The Versatile One-Piece Outfit I Wear Every Fall (Almost Every Day)

the author in her maxi dress

Never have I ever met a more reliable, low-maintenance, and comfortable outfit than this one—and it all revolves around one unexpected hero item: a long-sleeve maxi dress.

This Celine number caught my eye when I spotted it on the clearance sale rack at Barneys last spring. I didn't even bother looking at the price tag, assuming it would be well out of my budget, but I tried it on for fun anyway because I loved the graphic yellow stripe. Normally, I would have steered clear of a long-sleeve maxi dress. I'm relatively short, so they tend to swallow me up, especially if they aren't fitted. Still, despite the fact that it looked pretty drab slouching on the hanger, I was curious to see what it looked like on. Something about the exaggerated collar and yellow detail told me this one was special.

Exploring my mind palace a bit more, I also realized I'd seen it online while doing image research for a story and remembered loving the way that Yoyo Cao styled it. In-person, the material hinted at its versatility, too. Which is important, because I had no business shopping for a special-occasion dress when the day-to-day grind is much worthier of an investment.

a woman in a Maxi Dress
Claudio Lavenia/Getty Images

Since I don't have an especially linear body type and given my history with maxi dresses, I was expecting it to look even worse on. Much to surprise, I instantly fell in love with it—so I hesitated to look at the price tag, afraid of what I'd find. The even bigger surprise was that the dress had gone from being close to $2500 to under $500. I knew I was in the midst of a miracle of biblical proportions right there in the fitting room, and to pass that up would be sartorial sacrilege. Plus, I hadn't treated myself to any clothes for the entire year, so I decided to use pretty much all my extra spending money on this fine, fine dress.

Still, it was a final sale item, so I was nervous to make the splurge—and six months later, I can say that I have zero regrets. I've styled it so many different ways, and somehow it strikes the perfect balance between flattering and modest, bold and understated, which means I can wear it to work and when I go out. To the office, I wear it with sneakers or flat mules for a 100% comfortable yet chic ensemble. As you can see below, I wore it to a special steak dinner date at the famous Hollywood joint Musso and Franks, too. Naturally, I accessorized it with a classy toothpick to fit the occasion.

the author in her maxi dress

What I'm trying to get at is this: If you're going to buy one dress this season, a long-sleeve maxi should be it. So to spread the love and easy dressing to all, I found five more long-sleeve maxi dresses for work and beyond to wear this fall, plus different ways to style them. Scroll through to get the details.

The Hero Item: Long-Sleeve Maxi

Ganni Alameda Pleated Floral-Print Stretch-Knit Maxi Dress
Ganni Alameda Pleated Floral-Print Stretch-Knit Maxi Dress $315

For a similar balance of intrigue and timelessness, comfort and style, try this Ganni stretch-knit maxi. 

Topshop Pleated Batwing Dress by Boutique
Topshop Pleated Batwing Dress by Boutique $180

The pleats, flair, and bell sleeves of this swing dress give the classic black look a playful twist. 

Topshop Polka Dot Midi Dress
Topshop Polka Dot Midi Dress $95

If you're drawn to the vivid yellow hue and bold graphics of the maxi dress and aren't afraid to experiment with whimsical prints, try this polka-dot piece. 

Tibi Belted Twill Midi Dress
Tibi Belted Twill Midi Dress $595 $238

Polished and versatile, this belted black twill dress will go with pretty much everything in your closet. 

Self Portrait Check-Print Midi Dress
Self-Portrait Check-Print Midi Dress $430

This dress boasts a similar sophistication. The print and cut are decidedly more modest, but the embellishments and silhouette keep things interesting. 

The Extras: Layers, Shoes, and Accessories

Mango Zipper Leather Biker Jacket
Mango Zipper Leather Biker Jacket $229

A long-sleeve maxi in a jersey knit fabric or something similar will keep you warm enough on its own during the fall, but when it starts to get chillier, opt for a classic black leather jacket.

Mango Stand Sollar T-shirt
Mango Stand Sollar T-shirt $30

And when it gets even chillier, add an extra layer underneath, like this crisp white turtleneck T-shirt. 

Topshop Leila Clutch Bag
Topshop Leila Clutch Bag $35

A simple clutch will do the trick. This way, the focus will stay on the statement dress. 

Mansur Gavriel Elegant Bag
Mansur Gavriel Elegant Bag $795

A retro-inspired top-handle bag will play up the elegance and ease of your dress. 

Isabel Marant Kaisee Mesh And Neoprene Slip-on Sneakers
Isabel Marant Kaisee Mesh and Neoprene Slip-On Sneakers $495

A pair of stylish sneakers will give a more formal maxi dress some laid-back edge. It's also perfect for those busy days when you're running around between meetings. 

Neous Burkia Ankle Boot
Neous Burkia Ankle Boot $725

When it starts to get chillier, opt for a pair of black boots of booties that seamlessly blend into the dress. 

Proenza Schouler Black 40 Suede Mirrored Heel Mules
Proenza Schouler Black 40 Suede Mirrored Heel Mules $753

When you need to look formal but want to keep the comfort alive, opt for low heels. Higher, elongating pumps also work well with this dress style, though, so it really just depends on your mood. Extra points for a metallic pop. 

Urban Outfitters Jade Double-Chain Layering Necklace
Urban Outfitters Jade Double-Chain Layering Necklace $26 $20

Layer a few dainty chains to spice up the collar region with something shiny. 

A.P.C. Marion Earrings in Noir
A.P.C. Marion Earrings in Noir $150

If you're more of an earring person, opt for a funky pair of hoops like these.

Related Stories