Product Review: Exclusively Kristen Collared Sheath Dress

Hi Everyone,

When I first discovered my personal sense of style, it was at the height of a Mad Men frenzy. Christina Hendricks strutted through the show in fitted pencil skirts and nipped in sheath dresses, oozing an unapologetic confidence about her curvy figure. Meanwhile, supermodel Kate Moss was making media rounds again with her effortlessly cool way of combining leather jackets with cocktail dresses and worn-in t-shirts with just about anything. Ultimately, I planned my wardrobe around these two style icons with a hefty ounce of J. Crew chic. At the time, I was at my most svelte, and while I could find pencil skirts and cardigans and breezy t-shirts and kick ass leather jackets, the sheath dress remained elusive. J. Crew had some understated and sophisticated options in their wear-to-work collections, but the size which fit my lower half never had enough space for my boobs. Frequently, the zipper wouldn’t budge, but on those rare occasions when shallow breaths yielded results, breast tissue, desperate to escape the extreme compression, migrated under my arms or up to my chin. As the years passed, I bought many beautiful dresses, but true fitted sheath dresses never worked. Outside of a chic black number from Biu Biu, the bulk of my dresses are usually jersey or ponte blends with a considerable dose of stretch, so when Kristen of Exclusively Kristen offered to send me her new bust-friendly dress for review, I was giddy.

Exclusively Kristen Collared Sheath Dress, Available in sizes 8 to 18

Of course, my life proved to be pretty tumultuous this year what with pneumonia and weight gain and spider bites (oh my!), but through all of it, Kristen has been the epitome of grace and patience. For the review, Kristen sent me both the 12 and the 14, but I had the sneaking suspicions the 14 would be the winner. When I first received the dress a couple months ago, the 14 was snug and coaxing the zipper required a firm hand. However, when I was finally well enough to take pictures, I had lost five pounds (woot!), meaning the zipper now glides like a dream. For reference, my current measurements are 47″-36″-46″, placing me firmly in the size chart recommended 14. I love an accurate size chart! It’s so much easier to order online knowing it will fit true to size.

Lord Rayden photobombing it up

A structured, bust-friendly dress speaks to Kristen’s ambition because sheath dresses are notoriously challenging to fit off-the-rack. The preciseness of the cut requires every component to be perfect, and I half-expected to need tailoring. However, the Exclusively Kristen dress nails it for my hourglass figure. The bust is slightly snug with my Comexim bras although I am at the fuller end of her suggested measurements, and I love how it immediately nips back in under the bust and at the midsection. For me, I’m all about showing off my waist, especially when I am at a larger size, and I feel like the design maximizes my best features. On the hips, I have plenty of room to zip around the shop, a task made easier by the thoughtful back vent, but I do need to watch how I bend. Strategic darts on the top and bottom allow room for curves while still providing a tailored fit. Furthermore, the structured nature of fabric forgives lumps and bumps for a sleek silhouette.

Body-conscious dresses can be scary because they do show off your figure . . . for better or worse. With Exclusively Kristen, the mid-weight polyester exterior sports a textural quality similar to wool and combines with a full interior lining to camouflage problem areas while highlighting curves. My only gripe with the fit (indeed the dress as a whole) is that I do have bunching on the lower back, but I frequently have this issue with anything not containing spandex. As I understand, this has to do with my torso length and its relationship to my booty. It’s pretty minor, and I’ve seen a lot of sassy TV ladies who run into the same issue. Belts conceal it perfectly too. The day of the pictures began with a gorgeous, sun-drenched morning of 85 degrees with 1000% humidity, so I opted for fewer layers.

Sheath dresses are at their best when they keep it simple, allowing the focus to be on the wearer. With its cool elegance and subtle vintage nod through the peter pan collar, the Exclusively Kristen dress artfully uses minimal details to create a timeless classic. And the color! Oh what a beautiful shade of burgundy! Burgundy and Olive are two colors I treat much the same way as traditional neutrals like black or navy, and sure Kristen could have gone with a solid black too. However—and I can’t believe I, a black and white clothes addict, am about to say this—I am glad she didn’t. I think the choice of such a rich color distinguishes the dress while still providing a neutral palette for accessorizing.

