Over the years, I’ve honed in on a work wardrobe that pretty much gets me through any kind of workday. I have comfortable clothing that works for fluctuating office temperatures and staring at a computer all day. I have dresses and trousers for back-to-back meetings with important people. I have clothing that doesn’t wrinkle (much) and comfortable shoes for 12 hour workdays that end with me giving a presentation to a group of professionals.
When searching for clothing to add to my closet, I try to go for items that will magically make me look both professional and approachable.
A few months ago, I was promoted to a higher position and decided that I should step my workwear up a notch. You know, the whole ‘dress for the position you want’ mentality. Working in higher education can be a bit stuffy, so I try to find clothing that combines demure + age appropriate + professional + fun.
Years ago, I pretty much bought my entire wardrobe from either Ann Taylor Loft or Banana Republic. Most of my peers did the same, so there were plenty of days where you’d have an office twinsie with a matching skirt or blouse.
Nowadays, my wardrobe contains a hodgepodge of J.Crew, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, and Stitch Fix. Oh and needle-in-a-haystack places like Nordstrom Rack and Marshalls. I do love the thrill of the hunt.
Lately, I’ve been on a quest to find some professional-looking dresses. Here’s what I had on my wish list:
- Flattering fit.
- Doesn’t wrinkle easily.
- Elbow-length sleeves to cover my tattoo at work.
- Age appropriate. I don’t want to look like a kid in my grandma’s clothes OR a skank.
- Professional, but still FUN.
During that search, I stumbled onto Boden. I’ve seen the brand here and there on Instagram when I’d admire someone’s outfit, but I assumed that the UK company was too expensive for my wallet.
I decided to click around on their website though and was surprised that the prices weren’t as high as I assumed they would be. In fact, according to a BBC interview, I’m pretty much their target customer:
The brand targets customers aged from 25 to 50, but what Boden calls the “bulls-eye” is the 35-year-old woman who typically has children, and for whom the most important thing is that the clothes are flattering.
I figured I’d give it a shot! I ordered a bunch of different items and a couple different sizes. Almost everything I ordered was on sale or clearance, but I added in shopping links for the limited sizes that are still available. I mentioned that I was trying Boden to a few people and got a lot of feedback that people wanted to see what the clothes look like on a “real person” rather than just a website model, so I put together a little comparison for you to check out.
Want to see what I got?
Item #1: Floral Jacquard Dress (find it here)
Current price: $103 (they tend to fluctuate depending on size/color)
Here’s the dress on the website model:
Here is the dress on me:
First up, sizing. I used their online “fit predictor” to figure out my size and it said that I should order a size 10. I totally ignored that and ordered a 12 instead because I’m kind of busty and I don’t want the ladies to get all squished. As it turns out, the 12 fits perfectly. It meets all my requirements: it is knee-length, covers my arm tattoo, is super comfortable and doesn’t easily wrinkle. The subtle pattern is fun without being juvenile.
I especially like that the pattern has some heft to it, so it hangs really nicely without showing any lumps or bumps. I think that this dress looks perfectly fine on its own, but adding the belt makes it look a little nicer. This one was definitely a keeper for me
Item #2: Elena Fixed Wrap Dress (find it here)
Current price: $69 – $103.60 depending on color and size
Here’s the dress on the website model:
Here are two sizes of the dress on me:
Once again I used the fit predictor to learn that I should order a 10 and once again I was kind of afraid to go with their suggestion. I LOVED the look of this dress and if it were too small I would have been super sad about it. They have free shipping/returns though, so I went ahead and ordered two sizes to try. On the left I’m wearing a 12 long (they were out of the regular length) and on the right I’m wearing a 10 regular.
It was clear that the 10 regular fit my body a lot better. Not that the 12 long was bad… it just wasn’t quite as flattering because there was too much extra fabric. For their jersey dresses, I totally agree with their fit predictor to size down.
Now give me a minute to profess my love for this dress… it is one of my absolute favorite dresses in my closet right now. And yes, I bought it. The fabric is 95% viscose and 5% elastane, which means it drapes really well and also has a little bit of weight to it for lump/bump hiding. The faux-wrap top is perfect for giving you a nice cinched-in waist without the fear of it blowing open to show the world your undercarriage. It passed all of my tests and I love the abstract bird print too.
Item #3: Kate Skirt (find it here)
Current price: $108
From the Boden website:
I was really hoping that this skirt would work on me, but it’s quite clear that it didn’t. The fit predictor agreed with me that I should order a size 12 in this skirt, but once I tried it on the waist was actually way too big. However, I think going down to a size 10 would have been too small – at least on the hips and butt area.
The kicky little pleat at the front of the skirt was totally not working with my body shape… instead giving me a weird pooch. I think this skirt would work a lot better on someone with a straighter shape with less in the hips than I have. It was impeccably made though with a really substantial textured cotton stretch fabric, so it’s a shame it didn’t work out.
Item #4: Vintage Bead Dress (find it here)
Current price: $62.40
On the website model:
After I received my first package from Boden, I was so impressed by the quality of the dresses that I immediately went online to see if anything else was on sale that I might like. I found this Vintage Bead Dress, which didn’t meet my criteria of covering my arms, but was so pretty that I wanted to try it anyways. I ordered a size 12 (they were sold out of the 10) and it fits everywhere quite comfortably, including my bust. I did have to steam it when it arrived, but after wearing it to work for a day it didn’t have any wrinkles. I love the full skirt, vintage beadwork and that it can easily go from a workday (with a cardigan) to a wedding. Also the price was amazing!
Item #5: Glenda Dress (find it here)
Price: $55.20 – $82.80 depending on color and size
On the website model:
After loving the faux-wrap dress so much, I considered buying it in another pattern. However, after doing some clicking around, I found this similar style in what they call a “thirties floral print.” It is similar to the wrap dress, in that it is the same drapey jersey material. However, the bust area is more open (requiring a pin or quick stitch) and there is a contrasting fabric on the shoulders and top of the back. I stuck with a size 10 for this and the fit was consistent with the wrap dress.
I can see myself wearing this all summer long and then adding some tights and knee-high boots like the cute website lady so I can keep wearing it in the fall. It is just one of those well-made dresses that you can wear for 10 years without it looking dated or out-of-style.
My thoughts on Boden:
For my Boden experiment, I ordered 6 items and returned 2 of them. The return process was simple – I just put the item back in the bag it came from and attached a provided label. Once they received it back at their company, they refunded me my money. Easy peasy.
All four of the dresses I purchased were on sale when I bought them, but the quality definitely makes them worth a higher price. Also, I really like the fact that Boden has a 365 day returns guarantee where if an item doesn’t meet your expectations they will take it back (check it out here).
I’m really happy that I finally gave Boden a try, but I should probably steer clear of their website for a while. Now that I know how wonderful their dresses fit, I kind of want ALL THE DRESSES. The Riviera Floral dress has been calling to me in its posh British accent and the fact that they are running a 25% off dresses sale today is really testing my resolve…
Were you familiar with Boden? Did you find it helpful to see comparison pictures of the clothes on the website model vs the clothes on me?
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored by Boden, I pay for any clothing I purchase with my own hard-earned money. This post contains ShopStyle affiliate links. This means that clicking on a link may help me earn a small commission at no cost to you.