasonal Style does involve a certain amount of experimentation – I will be trying new shapes and styles, such as the not-too-dressed-up dress. And while I don’t mind taking risks, the item has to be something I would actually wear. Sometimes together with my own clothes. The pale pink suede brogues are by Grenson (note how I’ve cleverly matched them to the colour of my legs), available HERE. Other Grenson’s styles, available HERE. The leather crossbody bag is M.Hulot. If it helps give an idea of proportions: I’m a size 12 and 5′ 10″. For the purpose of transparency, I called-in items for the photoshoot and then sent everything back afterwards. I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this bi-annual project – is it useful to see an edit of what’s new?



 Please note: affiliate links in this post may generate commission.

65 thoughts on “Know Your Seasonal Style: the not-too-dressed up dress

  1. Yes! This is a great idea, thank you. It is always good to see different trends and ideas & then see if they fit with your own style. Thank you for all the research!

  2. Hi Alyson,

    A great idea; there is just too much selection out there. I love clothes – always have, always will and have done for most of my 71 years. But I have a life to live and don’t have time/want to trawl through all the dross.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. Dear Alyson, compliments on your willingness to test out different styles! The dress is not a bad choice as far as the style is concerned, but for you, the colors are too dull. And too many. There should in my opinion be more of a blue sufficiently bright to complement your eyes and so, your teint. The shape of the dress is pleasant, but the distribution of the colors around the shoulders makes it float outwards, so to speak, and the structure of the shoulders is essential in this case, it should be much more defined to hold it all together. Great compliments on your blog, it is very pleasant and interesting reading.
    Friendly regards
    Anne Marit

  4. Yes! This is a great idea, very useful to know what’s on offer from the High Street as worn by someone of ‘our’ age. Also good to see you in a different look. So I’m very glad you’ve decided to do this – hopefully lots more from the current season to come.

  5. Thank you! I share your views exactly (easy clothes that look good) and can’t wait to see what you highlight. However I am 5’1” tall so really have to adapt your ideas.

  6. I love having a loose fitting, longish dress in my closet for those days when I just want ONE piece to put on. Nice and simple. There is a saying in the recovery world (my world for many years), “Wear the world like a loose garment.” Said dress fills the bill.

  7. I need more of these dresses, one and done. You look fantastic and the colour is a nice experiment. Can’t wait for the next installment.

  8. Hi Alison! I have both your books, and love your style and faff free approach to style and dressing. I am a collector of oxfords, and thank you in part for that! So, the feature–love it! How about monthly??!! So helpful. The dress–too big for you. Does not fit, even for a faff free dresser. And I do not love the colors on you. But, thank you, and might buy one of the dresses featured below. Hugs from across the pond.

  9. Great dress….perfect for the ‘arty’ amongst us & the no longer size 12. I’d wear this & not often I say that…

  10. Great idea but I’m finding these flowy dresses awfully sack like and droopy. Perhaps its because I’m only 5’2″ but without some kind of structure or definition these garments (and I’ve tried – and tie belts are ok but still a challenge if you’re little) are swamping and aging and just as unflattering as all the bardot necklines and cut out bits that are still too much around. Maybe you need to find a mini me to join you in the pictures! Not me though, that’s not an offer…

    1. I’m with you on this one – I’m a bit hourglass-y and I just look awful in anything drapey or floaty; I need much more structure. Belts can cut me in half and make me look squat. Shirt-dresses in regular have the waist in the wrong place; drawstring ones make my chest look deformed, and petite ones just don’t fit…For me a shaped dress with some ruching and a wide or asymmetric neckline work well but then they seem a lot more formal. Maybe that’s just the way it has to be. I’m often recommended wrap dresses, but most of the time I can’t get the wrap to go over my breasts at all if the dress is the right size.

  11. It’s a nice idea- thank you, we can all do with having the trends filleted before we go to the shops- but oh dear this dress doesn’t suit you. As well as the comments above about size and pattern etc I don’t think wrist length sleeves are right. I’ve never felt like this about anything you’ve worn on your wonderful blog before. Sorry!!

  12. Just love this idea Alyson and look forward to seeing more posts on ‘unfaffable dresses’. I actually tried this dress on last week, unfortunately not right for me as slightly too ‘unstructured’. I’m determined to try and wear more dresses and less trousers this season so will keep looking

  13. Ooh, I want that Dolly Midi Gingham dress – but it’s out of stock in my size. Boo hoo! But now I’m on a hunt for yellow gingham…

  14. So great to hear you are 5ft 10ins as I am too and have such problems buying clothes that fit . But I have a long body and “short” legs at 34ins and I have a large bust which makes things even more tricky. I am so glad to have stumbled across your blog. I’m 55 and love reading about fashion.

