When we talk about wardrobe must-haves, what do you think of? A white button-down? A black blazer? A pair of dark blue skinny jeans? All of these pieces are great basics to build a wardrobe around, but I would like to humbly suggest we make an addition to this ubiquitous list – the floral maxi dress.
Maxi dresses aren’t going away – they’ve been a spring and summer fashion staple for years now, and we’ve been seeing floral maxi dresses on the runways for several seasons that run the gamut from dainty to gothic. They’re comfortable, highly versatile, and make getting ready in the morning easy; the only issue is, they’re not exactly warm.
Whether you’re dying to wear a new purchase or just want to pull out that old dress you love, let me show you how to wear a maxi dress now and later using Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “The Roses of Heliogabalus” as inspiration:
Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “The Roses of Heliogabalus” (1888) via Wikimedia Commons. (Click image to enlarge.)
About Victorian Art and “The Roses of Heliogabalus”
In sharp contrast to the stuffy morals and attitudes we often associate with the Victorian period, the popular art of the era shows a cultural obsession with aestheticism and excess. Colors are often sumptuous and luxurious, compositions are huge and sweeping, and subjects are exorbitantly beautiful. Every detail is rendered with excrutiating realism.
It’s not surprising that one of the most popular subjects of the era is the story of the Roman Emperor Heliogabalus, who dedicated his life to lavish excess, luxury, and hedonism. He was said to have thrown an extravagant banquet and orgy, only to have his guests, many his enemies, smothered by literal tons of flower petals hidden in the ceiling.
This is the scene displayed Alma-Tadema’s masterpiece. The disturbing violence of the scene is softened greatly by the beautiful waves of pink petals, while Heliogabalus looks on the background, amused by the scene. Though Heliogabalus is said to have used violet petals and other flowers, Alma-Tadema chose pink roses specifically for their significance in Victorian culture as a symbol of lust.
The painting is currently on display for the first time since 1913, as the focal point of an exhibition of a private collection of Victorian art in London. It is purportedly on display in its own rose-scented room.
Outfits Inspired by “The Roses of Heliogabalus”
Like “The Roses of Heliogabalus,” floral maxi dresses make a huge, glamorous aesthetic statement without giving you a lot of substance, which in this case means warmth. To wear these gorgeous pieces now, when most of us are still trudging through snowbanks to get to class, requires a little sartorial MacGyvering.
Want to look like you’re drowning in roses, in the most glamorous way? Pick a drapey dress with large blooms in natural colors, but look for cutouts or a backless cut so your frame isn’t overwhelmed. This dress is the best of both worlds – a gorgeous vintage-like pattern with a contemporary silhouette.
Play up the dress’s contemporary-vintage feel in the winter by pairing it with a fawn-colored turtleneck – a piece that is both of-the-moment and reminiscent of the ’70s. Add boho accessories, like a tapestry-inspired backpack and camel booties, to play up the hippie lit-professor vibe.
Pearl earring jackets and a funky pearl ring give the look a little extra polish, while a bright pink blush adds a youthful element to temper the sophisticated turtleneck.
In warmer weather, this gorgeous dress can be worn on its own, but if backless isn’t is your thing, cover up in a cream-colored cropped kimono jacket. Throw on a camel-hued backpack, slingback sandals, and a turquoise ring, and you have an outfit perfect for any outdoor summer adventure. A hint of a warm, sophisticated perfume will add a grown-up, mysterious element to this boho look.
If you’re worried you’ll suffocate in large prints, no worries – pick a maxi dress with a smaller rose motif, and you can play with more interesting silhouettes, like collared necklines or long sleeves. This adorable floral maxi dress veers modern Victorian, with its high neck, long sleeves, and baby florals.
To wear this dress now, pair it with a cream-colored cropped sweater and an adorable jean backpack for a sweet, early ’90s Babysitters Club look. A stack of geometric rings paired with an unexpected nail color, like sky blue, gives the look a bit of edge, while knee-high socks with camel clogs looks ultra trendy (and keeps you warm on those chilly March mornings.)
Once springtime arrives, swap the chunky sweater for a cropped denim jacket and your socks-and-clogs combo for a pair of mint-colored sneakers to channel a tomboy-cute vibe.
Rose gold accessories, like this beautiful tote bag and heart-shaped sunglasses, give the outfit a contemporary update, while snake-shaped dangly earrings add a playful edge and nod back to details of our inspirational painting. Pair a lengthening mascara with a “your lips but better” lippie to make this look extra romantic and sweet.
