We’re attracted to the silhouette of an item on the hanger. We do a quick scan of the garment and conclude it has potential for our body type and figure flattering priorities. We imagine ourselves wearing the item, we like what we see in our thoughts, and we move to fitting on the item in the dressing room.  

The opposite holds true when we don’t like the item on the hanger. For all sorts of reasons we conclude that the fit will be off, and we move on. This is generally a good way of filtering the overwhelming amount of merchandise that is available at retail — except when it comes to dresses. Dresses are notorious shape shifters, so we have to expand our filters when we shop for them

Dresses, more than any other wardrobe item, have bad hanger appeal. So don’t judge the fit of the dress on the hanger too harshly.  Chances are high that the dress that looks awful on the hanger looks fab on you. When you’re looking for a dress, you should try on many more styles than the two that had great hanger appeal. 

This happens very frequently when I shop with clients. We try on five times as many dresses than we do any other wardrobe item because it’s very hard to judge its fit unless it’s on the body. And often the dresses with less than stellar hanger appeal work out best. And a small alteration can often work wonders.

Just last week, my client walked straight past this drape knit midi dress because it lacked structure, substance and the hip factor. I thought it had potential because of the asymmetrical ruching, diagonal lines, longer length, neatly cut armholes, and double layered fabric. I did pause at the odd looking elasticated waist though, thinking that it could be a poufy deal-breaker on the midsection. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. My size 12 client humoured me and tried on the dress. It looked stunning, and was her favourite purchase of the day. She mentioned three more times how surprised she was that the dress was a winner, and kept styling it in her head in all sorts of fun ways. Good thing we tried on that dress!