I love dresses. Enough that I’m pretty sure that I own more dresses than pairs of shoes. But dresses are a triple threat when it comes to being modest. They can be sleeveless, low cut, or too short. Sometimes when I’m shopping it seems that all the dresses out there are all three, especially since I’m on the taller end of the height spectrum.
It was especially hard when I was shopping for my mission. I was looking for dresses that would be versatile and didn’t require me to always wear a sweater or camisole because the weather isn’t kind to layering during the summer. If I could go back, after having a few more years of practice at finding dresses that work with garments, this is the advice I would give myself about buying dresses for a mission--though it definitely also applies to buying modest dresses in general.
Be careful about buying online. It can be hard to judge how long a dress really is from the pictures on websites. Thankfully, some stores (like us at She Traveled) tell you how long a dress measures from shoulder to hem, which can help you figure out where it will hit on you. Here’s a chart that has rough estimates of where a dress or skirt will hit based on your height, though it can vary based on the cut of the dress/skirt and your proportions.
Buying in Stores
Shopping in stores has the benefit that you can try dresses on before buying them. When I know I’m going dress shopping, I try to wear my longest garment bottoms and avoid Carinessa garments, which have shorter, less noticeable sleeves. That way, I know for sure that the dress will work with all of my garments, even though I have different cuts that fit slightly differently.
I find that I have more luck shopping in stores that have a more classic style and those that have wide selections, but it often depends on what’s “in” during a particular season. Thrift stores are also good places to look for modest dresses because they have wide selections of clothes from various seasons. My favorite mission dress came from a thrift store in my first mission area. It’s one that I still have and still wear all the time.
For fans of She Traveled, we have in-person pop-up shops in the Salt Lake area around general conference weekend, so you can come try on clothes to your heart’s content.
If You Love a Dress That Isn’t Long Enough...
There are a few ways to add length to dresses. A lot of people like the extender slips that you can wear under a dress to add a couple of inches. That has the benefit that you can use it with any number of dresses. But, if you’re like me, and don’t like wearing extra layers, you can also alter the dress to add length. Here’s a tutorial for adding length to a dress at the bottom and another for adding length somewhere in the middle. These projects require a sewing machine and basic sewing skills.
Another option is to make the dress into a skirt, which will allow you to adjust the length in the process. The skirt in this picture was previously the dress I wore for my college graduation. I couldn’t bear to not take it on my mission with me, but it was a little short to wear with garments. It’s the perfect length as a skirt. Here are tutorials for turning a dress into a skirt for dresses with zippers and dresses without. There are also tutorials out there for adding sleeves and raising necklines, but they vary a lot more based on the original style of the dress.
We’d love to hear from you if you have other suggestions for finding modest dresses, for missionary service or otherwise.
Remember: If you’re currently shopping for a mission, email a copy of your mission call to firstname.lastname@example.org to get a discount that you can use for our mission-appropriate dresses and our other clothes too!