If you’re looking for a showstopping dress that will slay your foes for you, look no further than this stunner, with its graphic, large-scale print, billowing sleeves, side slits and plunging neckline. This kind of dress is surprisingly easy to wear, whether you pile on accessories or wear it on its own for a simple but dramatic look.
For an extra cozy and glamorous ensemble during the colder months, wear a chiffon slip underneath your maxi dress. This will not only give your dress more movement, but it will give you some extra coverage in the dress’s more exposed areas, like the neckline.
Add a pair of thick tights, wedge booties, and a faux fur vest for an extra dramatic look, then grab a mint bucket bag for an unexpected pop of color.
Once temps are above freezing, skip the slip for a luxe, sultry, and romantic look. Play up this vibe with über-trendy accessories, like gladiator sandals and a fringed bag in a neutral color. Add chic jewelry, like a gold ring and a pair of mint-colored earrings, then spray a bit of texturizing spray into second-day hair for loose waves. Finish the outfit with a cool hat for a boho element.
What do you think?
What’s your favorite way to wear a floral maxi dress? What do you think of “The Roses of Heliogabalus? What are you most excited to wear once the weather gets warm? Who was your favorite BSC member (Claudia 5ever)? Let me know in the comments below!
One of my favorite parts about having my own apartment is being able to personalize my space according to what’s going on in my life. I love to travel, so I’m always on the lookout for cute ways to incorporate my latest adventure into my room.
Next week, I’m heading to Berkley to visit my best friend, and many of my peers are preparing for other spring break adventures. Even if you aren’t traveling and you’re staying at home/school, spring break is a great time to relax and run around town trying new things. Personally, after being back in school for a couple of months, I’m in the mood to mix things up and have some fresh new decor.
While thinking about my trip, I realized some of the best apartment decorations I’ve seen come from materials picked up while on vacation. In case you’re traveling this break, or even visiting new places, here are some travel-inspired DIY projects to keep in mind, so you can pick up what you need:
I love maps – especially the large ones they sell at tourist shops that mark out way more sites than you could ever see on a trip. I made the above canvas project after my trip to Europe this summer.
While I didn’t get my map in Paris, I really wish I had! I picked up this paper at a local art store, however, so if you’re staying at home that’s a good place to search. Personally though, I would love this project so much more if I had actually used a paper map in the city and then taken it home to be turned into art.
Though your phone’s GPS will probably guide you on spring break, it’s still fun to have a paper relic of your destination. You can grab a flat canvas board and simply glue the map on, or try layering over it with pictures, words, or letters. I bought some large sticker letters, then colored over them in black Sharpie.
So, this DIY project doesn’t require you to actually travel anywhere (which is good news for your wallet!), but is awesome if you end up visiting a state or country that you fall in love with. I’m originally from California, which is why I chose this design, but you could also use your current place of residence.
It’s fairly simple – I just followed this tutorial. I bought some glitter paper at the same local store, however, so I avoided the hassle of using actual glitter.
This project is so, so simple, but actually gives me a lot of joy. I did this last year with some photos I took during winter break and loved it. I usually upload my pictures to Facebook and send them to my mom, but rarely get a chance to look at them afterwards. By making this photo wall (which literally takes no more than five minutes once you print the photos) I get to reminisce on all the great memories.
If you’re going somewhere this spring break, consider actually printing out your photos at CVS or Target and making a small photo collage. That way, you can be reminded of your travels once you’re back on campus. If you’re not going anywhere, you can do the same thing with pictures of your friends from college. I prefer layering the walls with photos instead of just putting them on a bulletin board because I can fit more.
Miscellaneous Things to Grab:
I don’t have projects made with these items yet, because I’m actually going to try them when I come back (maybe I’ll do a followup post!). Things I love to grab on my travels include postcards, business cards, and any stubs from movies, public transit, or events. You can make a pennant banner, a shadow box, or even a really cool scrapbook page to hang up.
Some other ideas I had involved stretching tourist t-shirts onto canvas, or even finding a thin, decorative towel from a new city and framing it. While on spring break, be on the lookout for quirky items that could be future dorm decor, such as shells, umbrellas, or even shot glasses.
What are you bringing back from spring break?
Do you have any ideas for how you will use spring break as decor inspiration? Will you be trying out any of these projects? Do you even have room in your luggage to bring back extra materials? (I might not!) Let me know in the comments!
