There comes a time every summer where the mercury rises high enough for me to feel reasonably justified in blinding civilians by exposing my translucent legs in a dress or a skirt. People have this weird misconception that wearing a dress is easy, carefree, and filled with lots of unnecessary twirling, but a lot of thought goes into wearing a dress, and when you decide to go pantsless, so many things can go terribly wrong.

Decisions, Decisions…

Deciding what dress/skirt to wear is about as challenging between the flavors orange and banana: neither one is going to end up being as good as you imagine, so you need make the best of a bad situation. No matter what style of skirt or dress you choose, a simple turn of events could potentially land you in Janet Jackson Superbowl territory or have you desperately wandering the streets looking for some Project Runway reject. The wayward journey of dress-wearing begins at the closet ravaging…

This is what high-waisted pencil skirts look like on me... but I'm not expecting.Image source: burlesquebaby
This is what high-waisted pencil skirts look like on me… but I’m not expecting.
Image source: burlesquebaby

The High-Waisted Pencil Skirt: Oh, this one’s a classic! Does wonders for your hips, but alas, unless you have the toned stomach of Audrina Patridge, when you wear this you’ll spend the day wondering how many people think you’re four months pregnant.

The Flowy A-Line Dress: How pretty! …Too bad you won’t be able to swing your arms normally when you walk because you’ll be anchoring that skirt down to avoid a Marilyn moment in front of the hairy-armed guy walking his dog and the school bus full of innocent, cherubic children you pass on the walk to work.

The Peplum-Bearing Dress: Glory to peplum in the highest. I can claim I’m having a “vintage moment” while disguising the big lunch I had yesterday.*

*”Big lunch I had yesterday” refers to ten pounds gained over a few months of treating Doritos and ice cream like actual food groups.

Burn this.Image source: kaboodle
Burn this.
Image source: kaboodle

The Khaki Anything Dress: Burn this unless you’re going to be in a Jeep on a Safari. I know Banana Republic has brainwashed you into thinking this is casual chic by using the term “urban safari,” but they’re full of it.

You’ve weighed the pros and cons and after trying on about four different options (one of them twice), and turning your closet inside out because one-dress-reminded-you-of-that-totally-cute-necklace-you-had-three-years-ago (which, after emptying your entire jewelry box onto the floor, you weren’t able to find), you’re finally dressed! I hope you were working with your full arsenal of clean underwear, because you don’t want to be forced to wear your period boyshorts or the lone French-cut bikini you convinced yourself was a good idea during the Victoria’s Secret semi-annual sale in 2009. I also hope you’re not going commando, because then you’d be dispelling my belief in the myth that only celebrities and socialites do that.

You’re standing there, barefoot, admiring one of your body parts or doing some weird dance (because that’s what I do when I’m alone at home in a dress), and you’re debating the most divisive question there is all bare leg history: to wear pantyhose or to not wear pantyhose?

Let me give you the only two questions you need to ask yourself to arrive at the right answer to this question:

  • Is it 1972?
  • Are you going to pull said pantyhose over your head to obscure your identity and rob a bank?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, do not wear pantyhose.

“Say what you want about long dresses, but they cover a multitude of shins.”

You’re all ready to go, your legs are stubbly, but by all appearances, they look silky smooth. You hit the town on a beautiful, sunny day and cringe in absolute horror when the sun reflects off of the stubble you thought you could keep a secret and suddenly your toned calves look like Ryan Reynold’s chin. Why didn’t I swallow my pride and shave over the sink…

Ladies, we need to talk about about that time of the month in a dress. Am I the only one who, no matter what method of “feminine product” I use, constantly has the phantom feeling of a stream of blood running down the side of my leg? No, it’s never happened, but what would I even do if it did? I’d have to summon my best dramatic cry—that’s the only way I could possibly get out of that situation relatively unscathed.

