How To Choose A Floral Print That Isn’t Frumpy

Greetings and happy Friday! I’m sharing this long sleeve faux wrap dress and how to choose a floral print that isn’t frumpy. This is an outfit I wore to meet a friend for lunch earlier this week.

I'm styling this long sleeve faux wrap dress and sharing how to choose a floral print that isn't frumpy.

I usually dress up my jeans for more of a smart-casual outfit for daytime events, but it was a mild day, and I had just finished shooting this look with my photographer. I went back inside to change for lunch, looked down at what I was wearing, and realized it was perfectly appropriate for a girls’ lunch out!

This outfit is also a contender for the bridal shower I’m attending next month in Boston, and it was nice to be able to give it a trial run.

For instance, I used fashion tape to keep the neckline in place, but I plan to take it to Nordstrom and get someone from the alterations department to sew in a small snap. It will be far more reliable than the tape, and will look nicer too.

Otherwise, I really like the design of this dress. Because it’s a faux wrap, it’s sewn in place at the waist, so there’s no risk of the skirt blowing open. It also takes all the frustration out of tying the dress. You just slip it over your head, and you’re good to go!

Side Note: Am I the only one who is confounded by a traditional wrap dress???

I'm styling this long sleeve faux wrap dress and sharing how to choose a floral print that isn't frumpy.

I tend to gravitate to solids, but florals are trending right now, and it’s fun to wear a printed dress for a change. That said, women of a certain age (ahem…) have to use care when choosing a floral print, lest it cross over into frump territory.

The floral print on this dress looks fresh and modern to my eye, and here’s why.

How to Choose A Floral Print That Isn’t Frumpy

When choosing a floral print that isn’t frumpy, you want to pay attention to three things: scale, contrast, and density. This will vary a bit based on personal style aesthetic, which we will discuss as well.

This floral print is what I would consider a medium scale print, which is pretty much universally flattering. (Generally speaking, if you are larger, you want to go for a larger scale print; and if you are smaller, you want to go for a smaller scale print. However, if you go too large or too small, it can look dated very quickly.)

This medium scale print with a loose pattern is fresh and modern.

Because the density is looser, leaving more of the background visible, it allows for more contrast between the flowers and the background color. It also gives the eye a place to rest.

I'm styling this French Connection long sleeve faux wrap dress and sharing how to choose a floral print that isn't frumpy for women over 40.

The lighter colors on a darker background provide a high level of contrast, which adds interest, and I also think some sophistication to this floral print.

You also want to take into account your personal style when choosing a floral print that isn’t frumpy.

Some florals are more stylized, therefore dramatic and sophisticated; while some are more natural looking, which tends to be more feminine and youthful.

I think a more stylized print, like this one, is more sophisticated and easier to pull off when you’re a more mature age. (I’m 47, for reference.)

That said, if your personal style is more feminine and flirty, you maybe able to get away with a more natural floral print.

How I Styled This Floral Wrap Dress

For last week’s try-on haul, I styled this dress with nude block heeled sandals, and I like the look very much.

Even with the long sleeves, I think it works, or you can push them up as I did when I styled the dress with boots.

But right now it’s very chilly here in Philadelphia, and it will likely be chilly next month in Boston when I attend my cousin’s bridal shower, so I wanted to see how this floral dress looks paired with boots.

I’m wearing the Sam Edelman Hiltin boots from the #NSale last summer, but the Sam Edelman Hai in golden caramel is almost identical.

These gorgeous boots are a very nice quality and extremely comfortable, and I like how the taupe color complements this dress. It coordinates with the peach and beige tones in the flowers, and also blends in with my skin tone, and allows the eye to focus on the dress.

Darker boots would work too, but they would look heavier and more wintry. The taupe color is perfect for this transition season.

I'm styling this long sleeve faux wrap dress and sharing how to choose a floral print that isn't frumpy.

For jewelry, I went with classic hoops and a pendant necklace.

These are both designer pieces that were gifts, and I wear them a lot, but you can certainly find similar styles for less. I’ll link a few options below.

floral dress

This is a great dress for work wear or church, or as you can see here, lunch with a friend and possibly a bridal shower!

Since it’s lightweight with long sleeves, you can wear it 3 seasons of the year, which maximizes the cost per wear.

It runs TTS, or size up if in between. The 8 fits me perfectly.

I'm styling this long sleeve faux wrap dress and sharing how to choose a floral print that isn't frumpy.

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photos: Alison Cornell

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24 Responses

  1. Love the dress, considering it for Easter…Easter morning is usually still quite chilly here…so would these boots work for then as well since they are light colored or would it be more appropriate to wear pumps and just be tough?