I spotted Kathryn studying for a journalism exam in Memorial Union, her favorite place to study. Her outfit had several intriguing details and colors that really made her look stand out. Kathryn helped reinforce the theory that the journalism students at Mizzou are usually the best and most uniquely dressed.
Major/minor: Journalism major, Art History minor
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Let’s Talk Fashion
Where is your outfit from? “Coat is Calvin Klein. I’m wearing a cardigan under it, which is from ASOS, the dress is Mossimo, tights are Hue, pretty sure those socks came from a three-pack from Costco, shoes are G.H. Bass, and the scarf is from a boutique in Haight-Ashbury.”
Who or what inspires your style? “When it comes to who inspires my style, I would say Amal Clooney, Emma Watson, Duchess Kate Middleton, and my mom. All of them ooze class and femininity when it comes to style, but then they all can hold their own as individuals. In terms of what inspires my style: utility and comfort. I like functional pieces that are also not difficult to wear.”
Where do you like to shop? “I wouldn’t say I have any favorite places in particular. Rather, I go for favorite pieces. But I do find myself shopping at Gap, Madewell, J. Crew, ASOS, and Macy’s often.”
How would you describe your sense of style? “I would describe my sense of style as, no joke, ‘what can I wear that feels like pajamas but doesn’t look like pajamas.’ I am the ultimate lazy girl when it comes to getting dressed. I believe it to be blasphemous having to sacrifice comfort for style. Por que no los dos, am-i-rite?”
Why did you choose this particular outfit? “Winter isn’t my favorite season to dress for – mostly because I’m huge on dresses and skirts, and the cold isn’t very permitting of that. However, despite the cold, I really did not want to subject myself to wearing pants, so I put on some sweater tights, a.k.a. my favorite things ever, sweaters for your legs, this t-shirt dress, which is actually sleepwear from Target, and a cozy waffle-knit cardigan over it. And then, to liven it up, I added the scarf and my yellow coat.
Fun fact about the coat: A lot of people think I got it out of sheer school spirit. In actuality, this has been my favorite color since elementary school, and I just happened to luck out with coming to Mizzou. It allows me to fashionably show my school spirit. And it’ll also come in handy when I’m done with training and am giving tours in colder weather next year!”
What fashion advice would you give to other students looking to improve their style? “I often hear people tell me, ‘oh, I could never wear that,’ and I simply never believe it. Anyone could wear whatever they want to. At that point, it becomes a question of confidence. My only advice to them would be to own your clothes; don’t let them own you.”
What are your favorite trends right now? “I’m not huge on trends. Instead, I’m very much in to classic pieces. However, as of right now I’m really digging that athletic wear is making a comeback. I can wear New Balances and not feel like a total dweeb.”
Do you have any favorite fashion designers? If so, who? “I wish I was, but I’m really not well-versed in the world of high fashion! I admire them all, though. Truly it’s an art and a craft and I think people often dismiss that because they can’t see past how ‘weird’ or ‘dysfunctional’ their pieces are.”
What do you do for fun – do you have any unique hobbies or interests? “For fun, I Skype with my friends, I read a lot, watch some TED Talks, and listen to podcasts on NPR. I kinda do Netflix, but not really. I also try to learn a lot of raps because they make great party tricks. I live for party tricks. Generally, though, I will try to find something to go to or do that’ll make me laugh. Laughing’s my favorite thing to do.”
If you could raid anyone’s closet, who would it be and why? “Amal Clooney hands down. Pre- and post-marriage, her outfits were on-point and I would adore getting to raid her closet. But more so, I think I would actually prefer to raid her mind. She is impeccably intelligent.”
Elements of Kathryn’s Outfit
1. Mustard Coat and Colorful Scarf
The subtle matching of the yellow flowers and mustard coat was a key component to Kathryn’s ensemble. The skull and flower combination found on her scarf is always an interesting, contrasting design, plus you can never go wrong by pairing mustard yellow with teal.
2. Colorful Tortoiseshell Glasses
Again, the subtle color coordination really helped to tie this outfit together. Kathryn has a couple pairs of glasses that she enjoys mixing and matching with different outfits, and they act as both a practical need and fashionable accessory.
3. Dainty Earrings
Even though Kathryn’s outfit is relatively casual and laid-back, it is the little details like this that elevate the look. Her drop earrings add a dose of sophistication and glamour to her on-campus ensemble.
What do you think of Kathryn’s outfit?
Would you wear her yellow coat? What do you think of her bright scarf? How about her tortoiseshell frames? Comment below and let us know your thoughts!