PSA: That is a Shirt, Not a Dress.


Ok, this is my random thought for the week.  This has to be said, much like four or five years ago when we all had to band together as a gender and decide that “tights are not leggings” ( nice thong!) and “leggings are not pants”.  The 2015 version of this is “that shirtdress is a shirt, not a dress”.   Someone brought this up to me the other day when witnessing an otherwise pulled together woman strutting around in public in not only an insanely short shirtdress, but also a sheer one and was BAFFLED. I think I can safely say that  no woman ever wants a man to look at her and have his first thought be “Oh my God, she forgot to put her pants on this morning! Poor woman!”

Now before people start calling me an pregnant old lady and assuming that I want women to wear mumus and floor length turtlenecks, that is obviously not the case. I love a good shirtdress. Short ones! I wear them too! But more often these days I’ve spotted ladies in shirtdresses with slits on the sides that go way too far up, displaying full on ass cheek in public with the slightest bed of the waist or tickle of a summer breeze. Heaven forbid they attempt to sit down. Oh man, I’ve been flashed with so much more underwear than I ever want to see this summer.

Just because it says it’s a dress on the tag does not mean it can and should be worn like one.   It’s partially the fault of the clothing designers too! I wonder what they were thinking when deciding on the length of certain “dresses”?  Was the intention for it to be a tunic? A dress for very, very short people but sans “petite” tag? A confusing garment meant to baffle us as to it’s proper use?

As a tall woman I’ve long had issues with short things being too short on me. I’m pretty attentive to it and when in doubt, put opaque tights on underneath anything I feel overexposed in.  But even then, I’ll spend most of the day or night wriggling in discomfort trying hard not to be “that girl” in the super short dress.  In summer, fuggetaboutit. Other then putting on a pair of shorts underneath, there’s not many options without overheating to the point of passing out. There’s a fine line between sexy short and “I can see your hoo-haa!!” short (yes, I pulled that line right from Forgetting Sarah Marshall...)

The test I always run in the dressing room or closet- put something on- sit down, bend over and walk around a little.  If it doesn’t ride up or flash anything private when doing so- good to go. I also look at outfits that COULD be sheer in various light (natural and bright bathroom light) to make sure something isn’t see through accidentally.  I recall my mother being horrified at my engagement party when the dress I wore was a bit too sheer and all the grandparents present could clearly see my Hanky Pankys. My bad, Nana.

Oh no, I think I am beginning to SOUND like a Mom now!? God help me…





  1. My husband always says that it’s sexier when some things are left to the imagination. You don’t need to show everything.

    1. Folks, I am only 5’3″ and pretty petite all over. I am stuck many times shopping in the Juniors sizes because those are the sizes that are proportioned best for my frame. But have you ever tried to find a casual summer (or winter, for that matter) dress or skirt for a woman that did not look like it belonged on a 10 year old these days in that particular range of sizes⁉️ I will go through with expensive alterations for business and dress clothing when I need it, but if I don’t want to drop $75+ after alterations when all I wanted was something more than a mumu that I could purchase and wear straight off the rack to the neighbor’s barbecue this weekend❗️Being “busty” for a petite person does not help❗️I am 54 years old; can’t the clothing manufacturers realize that our age group comes in more than one size and NOT ALL OF US WANT TO DRESS IN “ALFRED DUNNER” -LIKE SEPARATES⁉️ (No insult to ALFRED DUNNER intended). Many of us still exercise, have no desire to give up on being “fashionable”, we just want to temper that with common sense about the boundary between Situationally Appropriate and Skanky for our age group‼️ Give me a break! No matter how good your shape might be, the exposed derrière does not bode well for your overall reputation! And if people were supposed to see your bra straps, we would not be wearing shirts, folks, but some version of the ultimate longline bra for upper body coverage! Remember, in today’s style, you are only seeing the bra strap trend with the sleeveless shirts anyway–why not eliminate one layer? It could be cooler and cheaper on the pocketbook. Wait! I think they tried that idea! I think they call it the camisole with built in bra top . Miserable failure if you ask me. Provides no shape or support for anyone who is more than maybe an AA cup size bra. I agree with all of you, leave the exposure to the bedroom lingerie or beach/local pool in your (tastefully appropriate, I hope!) swimsuit!
      Now, Give me the strength, while I am still in the middle of all these racks of “sundresses” looking for one that makes me think of a cool glass of lemonade on a porch swing instead of the appearance of standing in a corn field in Kansas and still not requiring a sign to advertise what’s for sale on a warm summer’s day!