Furthermore, given the price is roughly $150, I think the classic design and seasonless quality ensure the dress remains stylish for years to come. In winter, I plan on pairing it with sweaters, blazers, and tights, and for summer, I’ve been wearing it with chic sandals and statement jewelry. The quality is also fantastic. The stitching, the attention to detail, the careful way the liner was sewn in to prevent bunching—all of it highlights what American manufacturing can do. We sometimes forget that bringing jobs back stateside means goods will cost more, and to be honest, I think this dress is a phenomenal deal not only for the excellent fit and quality construction but also for a small business committed to US manufacturing. Bonus points: Buying an Exclusively Kristen dress directly supports a woman-owned small businesses.

One final word about the price issue: When I posted snapshots on Facebook and Instagram, I did receive messages about the price of the dress being too expensive. First, not only do we each have our own budgets but also priorities. I find it unfathomable to spend $50 a month getting my nails done but won’t flinch at spending three times that on a good pair of shoes that don’t kill my feet (still looking for those, by the way). As such, I don’t think categorizing the dress as too expensive is really fair. It’s actually a great price for the fit and quality, and for me, I prefer fewer dresses which fit perfectly then a closet full of so-so, especially if the quality is low enough to warrant replacing frequently. I’ll save money on t-shirts or cardigans to have the budget for a quality piece like this. For me, it’s all about the cost-per-wear. I hate how we are manipulated into feeding this “more, more, more” cycle. When my mom was alive, she and I were polar opposite on the shopping front. She literally had items she forgot she owned because her closet was so stuffed. Meanwhile, all of my clothes could fit comfortably in a large suitcase. If I love something, I’m going to wear it repeatedly until it falls apart. My way of shopping isn’t for everyone, of course, but I thought discussing my philosophy provided context for my commentary.

In closing, the biggest compliment I can pay this marvelous dress is to say that it makes me forget about my weight gain. I’ve been battling those body image demons hard core, especially because people are still making comments about my weight now vs. my weight in the photo on my counter. Some days, I barely muster up the confidence to wear anything other than yoga pants and a baggy t-shirt, but my Exclusively Kristen dress makes me feel awesome every time. I feel like Christina Freaking Hendricks, ready to kick ass and take on the world. I feel beautiful and perfect. I don’t feel like someone who hides away in loose clothes because I’m ashamed of my body or my weight. I feel like I own my body and rock this dress. And ladies and gents, that’s a damn fine feeling. Buy your own from Exclusively Kristen cuz you certainly ain’t gettin’ mine.

Erica

P.S. More obligatory photobombs by Lord Rayden while trying to get pictures of the dress . . .

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Product Review: Exclusively Kristen Collared Sheath Dress
Erica

Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.


23 thoughts on “Product Review: Exclusively Kristen Collared Sheath Dress

  • June 15, 2017 at 12:53 pm
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    You look beautiful in the dress. I trust that you are on the mend?

    Fran

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    • Erica
      June 15, 2017 at 1:02 pm
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      Thank you, Fran! I am doing much better (although these pictures were taken the week before the Fred invasion). I’m hoping my follow-up next Thursday is nothing but good news. 😀

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  • June 15, 2017 at 1:22 pm
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    Erica-You look magical in that sheath style! And I hope your health is on the mend & you have no more repeats of the negatives. I may even consider one of Kristen’s dresses for me. Looking at her size chart I think I would fit into a 16 quite nicely. Hugs
    Trycia

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    • Erica
      June 15, 2017 at 1:36 pm
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      Thank you, Trycia! I was really impressed with the size range. A lot of bust-friendly styles tend to stop right around 14 (or lower). It’s nice to see her sizing available up to the 18. Plus, the quality here cannot be overstated. You’d totally rock it too, my friend! <3