  15. I like that you push your envelope and introduce us to clothing we might not have considered.
    So will it be tights or fake tan to differentiate the legs and shoes – whose colour I love but you have given most of a warning of an issue to look out for!

  16. Love the shoes and love the bag, and normally I like Kin clothes but I really don’t like this dress – I find the big flowing sizes a bit frumpy I’m afraid, reminds me a bit of a 1980s Laura Ashleyin style, and also don’t like the colours. I’m not sure it really suits you, and you’re tall and slim, I’m quite a bit shorter than you so it definitely wouldn’t suit me. But great that you’re experimenting and I love seeing different styles!

  17. Hello again Alison….my philosophy for dresses is just like yours…everyday casual and easy to wear. I agree with some of the comments noting that the dress you are wearing, though very nice on you, is a bit too floaty, which on a daily basis is hard to wear. Mine are stiffer and cut closer to the body, but still loose. My 2 new designs, A Smock, and A Tunic Dress would fit the bill perfectly. I think you would really like them in the fabric I call ‘View from the Shore’. I would be happy to send you a sample to try one out. A reminder: I am a small independent designer based in Los Angeles making dresses, tops and dusters in bold, neutral, and classic natural woven fabrics inspired by the light and sights of California. My customers are mostly our age (50+).

  18. Excellent idea, Alison. Helps to hone down the season’s offer on the high street. And also like the idea of seeing it on a ‘real’ person (aka, you ). Gives a better idea, I feel.

  19. I generally love the clothes you wear in your photos, but this one……not so much. I was glad to read that it is not yours. I agree that it’s occasionally nice to step out of our comfort zones, but I’ve found that my personal style developed the way it did for good reasons. I’ll be interested to see how this exploration of seasonal trends pans out, if there is anything you embrace for your everyday life.

  20. I really like seeing you in some more lively things. Like you I find I fall back to my comfort clothes. They’re blue and often denim and I can relax in them well but I crave some more upbeat colour especially in spring and summer. Comfort is still a must though. And i’m a big fan of comfort walkable shoes. I find it challenging to find shoes that are flatter but still work with skirts and dresses. I share you height so flat or low heels are better for me too. Thanks for some fresh examples

  21. I love that photo – even if you’d not wear it IRL, and I wouldn’t wear it IRL, I can triangulate to the sneakers I might wear with the black jersey maxi dress I will wear.

    So, in brief, yes.

  22. At 55 years old, i want to look graceful and ‘together’, sadly these dresses do nothing for me. At 5ft nothing, i feel like im wearing a sack when ive tried them on. Please find something amazing for the petite ladies. I dont think flowery blouses and flappy trousers are the answer either! Help me look and feel elegant, not a flump in a sack!

  23. I was just daydreaming about a comfortable, non-structured dress as I tugged off my jeans! Oh the freedom of movement a loose dress can provide—no belt, no tight bust or hips and long sleeves to keep away the sun. As someone who can wear strong colors, I appreciate seeing you in more than pale blue, a color I can’t wear. Thanks for breaking the traditional mold. More of this!

  24. I look forward to this series – there is so much out there that it will be good to have it encapsulated for us.

  25. Another evocative portrait of you Alyson. I always like the way you are photographed , here against a whitewashed brick wall in profile.
    Do continue with a Seasonal How to Dress feature. It’s helpful to see what’s around to buy in a genre Personally I’m pleased that long sleeved long dresses are available now. I’ve always worn them. Belted denim instead of dungarees as student and thereafter.
    Of all these I’d wear the red floral one and the gingham one and the marigold one. Have similar in my wardrobe. Like several others writing in we don’t have the height to wear voluminous dresses well. I’m around five foot five or less tall and with a bosom but not much in way of buttocks so have to work around lose comfortable dresses. For me always belted and otherwise I have darts put in waist at back to slim down the mid section. Then one has the full skirted looseness but more fit in top half. Straight shirt dresses a good solution for someone of my size and shape. I have several dresses from Oska I’ve worn for faff free occasions recently. A stretch cotton mix fabric with asymmetrical hems high necklines. Flattering and comfortable. I wear with big bracelets and necklaces on top to add interest. Coloured tights and flattish shoes or ankle boots to match boots. I buy them to fit shoulders and bosom and have them modified or wear with a belt so overall fit is flattering.
    That’s what we all want. To feel confident and comfortable in our clothes. No big lace ups for me due to big feet for my height. But something with an inch or two of heel works well. Happy to be a mini me in a short version should you need one.