  2. oh my goodness….this made me laugh out loud. I’m 5’10” and I HEAR YA, SISTER. No shirtdresses (or “shirts”) for me this summer, thank you VERY much! :)

  3. My general rule of thumb is that if you have to question whether something is too short or inappropriate, it probably is!

  4. You read my mind with this post. I’m tall too–5’10”–and was just looking at a ‘dress’ yesterday that was so short I asked the sales clerk if it was a shirt!!!

  5. yes!! And at 37 weeks pregnant mumus and floor length turtle necks sound pretty nice to me

  6. Not just a mom thing! I have the same issue. I love being tall, but it’s tough to find cute skirts and dresses that are an appropriate length. Why is there no “tall” section for women? Tall and thin is tough combo, too. Small doesn’t equal short!

    1. My life has changed by finally shopping the tall section online. Gap, BR, and Ann Taylor all have them (a few more I’m blanking on). They advertise as 5’9″ and above (I think Old Navy is for 5’8″ and above!). The pants are crazy long (my sister is 6’1″ and they are too long for her) but the shirts and dresses are perfect! (I’m 5’9″). All the sudden I realized that all my sleeves are a little short :) The only bummer is that they are online only.

  7. Similar to Melanie, I’ve always told my two teenage girls if you have to ask whether something is a shirt or a dress…it’s a shirt. I couldn’t agree more with this post!

  8. If you happen to come across a floor length turtleneck please let me know. I wouldn’t take it off from October-March!

  9. At the risk of sounding like a prude…speaking of sheer – does anyone except me wear a slip under dresses? Not all dresses, but if I can see the outline of my legs when standing in front of a window, then I put on a slip, or wear something else, and save the first dress for night time.

    1. I wear slips too! You’re not alone ;) Anything that is a bit sheer as you say or so thin that outlines can be made out as the fabric lays on the body. But we may be alone judging by observations that can be made during a simple walk down a city street!

    2. I hate slips. Hate them. And therefore only buy self-lined dresses or heavier weight fabrics.

    3. I wear slips all of the time. I think they make your clothes fit and drape better. There’s someone in my office who wears tight dresses that just cling to her knickers and outline every seam on them. if she knew about slips, her clothes would look so much better. of course, if something is lined, i don’t wear a slip.

  10. Oh yes, Jill. I wear slips. I love to wear dresses to work and slips are an absolute must. I wish they still made the full slips.

    When my grandmother died I was old enough to get these full slips she had (like camisoles plus a half slip together as one garment). She had them mainly in black and nude but also a pretty white one with lace. They were so beautiful I wore them until they were no more. I cannot find a single thing like it anywhere.

    Victoria’s Secret makes ones that are like “baby doll” dresses and are more suitable for seduction than as a foundation garment. Dear designers please note: there are those of us still with enough modesty left to be protected. Kindly design accordingly.

    1. They do still exist! I find them in department stores. You often even have multiple length options per size in a given style.

  11. Erin, can you do a shirtdress roundup or tell us the brands you like? I’m 5’7″ and I have the darndest time a longer shirtdress. They used to be a summer staple for me!

  12. Great post Erin, as always!
    Im 33 years old, i Dont consider myself old. But I’m conservative about wearing short or sheer things. I avoid them all. I think that you can still dress fashionable without showing your hoo haa!

  13. YES! YES! YES! We are kindred spirits. Living in the South for most of my life, this is one of my biggest rants. It’s especially bad in Austin because of all the college students. I want to take those sweet girls by the hand and lead them to a mirror. And if you’re looking for longer ones, Nordy’s has classy shirt dresses (no surprise) as well as Banana.