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  • June 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm
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    I have made sheath dresses and they take lots of work and skill – 150 bucks is a very reasonable price for one that is well made! And, to get a bit technical (cuz I know you like that) the reason that you get the extra fabric pool is because you require more fabric length in the front body than the back, but the dress is drafted for someone with a longer torso to full bust ratio than you have. There’s a fix for this (specifically for one with your short-waisted, hour-glass shape with a round derriere – and I have this shape too which is why I’m up on this :-)): you remove a wedge of fabric on either side of the centre back seam, tapering to nothing at the side seam, just above the waist seam. Effectively you seamlessly dart the back body above the waist to remove the unnecessary fabric (which on the front body is taken up by breasts). I’m a bit surprised that the dress isn’t drafted more specifically with that shape in mind, because I think of this fix as being rather bust-friendly design, but the truth is, clothing makers need to suit the largest audience and to fit you perfectly would mean that the dress would be much less effective for those with a different ratio of back waist-length to breast size – and our shape is probably less common than theirs, even as we all have prominent busts. I find that the fix I’ve suggested is most effective for women who are proportionately narrow in the frame and in the bust – because straight forward projection increases the need for more front-length.

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    • Erica
      June 16, 2017 at 5:24 pm
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      Okay, so you’ve totally blown my mind here. This is the first time the problem was ever explained to me. Like I said, I got a vague explanation about torso length, but this makes perfect sense! I’m going to print out your comments and take the dress to my local seamstress to see if she can do just that. Then it will be perfect! As you say, sheath dresses are not an easy thing to make, and to be honest, I don’t mind if I have to make small alterations. Our bodies are all so different that something this fitted will showcase those variations. Come to think of it, the Biu Biu dress did this to me too (I’m too heavy to wear it right now, but I think I had the same problem). Great explanation, and yes, I love it when people get technical. Thank you!

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  • June 15, 2017 at 10:04 pm
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    Ah, Mad Men. Betty was basically Marcia Brady for me, who once upon a time, c. 1974, filled me with deep despair because she was The Ideal my tall, curvy, curly brunette self could never achieve. Fast forward to now, & my time has come: I have the hair of Juliana Margolies & the body of ….well, if Christina Hendricks & Adele had a love child. You look gorgeous in that dress & the color is luscious.

    Good points on the pricing issue, too. I find myself hesitating to invest in fitted pieces and to spend more on a individual piece, & had to stop and think why. I realized it’s not because I don’t value quality & small business, but because of the fluctuation in size/weight that I experience. It makes it hard to justify – especially on fabric with zero stretch. I have only ever once found a great fitted sheath. Once. I felt amazing in that dress: light, lithe and carefree. And it was at my thinnest,10 years ago, in a cotton madras plaid, and…wait for it: at Walmart. True story. It fit me for exactly one summer. By the next summer my boobs had increased one cup size, & I couldn’t even zip it. Since then, I haven’t even tried to find a sheath again. So, wear the hell out of that lovely dress while it fits! Carpe dress diem!

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    • Erica
      June 16, 2017 at 5:28 pm
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      Thank you, Alicia! Christina Hendricks just blew my mind on that show. It’s rare that you really see curvy women on TV although it is getting slightly more common, and the way she freakin’ owned every sashay was awesome.

      That is a good point about pricing, and I tend to recommend avoiding investing too heavily when you’re in any weight transition. Thrift stores are great for this though so that you can still usually find a good quality piece (depending on the shop obviously). Have you tried any Bolero dresses? That may be a good place to start if you fluctuate sizes. The jersey on those is fantastic. They have been very forgiving of my weight gain (most of them–the fitted ones I have sitting to the side for post-weight loss). Jersey definitely has its benefits there, but sometimes you just want that structured look. If you have a period where your size stays the same, definitely check this one out!

      Reply
  • June 17, 2017 at 2:44 am
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    Don’t​ let people insult you about your weight. Everyone’s weight fluctuates up and down. Your weight will always be what is needed for you in the moment.

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    • Erica
      June 20, 2017 at 4:36 pm
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      Thank you, David. <3 It's just hard to know the right way to respond because it's customers, not random strangers, making comments. I love that picture, but it has become more bittersweet. As always, you are such a kind person.

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  • June 18, 2017 at 2:32 pm
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    Erica–First of all, let me say that dress looks amazing on you. I believe all of us deserve to be able to wear things that make us look and feel our best. It is much harder for some of us to find clothes that do that for us, but when we do find them, it is almost magical. I hope you are on the mend as well, and that 2017 will be kinder to you from here on out.