    Do keep up the interesting range of topics covered. As someone writes it’s useful to see these dresses worn by an older person so one can visualise wearing them. On Wednesday Anna Murphy in Times had excellent feature on Occasion wear. Many online labels I had never heard of. Including Vampire Wife. Plus the usual suspects from High street shops at a more affordable price point in less nice fabrics. Worth seeing this for ideas. She’s one grey haired fashion journalist whose hair and style I admire.

  26. Hello Alyson,
    I would like to see more of thos sort of post. I’m 5’11” and find it impossible to buy a midi dresss which is long enough and which covers my arms. When you are tall you can look like a baggy tent as well! That’s why I live in jeans!

  27. This is an excellent idea! I would love to see it every month, not jut bi-annually! (But I appreciate the work involved.) Being a committed dress wearer, I particularly love this one, and the edit you’ve done. Loving your work! xx

  28. Just sat back finally relaxing with Grazia. What do I see first but a two page spread :
    Say Hello to the Do-it-all Dress.
    Similar long floral or shirt dress styles as you featured. One emerald green one worn with puffa jacket and big white Dad type trainers. A cool practical look for this transition period when one wants to wear something more colourful.

  29. Like a number of women who have commented, I am also 5’2″ and a size 10, unstructured below the knee frocks with large patters do nothing for me. I am trying very hard to limit wearing jeans and would dearly love to find some easy to wear frocks for spring and autumn, summer is not so difficult.

  30. Love this dea and appreciate the effort s going to take. I really love the look of shirt dresses with jogging/leggings and sneakers. I’ve recently purchased white and medium navy jogging to wear with both striped shirt dress, and Eileen Fisher dress/long tunics layered over sleeveless crisp white shirts. Intending to pair with sneakers and flat sandal – waiting waiting waiting for weather to change. Looking for “casual” dress to wear to simple/not fancy wedding. Any suggestions?

  31. Well now, I wasn’t going to say anything about the army green jumpsuit, but since you mention it… I do agree with others that the shape of the dress isn’t quite right, but love the idea of you trying out new stuff for us. I shop at Johnny Lou Lou’s all the time, but have never really looked at their Kin range. Don’t know why, will put that right now.

    Thanks for doing this – really interesting

  32. I know my style. I know you know YOUR style. I am never tired of seeing you wear your style. That’s why your blog is the first I read each day.
    I am also very tall and feel more comfortable and pulled together in something other than a dress with a pattern. Maybe, just maybe, a skirt with a simple flattering top but 99% of the time I am in pants. And, happy about it. My last dress was a summery Laura Ashley concoction decades (5?) ago.
    When a new season blows in, I buy shoes, a new bag or a scarf and keep everything else ‘me’. ‘Seasonal’ style to me means honoring my own personal style but tweaking with a change in fabric, texture and tone. My style is my signature.

  33. I love this series idea – quarterly would be fun! I’ve gotten some great ideas from your books and website lately, so please, keep them coming!

  34. I seriously love the khaki and navy interspersed with flashes of colour in such a “Matisse” inspired print!! I think those hues are so you! I am seriously not a dress kinda gal…but this does give me hope! Not sure about the sleeves but the whole thing really gels with me. It take a bit of getting used to when you are adopting a new silhouette but I really think this one works. I am a size eight but five foot six so probably a similar body shape to you and I would love to wear this dress with cross body bag (as you do…bag across body gives a bit of definition….I think) and deffo flat shoes…am a huge fan of brogues of all just look comfy, relaxed, ready for anything and really quite arty…love it.

  35. Love the idea,a pull on dress!! However as you have mentioned it is too oversized on you. Love the tonal shoes. Please show a dress for a 5ft 6″ curvy woman.

  36. Alas the two dresses I loved (the orange floral and the green with white flowers) were DvF and so WAY beyond my means.

  37. Hey! I love that army green boiler suit. But I like these dresses, too. Like others, I appreciate all the options you’ve gone to the trouble of showing us as well. A time-saving (for me) investment (by you). Thanks.