  2. Too funny!  I’m reading this thinking “what if you are on the shorter size” and the next couple of sentences you addressed that very thing!  I love that you think through the different size possibilities…being 5’ means having to pay attention to some of those details…not only do I get fashion suggestions, but I also learn techniques…thanks so much for the work you put into your blog!

  3. I’m so in love with this look Jo-Lynne! I would totally snatch this dress up if I had event to wear it to, but sadly I don’t. Good explanation on what to look for when choosing a floral dress too!

  4. I loved this post about the dress. I have a similar print on a blouson jacket which is the only flower print I wear. My daughter says I look lovely in it and I do like it myself probably for the reasons that you outlined above. Otherwise I wear graphic prints or mono. I also love wrap dresses and THANK YOU for the flash tape trick. I had never heard of this and have now ordered some as I have a few dresses and wrap tops which are just too revealing for work. So thanks Jo-Lynne!

  5. I have a traditional wrap dress that I like, but I am always a nervous wreck when I wear it. Between the fashion tape in the front and the possibility of exposing far too much if it starts to “un-wrap” I am in a cold sweat the entire time! Faux is definitely better! 

  6. Thank you for this post! It was really educational for me as I like certain prints but feel like I can never pull them off. Now I think I understand why it may look great on a model and not so great on me.

  7. Hi Jo-Lynne! I haven’t worn a dress in years but you convinced me to try this one. 😉 I ordered it on Lord & Taylor, but noticed after the fact that it’s called “utility black” on their site and “utility blue” on Nordstrom. Think it’s the same dress? 

  8. I’m so glad to see this.  I’ve been eyeing a navy floral for an upcoming wedding and I was worried it was too frumpy but I’m going to order and try it!  (I’m 53 and don’t want to look OLD!).  Thanks for all the tips!

  9. I love your Dress. But, in the past I have had problems with the wrap dress. I am well endowed at the top and I am short so, the wrap dress makes me look twice the size at the top. My dress was a solid Heather Grey. I haven’t tried any florals so hopefully I can find one. I didn’t know that about the size of the florals. I thought the smaller the better for older ladies so I will try a medium floral. Hopefully the medium floral will look good at the top. Your dress looked great on you. I really appreciate all the info on florals. Love your Blog. We are really cold here in NC but are supposed to warm up by mid-week. Have a Great Weekend.
    ……Linda W.🌷

  10. Cute dress and great job explaining how to choose florals!  Good info!
    I think this also shows the difference accessories and shoes can make.  While the dress looks more formal and mature with the heels,  it looks more casual and trendy with the boots!  Great way to get two totally different looks!

  11. Such a pretty dress! I love the look with the boots.. thanks for the three tips to watch for. I would not have thought of these😀

  12. I love florals. The first thing I look at in mid to large size florals is where they are placed on the bust. Can’t stand to have a big flower right smack over my bosom. Just brings unwanted attention there!

  13. You look very nice in this dress, and I like the boots with it.  It’s great that you had the opportunity to give it a trial run.  I hope that Caroline will make a guest appearance soon!  I enjoy seeing what teens her age like to wear.  I hope you had a great day!

  14. Living in Massachusetts, I think that dress is PERFECT for the shower. If for some reason it’s a mild 70 degree March day (which happens but is unusual), you can go with shoes or sandals. I’ve noticed from having relatives in Philly that we are usually about 2 weeks behind you guys for weather…

    1. Yep, that sounds about right. I went to college in the Boston area and still have family up there, and they always seem a few weeks behind us. Likewise, Philly is always a few weeks behind where I grew up in Roanoke, VA. I always feel like spring takes FOR.EV.ER. to get here.

  15. Ok … when I saw the dress and was expecting a white t-shirt post, I thought I must have clicked on something wrong.  Threw me off for a minute (and at my age it doesn’t take much).  🤪🤣 

    I love the way wrap dresses look – but I’ve never owned one because the necklines are always too low and fashion tape can be a hassle. Maybe I should do what you’re doing and get a snap sewn in!   🤦‍♀️

    I’ve always felt florals were tricky too but I like how you’ve explained it.  And it makes perfect sense.  So thanks!  

    This dress is really pretty on you.  I love it with both the boots and the heels.  

    Have a great weekend!  

  16. Jolynne this dress looks darling on you!  I love the boots and how they would help with the cold spring option by looking less “heavy”!  Great job!  Hang in there on that kitchen remodel.  The grey color is very beautiful so try and focus on that😬!

  17. You are not the only one confounded by the wrap dress. I have one but I tend not to wear it just for that fact. I stand there with the ties in my hands and can’t begin to think how to get it to work! Pretty, pretty dress and I like it with the tan boots.

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