Spending the day in a dress means facing the genuine functional threats of buttons unbuttoning, zippers breaking, and slits ripping. How many times have you looked down and had to ask yourself, “How long has that button been open?! Is that why that barista gave me my tea for free? He said my eyes reminded him of a baby seal…” Those dresses/skirts with the slit in the back, especially, are not to be trusted. No matter how many times I check, I feel like my butt cheeks are peeking out every time I take a step, which generally isn’t appropriate for the places I’m going, like work, anti-butt cheek conventions, and conservative-dressers anonymous (CDA) meetings.

Vera Wang.Image source: amazon
Vera Wang.
Image source: amazon

If you’re planning on doing a lot of sitting, just wear pants–wearing a dress is only fun when you’re going to be standing around looking effortlessly gorgeous. When you’re upright, you look long, lean, and the dress itself looks its best, too. There’s no giant fat roll that you swear isn’t actually a fat roll, the buttons don’t struggle and the zipper doesn’t make that “don’t push it” sound. Why else do you think there’s so much standing at a wedding? A wedding dress, when its wearer is sitting down, looks like a tumbleweed of lace and tulle or an overgrown ivory loofah.

Seven times out of ten when you sit down in a dress, your bare derriere is going to meet the cold surface of whatever you’re sitting on. I must be doing something wrong here. Mid-sit, I pull the skirt down and smooth it over, yet minutes later there I am, shimmying around inconspicuously and trying in vain to disguise the fact I’m failing at literally covering my ass.

Your butt isn’t the only part of your body you need to consider in a dress—the gams are even worse, even without taking the shaving factor into account. You’ll have an itch on your leg and give it a fantastically satisfying dry skin scratch and forget all about it. …That is, until you stand up 15 minutes later, and your leg looks like it was brutalized by a sabre tooth tiger.

The Red Spot of Doom.
The Red Spot of Doom.

I also hate how it’s custom to cross your legs when you’re wearing a dress or a skirt, because you always get that unsightly Red Spot of Doom on your knees/legs. I don’t like going around town risking people thinking I have a weird red birthmark or patellar psoriasis. The only alternative to leg crossing is that weird ankle pretzel thing that always makes me feel like I’m trying too hard to look elegant. And please, please, please, don’t ever get the bright idea to sit on a textured surface with your legs exposed in a dress. Your fancy couch, a wooden bench with slats, the concrete—in every case, this pattern will be imprinted on your leg, and you’ll stand up to find you’re temporarily branded in the most unflattering way.

No.
No.

The only thing worse than actually wearing a dress is the act of taking it off. In the morning it’s just a mild skirmish—a broken nail and some skin pinched in a zipper, but no major battle wounds. At the end of the day, you have to get scrappy. There will be lots of hopping, frustrated sighing, pulling, and the early sounds of seams ripping until after a black eye and a fat lip, that damn dress is off once and for all. It’s after this experience that you seriously wonder why you ever left your stained, elastic banded sweatpants in the drawer…

Don’t get me wrong, dresses are great on those picturesque days when breathing isn’t that important to you, and it’s a great reprieve from worrying if your fly is down, but it’s not all glamorous. …Stop staring at my Red Spot and my hairy legs.

54 thoughts on “Dress-Induced Dissociative Disorder

  1. I object! I wear dresses all the time. I’m serious. No, I’m not joking, stop looking at me like that. I’m not crazy. Trousers (or pants) don’t fit. My waist to hip ratio is all wrong (Not enough waist / too much hip). To fit my waist I can’t get them over my thighs. To fit my hips – gaping waist and saggy around my arse. No. No, no, no, no, NO! Dresses all the way. The only time I wear anything resembling trousers / pants is during exercise, because sadly I don’t quite have the figure of a tennis player. I’ve given up with ever finding the elusive ‘perfect pair of jeans’.

    1. Okay, I don’t have the pants issues, so I can kind of understand that. I don’t dislike dresses, I just find that they can be so much fussier than pants sometimes. When I have pants on I feel like I have better control over my ensemble, and that’s important to me in a weird way.