  14. just got the decorators best email this morning and it looks like your pup in the window seat as their main image for their daily email!

  15. This post made me chuckle. Shirtdresses that are too short, tights that are worn like leggings, bra straps peeki ng out of one’s shirt are all pet peeves of mine. Thanks for reminding allof us that some things are not appropriate at any age.

    1. Thank you Cindy, for mentioning the bra straps. I really was beginning to think I am the only one who doesn’t want to see everyone’s straps. They don’t just ‘peek out’ anymore, but seemingly are becoming part of the wardrobe. Uh uh. No thanks. I could go on and on.

      1. Can I get an Amen on that one? The other day I had a sales clerk show me a shirt with spaghetti straps and my response was, “No, you can’t wear a bra with that”. Her reply (and this was a woman in her fifties), “Oh, you just let the straps show.” Um, no, you don’t. Not ever.

  16. Funny Erin! My co-workers and I were just having this convo yesterday. We were served lunch by a young lady wearing a too short shirtdress. It may have been the side slits that really did the look in, now that you mention it. . . She was almost young and cute enough to pull it off, but only ALMOST. You constantly post on topics that have been on my mind. Keep it up :)!

  17. I agree 110%. And can you le tus know where that olive green shirtdress (the real thing!) is from? LOVE.

  18. This was too funny! The dressing room test you describe is the only way to go. How do more women not think about that?!

  19. And once that little one arrives the last thing you need to worry about is flashing while leaning over for your child or picking them up, that is my test these days whether something is to short!

  20. And please. No, nice salesperson, I do NOT want to “just wear some leggings under that”. I’m looking for dresses, not tunics. I live in Texas, it’s hot, I don’t need another layer, tell the manufacturer/designer to add some fabric at the bottom.

  21. Sorry to be the sole dissenter here, I mean no offense, but it makes absolutely no difference to me if someone else chooses to wear a short dress, even one that is ridiculously so. Let her be who she wants to be. Live and let live, I say.

  22. Just got back from Paris where all the department stores are full of appropriately sized skirts and dresses which also manage to be feminine and sexy. Meanwhile back in Boston Saks is full of dresses made for for some kind of mini creature that I am not familiar with.
    So happy to see this post!

  23. Thank you for the PSA. As a high school teacher, I cannot begin to describe some of the outfits that young women attempt to wear to school. I saw this issue a few times…

  24. This is the one time when being short actually works for me. At only 5’4″ I can actually wear most shirtdresses and still bend over and move about without showing my hoo-ha. That said I usually put on short yoga shorts underneath just in case. :)

  25. Yes! Spot on. Also: what is up with every pair of white jeans ever being so see through? I get wearing nude undies to make it work, but even so, I hate seeing the silhouette of the front pockets through the jeans. Is this just me? Is it actually stylish/not a big deal to the see the front pockets through the jeans?? Ugh, I suddenly feel old….

  26. great post erin..natch! my problem is in the summer..when it is baking- what do you wear under the long shirtdress/caftan ish things? skinny jeans? waaay too hot! leggings look do tell..o wise one!

  27. I LOVE THIS!!!!

    I’m only 5’3″, but I do the same thing in dressing rooms – sit, cross legs, bend over, etc. to make sure things don’t end up overexposed! I don’t think it’s because you’re a mom at all – you just know how to dress with class, regardless of what’s trendy. :-)

  28. i luv this post and agree. I soo agree with the bra straps too!
    Now can we have a conversation about “too short – shorts?” Ugh. I am 5″2 ” and just wear skirts for summer as these are way cooler and just my style. (Just sayin’ for me)….. I believe those “cut-offs” were something we used back In the day when our denim was aging and the barn on our ranch was too hot to wear long pants doing our chores. I shake my head when I see these on the street.

  29. My friends and I like to play a game when we go out called “shirt or dress”. Basically the rule is, if you have to ask, the answer is shirt.

  30. “An pregnant old lady?” “Slightest bed of the waist?” “As to it’s proper use?” “Other then?”

    Proofreading is your friend.

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