    And excellent matching of shoes and legs. 😉

  38. Hi Alison, I like the dress and the shoes (I have them in silver) but not together. Too heavy for under a dress, I think. And I think you could do with a bit more emphasis on the waist. Do you know the brand ATP Atelier? I think you’ll like them. I’m allways on the lookout for smart clothes that aren’t too formal or too arty. I’ve been trying to get hold of one of the Uniqlo Marimekko dresses ( what do you think about them?) but the one that I want keeps on selling out…..
    Keep up the good work!

  39. Hi Alyson, A big thumbs up from this Canadian reader. Love how you break down the components. Personally I would have gone with a more colourful bag. The dark disappears into the fabric. And I love the variations on the theme displayed at the end of the post. You wear colour well!

  40. To readers in general other places to look for these type of dresses that aren’t too expensive I would suggest Toast and Hobbes. I got a lovely silk dress from Toast online in the autumn in an olive green washed silk with oriental floral design in red and black. Neat collar and basically a shirt dress. I tried it on elsewhere first before ordering. For me their clothes are a bit wide at bottom but size 12 fit shoulders and bust well. I wore it to my son’s registry office wedding part one last week with an olive long cardigan from Berlin and olive suede Arche mid calf boots which I already had with its sash belt. Otherwise I’ve added a leather one to cinch it more. As I have also written about Oska have good simple dresses that I wear winter spring and summer. They look awful on the website but need trying on in a shop. Colours and fabrics always good and fit can be adjusted. And dressed up with nice colourful scarves earrings bracelets necklaces whatever one wants to make a comfortable casual outfit. For a fashion forward look there are always dresses from
    Zara. Long skirted and inexpensive and can be smartened up with better shoes belts accessories. Again they need trying on. Other high street brands have some good dresses in stock now in summery colours.
    We all agree these dresses are very useful. Especially with layers until it gets warmer.

  41. Err, umm – personally I don’t like the Kin dress, too floppy, too distracting and overwhelming. Am I allowed to say that you look uncomfortable with yourself wearing it or will I be blacklisted from TNMA? Your expression looks like you can’t wait to take it off. I am all for experimentation – I do it frequently (sometimes with comical results and comments from family and friends) but these dresses are Not My Cup of Cha at all.
    Great idea to feature seasonal stuff but maybe not too often? Sorry to be such as party pooper as I love your blog.

  42. I was in JL yesterday and noticed the Kin label , thank you for showcasing this interesting dress. I love posts like this .

    I’m glad you borrowed the items because although you wear it very well ,I so much prefer your more androgynous styling in jeans or jumpsuits . That’s my take ,I prefer shirt dresses or something more minimal and find all -over patterns rather mumsy.

    I tried your white boots in Tracey Neuls yesterday .Fab.
    Bought the reflective cyclist sneakers .

  43. I’m never tired of seeing ‘the green jumpsuit’, I wish I could find one here. Anyway, love the new idea for your series. You always have a fresh, but totally workable way of mixing the trends with the classics. I do have to agree with some of the other comments…I think this is too much dress for you. Too much pattern and not enough structure. You have a perfect frame to wear just about anything, perhaps not this.

  44. Tracey Neuls newsletter pops up in my email inbox. Not sure how I got signed up since I have never bought anything. There is Alyson in the white boots you featured a while back.

    I’m inclined to agree with those who prefer you in a more tomboy style and blues not big patterns. I really liked the photographs of you last summer in a plain dark blue dress in front of the blueish Serpentine summer pavilion. Great building it was and great look on you. Probably something you wore and wore. That said its good to try things outside of ones comfort zone in all respects.

  45. Hej Alyson, it’s always a good idea to try new colours/ shapes/ silhouettes/ fabrics/ ideas etc and then showcase them. It sure is a ‘faff’ working out new ‘faff- free’ outfits, I feel you are demonstrating this. Sometimes when trying on an outfit which is outside the comfort zone area, it can take a few revisits before it feels natural or achievable. I’m loving Arket. Perfect for lovers of navy or olive, but as their clothes have a functional edge, newer seasonal colours seem palatable and as it’s pared down, I find it easier to experiment with unfamiliar styling palavas. I’d love you to feature!

  46. I love the thought of a not-too-dressed-up dress, easy to wear, that can be worn for a range of occasions and purposes. However, this one is exceptionally unattractive, unflattering, appears shapeless, and makes you look huge. The bag disappears into it. Sorry to be so direct. I am sure there are many possible dresses, and one day I will find one.

Leave a Reply

Thank you for commenting but please be respectful and considerate.
If you want to be in my gang, play nice.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.