      1. I guess I feel the same way about trousers / pants as you do about dresses. I wish I could wear trousers / pants, there are so many cute outfit options available. I used to be able too. I don’t know if it is the extra inch that’s appeared on my hips as I’ve got older, or just the fact that I’ve become really fussy with how things look or that they don’t make trousers / pants for women with curves (when I say curves, I mean as in not straight up and down) anymore! I’m attempting to lose the extra inch to see if it makes any difference.

      2. I find that since I lost weight I’m super picky about my clothes now. Maybe because before I was lucky to find anything that fit at all, and now that I have more options, I have all these weird paranoias.

    1. I have no idea. Truly.

      I like them, don’t get me wrong, I see a cute dress in Forever 21, and two seconds later my debit card is out, but it’s not without its efforts.

  2. I love wearing dresses, but I have to be in the right mood and the weather must be right…lots of factors go into deciding whether or not to wear a dress, which you covered beautifully here.

  3. Out, damn red spot of doom!!! Instantly makes me feel like a giant dweeb. “Why yes, I am a confident professional… please just ignore my 13-year-old-girl-esque wrinkled linen skirt and super obvious red thigh mark…”

    1. YES. I hate it so much, because I feel like not everyone is aware of it, and sometimes you have that moment where you know someone saw it, and you can just tell they were thinking, “what’s on that girl’s leg…”

  4. I’ve always been a skirt sort of girl, but last summer, I discovered that dresses are way cooler than skirts. That’s important when it’s 110 degrees outside. So, now I have a ton of dresses. I’m all about the empire waist. So comfy. And, never hose.

    Boy shorts are the solution. That way, if you bend over, you don’t have a Marylin moment. 🙂

    1. I prefer dresses to skirts too, because I never know what to do with my top when I’m wearing a skirt. Do I tuck it in? But then I look fat, but if I don’t tuck it in, I look sloppy. Dresses are just easier. Give me a onesie, and let’s call it an outfit.

      With boyshorts I worry about visible panty line, if it’s a form-fitting dress…. That may be worse than my ass being exposed, in my book.

      1. Dresses are easier. I don’t wear form-fitting dresses and if I do, they’re typically long enough to not worry about the bending over business. 🙂

      2. I can’t wear form-fitting dresses either, because people would either think I have no sense of self-awareness that it’s unflattering, or worse, that I’m with child.

  5. I love wearing dresses, but it’s just so hard! How many things can you pay attention to at once?! I get why they invented pantyhose. I’m not saying anyone except bank robbers and the old lady across the street should wear them, but I GET it.

    1. See, I don’t mind tights, but panty hose? Maybe because I’m pale I have a special aversion to it, because they don’t make a color that’s flattering for fair skinned people.

      I love dresses, too, but… They make me paranoid.

  6. the Japanese have an answer to your troubles. They wear shorts under their skirts here and the big fashion right now is hose/tights with embellishments on them. My biggest problem with skirts/dresses is the current rubbing of the inner thighs. I’m working on getting ride of this extra weight but until then, it’s a nasty rash I have to deal with unless I use the shorts or hose.

    1. Okay, so I’ve never actually done this, but when I was bigger and I was looking for a chafing solution I read deodorant can help with the friction.

      The shorts… I don’t know. I just feel like it would be awkward and bulky and make my thighs look 10x bigger than they already are. It treads dangerously close to skort territory.

      1. Part of the reason for the shorts is because it’s really windy here so skirts tend to go up, also they wear VERY short skirts. I’ve been wearing spandex shorts under my skirts/dresses and it’s ok.

        Thanks for the chafing advice, I use talc which can help but for now the hose and/or shorts are working great. It’s also incentive for me working out that part of my body. It’s a 2013 goal. If it doesn’t irritate me I’ll lose focus on it.

      2. Well, hopefully you don’t have to lose as much weight as I had to, but now instead of them rubbing from being fat, now there’s skin there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not nearly as bad, but it’s still an issue.

  7. I think I’d go with spandex shorts or something along those lines while wearing a dress. But it depends on the cut too. I really like dresses too, but most days I scurry to jeans. Even though jeans don’t fit me correctly either. (not enough waist, too much hips) I have been trying to buy more though, modcloth.com will be the end of my money surplus (but SO CUTE), because they are better than wearing jeans when it’s 108 degrees outside for a week straight. Which just happened.

