I have a bargain for all you retro-chic acolytes worshipping at the shrine of Mad Men goddess Joan Holloway. I recently watched all on seasons two and three back-to-back and made a resolution, inspired by that statuesque siren to put myself together a little more elegantly. Well, having sprained both ankles a while back, I've had to eschew heels, and I did try to wear foundation every day but it made my skin break out... maybe it's a look for occasions... And I have found a great dress to wear on those red-letter days.
In limited sizes now from Ann Harvey but only £22 in the sale (of course, I paid £40 - sod's law, but still a decent reduction from £80), it's a really interesting piece of tailoring and much more flattering than the photo suggests. Even if it isn't still available in your size, it's worth having a look at why it works. The wide, V neckline acts as a frame for your face, while also simultaneously drawing attention to the boobs and making them look less bulky (this dress won't work unless you're fairly buxom - although you needn't have quite my ridiculous proportions). The deep bands of trim that follow the crossover shape of the bodice also detract from the obvious shape of the boobs. This gives a more sophisticated, tailored look. The vertical darts at the front avoid excess bulk without the need for a stretch fabric, but aren't so tight as to make the dress cling to the tummy: always a problem with 'pencil' skirts and dresses. The sleeves are an absolutely optimum length for flattery. They cover all the worst, widest parts, the length balances them out beautifully and is right for that retro look, where short-short sleeves are rare. I'm not so keen on the length on me, and the colour isn't easy to wear, but it's a fantastic example of this kind of frock.
Where else can you look for this kind of dress? Well, there are many sites in the states, of which Pin Up Girl Clothing is my favourite - an absolute Aladdin's cave of hourglass frockery. To buy in the UK without incurring prohibitive postage charges and running the risk of customs fees, I recommend Pin Up Parade. The owner of the site imports the frocks from America in low numbers, so it's a bit luck of the draw. At the moment she has this curvetastic number in an XXXL only (size 20, nominally, but check the detailed size chart) - £80.