Coco & Delilah
Though I love little black dresses, I was smitten by the navy frocks that marched down the fall runways. I looked for them first at Coco & Delilah in the East Village, where my eye landed on a very dark-blue satin dress with three-quarter sleeves and a bow at the neck. I slipped the loose garment over my head but was disappointed that it looked so frumpy on. It was too baggy and shapeless, and the floppy bow made me look like an unstylish secretary. 115 St. Marks Pl., nr. First Ave.; 212-254-8741.
Hoofing it farther west, I checked out an unfamiliar store called ENZ’s, which looked like the bargain stores that line lower Broadway. I picked through the racks hoping to find something that didn’t make me cringe, when I stopped at a surprisingly lovely long-sleeved cotton minidress. The soft jersey frock had a rounded collar and subtle appliqués of leaves and berries on the front and hem, which added a bit of detail to an otherwise very simple dress. Once on, however, the combo of the rounded collar and berries looked young; this dress was great for kindergarten, not work. 125 Second Ave., nr. 7th St.; 917-841-5989.
Amid the brightly colored skirts and flowing wraps at Calypso, I managed to pick up the one dark-hued garment in the store. The blue satin dress had a bib front with three navy buttons. The ballooning short sleeves added some volume to the loose dress. Though I loved the very dark, almost black, color of the tunic, it was too shapeless and the material caused a major static-cling problem. 280 Mott St., nr. Houston St.; 212-965-0990.
Crispin & Basilio
At my new favorite Nolita boutique, Poppy, I found what I thought was the perfect navy dress from California-based designer Crispin & Basilio. Made of tiered layers of chiffon, the loose, shift dress had flowing cap sleeves and a lined full skirt. And the satin edge of the scoop neck added a nice textural contrast to the one-color style. However, even though they were lined, both the skirt and the bodice were almost totally transparent. When I came out of the dressing room, I heard a few gasps. 281 Mott St., nr. Houston St.; 212-219-8934.
At Key on Grand Street, I pulled a dress from designer Amanda Uprichard off the rack and slipped it on. Made from 100 percent silk, it hit below my knee and had elbow-length sleeves. The banded Empire waist was elastic, forming a nice pleated bodice. The daringly low V-neck was a bit too plunging for my taste, and I found the mid-calf length a little outdated and awkward. And though the silk felt nice against my skin, it was just too hard to wear. 41 Grand St., nr. Thompson St.; 212-334-5707.
After fondling some Sigerson Morrison boots on Prince Street, I strolled into Variazioni where I picked out a sequin tank dress with a racer back. The knit garment was made from fine cotton, and every inch was covered in differently sized blue sequins. Tight and a bit clingy, it hit mid-thigh and instantly transformed me from casual weekend shopper into Vegas showgirl. Not exactly the look I was going for. 23 Prince St., nr. Elizabeth St.; 212-941-5522.
At H&M in midtown I pulled a simple navy dress off the rack. The thin A-line frock had a high, round collar that closed with a button at the back of the neck and short sleeves with a very slight puff to them. It landed mid-thigh and was made from very soft, almost sheer cotton. Once on, the dress was loose but didn’t drown my figure and showed just enough leg to not be maternitywear. Though thin, when paired with a slip underneath, the dress looked cute and mod. 640 Fifth Ave., nr. 51st St.; 212-489-0390.
Scouring the dense racks of Bergdorf’s fifth floor, I came across a Rebecca Taylor wool shift dress lined in full satin. The tailored shape hit above the knee, and the hem ended with a bubbled ruffle, giving some fullness to an otherwise very simple cut. The top was slit down the middle but closed with a hook-and-eye latch, creating a sexy window at the chest. On either side of the hook were two fabric flowers that added a nice youthful touch. Plus, the short but full sleeves mimicked the bubble hem and made my arms look very thin—always a bonus. 754 Fifth Ave., nr. 58th St.; 212-753-7300.