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How to Decorate a Plain Dress

by Katherine Mitt
Actress Meta Golding's dress is embellished with a sequined waistband, a decorative detail that can be added to an otherwise basic dress.

Actress Meta Golding's dress is embellished with a sequined waistband, a decorative detail that can be added to an otherwise basic dress.

Every woman’s wardrobe should have at least one basic goes-with-anything dress that can be worn anywhere in a pinch. However, sometimes a basic, throw-on-and-go dress requires a little refreshing. Whether you're looking for permanent embellishments or temporary updates for your dress, there are a variety of ways to transform a plain dress into something much more eye-catching.

Layered Decorations

Particularly in the colder months, layering is a relatively effortless way to make a dress seem less plain. For example, simply add a sequin cardigan or a brightly colored blazer over a basic dress to elevate your look. If your dress is sleeveless or has short cap sleeves, consider wearing a decorated shirt underneath it instead. A button-down blouse with an embellished collar works well under a classic shift dress, as does a tissue--thin turtleneck in a contrasting -- but still complementary -- color.

Stand-Out Accessories

Accessories are an excellent way to take a dress from plain to head-turning in a snap. Choose an oversized statement necklace in a bold color palette or with bright sparkles to wear with a dress that has a higher neckline. The dress will serve as a perfect backdrop for your stunning jewelry, and your look will be anything but plain. If your dress has a more intricate neckline, choose an eye-catching belt to wear with it instead of a statement necklace. A belt in a bright color or with details like beading or crystals will pop against a simple dress.

Use a Professional

For a permanent update to your dress, visit a tailor to see what a professional can do to make the garment less plain. Any tailor should be able to add eye-catching embellishments, like rhinestones or sequins, to your dress, and an experienced tailor will likely be able to alter the actual structure of the dress to make it less basic. Origami folds, a brightly colored zipper and metallic studs are all examples of decorative details that can be professionally added. If you do decide to make permanent alterations to your dress, choose a tailor whose work you trust; the changes made might not be easily reversible.

Get Crafty

If you don’t want to spend money on a tailor, get crafty and add semi-permanent embellishments to your dress yourself. Many craft stores sell flat-backed rhinestones, which can be affixed to your dress with craft or fabric glue. Add crystals along your dress’ neckline for a jewelry-inspired look. Or, embellish your short-sleeve dress by sewing or gluing small sequins onto the sleeves for a simple, yet eye-catching, transformation. If you’re comfortable with a sewing machine, pick up some lace appliqués from a craft or fabric store and sew them onto your dress in a pretty pattern. With a little creativity and a well-stocked supply store, the list of ways you can decorate your dress is virtually endless.

About the Author

Katherine Mitt has been contributing to online publications since 2009, focusing primarily on fashion and style topics. She holds a B.A. in English from a small liberal arts school.

Photo Credits

  • Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images