    What do you think about skorts? I like them because less of the showing your goods problem, but still the look of a cute skirt. The one I own looks like a skirt all around too, so they don’t look like the ones I wore as a uniform in fourth grade.

    1. I have a friend that swears by the spandex shorts under the dress… but I don’t know. Maybe because I still feel like, phantom fat, I just imagine it being really bulky and having a painful chafing situation or something.

      Skorts… I don’t know. I think I had one when I was a kid, and I just didn’t get them. I hate when things can’t decide what they are, like sporks. I disagree with them on an ideological level.

      1. I can respect that 🙂 Like I said, the one I have looks like a skirt all the way around, but doesn’t ride up like a skirt does. It’s just a win win for me 🙂

  8. I own exactly three dresses, and I have at least one of the above mentioned issues with ALL OF THEM. and I live in a place where the weather is only “dress weather” for roughly the amount of time it takes to mow the lawn. But do I get rid of my 3 grisliest garments? Nope. Because I love them. Because I lack good sense.

    1. I think the only solution is a maxi dress, but I can’t pull it off. I see other women, especially now during summer, wearing them and looking all casual chic, and I don’t get it. When I wear one, I look like I’m wearing a gown, and it’s just ridiculous.

  9. I love dresses but they are an absolute pain in the ass. And you are not the only one to get freaky about wearing dresses when Aunt Flo comes to visit. I blatantly refuse because I always feel like I’m bleeding out no matter what I’m wearing. It’s just not fun.

    1. Oh my gosh, thank you for telling me that. I know it’s a gross thing to say but like, at least with pants I have an added layer of material, with a dress or a skirt on? It’s just a free-for-all down there, and I imagine the worst.

  10. I love dresses and skirt but feel the pain of every word in this post. i’m so happy it’s currently Winter in Australia and I get to wear opaque tights (not stockings) so i don’t have to shave my legs for 3 months. hooray!

    I have also once had a leather mini skirt zipper bust open on me after a particularly large lunch.

    1. I love them too, but they can be a disaster! Also, I totally forgot you guys are on an opposite season schedule down there. Black tights are seriously a lifesaver in fall/winter.

      I have a (p)leather mini skirt that I rarely wear exactly because of that fear.

  11. Huh. I think you might just be buying them too short. I am kind of fashion impaired and I love dresses because you don’t have to match anything. It’s just one thing and it looks good with itself. Done. Love love love.

    1. I really don’t! Most of my dresses are knee-length or maybe an inch or two shorter. I don’t always like putting my softball player-looking thighs on display.

      I totally agree with what you’re saying about it being an entire outfit though. I’m horrible about matching things.

  12. I use this space to publicly defend why I wear pantyhose to the office IN THE SUMMER. Yes, it is hot, restrictive, and–on the surface–insane. But I work in special collections. And that stacks temperature is 65 degrees with 50% humidity. So I suffer coming and going, but they keep me nice and warm while I am in the office.

    Thank you for providing this forum.

    1. I just… I’d rather wear pants. The other side of this, for me, is that I get probably one or two uses out of tights before I inevitably make a hole in them somehow.

  13. The worst one is the sister of the red spot of doom – the criss cross leg of horror. Glorious weather, you rock the sun dress and take to a cafe for a spot of al fresco beveraging, when lo! The chairs are those stupid net or wood ones and you get up looking like someone has been smacking your thighs with a tennis racket at force.
    Needless to say that look isnt the one!

    1. OH YES! I hate that one! Those metal criss-cross chairs are equally bad. I don’t like having any kind of weird marks on my legs that I worry people will see and wonder what kind of weird disease I have.

    1. Hey Katie, just stumbled upon this post and I found your comments on the red spot of doom hilarious! Don’t worry, it happens even to the best. This is tennis pro Maria Sharapova, who I believe was sitting with her legs crossed while signing autographs, sporting the red spot of doom:

Don't you sass me! ...Actually, please do.

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