    This post hits on several points that are of great significance to me. I well understand the body image and self-confidence issues. I was not always the size I am now–throughout high school and college and into my mid twenties I was quite slender, around 130 to 140 pounds, and my greatest challenge in buying clothes was to find things long enough for my 5’9″ frame. No matter how much difficulty I had finding things to fit, however, I never thought of myself as being the problem. I knew there was nothing wrong with being 5’9″. The problem was not me, it was the clothes.

    Then in my late 20’s, I started gaining weight slowly but steadily, putting on 40 pounds in a space of about 5 years. I gained the weight evenly, so I still had an hourglass shape, and I managed eventually to make peace with it. I did have more fitting issues than before. No longer could I just pull any outfit off the rack and have it automatically look good on me. Still, though, I could always find something. It might mean trying on 5 or 6 or 10 outfits to find one that worked, but at least I could find that one.

    About ten years ago, however, perimenopause started wreaking havoc on me, including another 20 pound weight gain, this time disproportionately in my upper body. Clothes shopping ceased to be enjoyable. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror, nothing seemed to fit, and I felt unattractive. The few dresses I owned were all stretchy knits. Button down shirts became a pipe dream. I began to think that I was too heavy to really look good in anything. I felt that the problem was with me, not with the clothes.

    About a year ago, I ventured into the world of full-bust clothing and made-to-measure, and for the first time in many years I have clothes that actually fit. Not just clothes that sort of fit, or are good enough, but that actually fit, and even flatter, my tall, busty, plus-sized body, and it has made such a difference for me in how I feel about myself. No outfit on earth is going to make me look like I weigh 140 pounds again, but a properly fitting and appropriately styled outfit can do wonders to help me look the best I can, balancing out my top-heavy shape, making my chest less noticeable, or making my waist look more defined. Tops and dresses hang evenly all around–no more high-low hems. I can once again wear non-stretchy tops and dresses because they are actually cut to fit my chest without swamping my midsection. Even the stretchy tops and dresses fit better, as they aren’t stretched to the point of distortion. I once again believe that the problem is the clothes–and the clothing designers–and not me.

    Unfortunately, even my discovery of full bust brands has not been without frustrations. Many of them top out at around a 44″ bust measurement for their largest size, and I am 47″. I never bought a single thing from DD Atelier for this very reason. Other times, I will fit into a size that is technically offered, but there will be little or nothing in stock in my size (*cough*BuiBui*cough*Urkye*cough). Plus size brands don’t work for me. Some plus size brands do offer a little more bust room–around a D/DD cup rather than a B/C, but it is seldom enough for me. Others offer very little figure definition at all, apparently assuming that if I am large on top, I must be equally large all over. I too was very gratified to find that Exclusively Kristen offers up to sizes 18 and 20. I have one of her shirts, and it fits so much better than any other button down shirt I had tried in the last 20 years or so, although the sleeves are a little short on me. The main reason I would not consider the EK dress you reviewed here is that it would be mid-thigh length on me, and I simply don’t wear dresses that short. My dream is to find a made-in-the-USA, full bust friendly line of clothing that would fit my length as well as my body shape. For that, I would willingly pay more money, but I cannot bring myself to spend $150 for a dress that would still be a major compromise for me.

    Reply
    • Erica
      June 20, 2017 at 4:48 pm
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      Thank you, Laurie! Bust-friendly clothing was a big discovery for me too. Like you, I spent years feeling like I was somehow malformed because nothing ever wanted to fit properly. While I didn’t have height issues, I did suffer from problems with my breasts being too big for many tops/dresses, and my butt/thighs causing problems on the bottom half. Clothing shopping is not a favorite for me, which may also contribute to my desire to spend more on something which lasts longer. With my recent weight gain, I too feel sized out of many of the Polish companies. Have you seen my Bolero reviews at all? I have to give it to Patricia. She knows how to dress Curves, and she can make pattern changes for an added charge. In fact, she hasn’t really shown this on her website yet, but she says she has two patterns based on bust-size and often asks client’s their bra size before making the dresses. Hers have really been saviors for me because of flattering they are. It’s funny you mention EK’s shirt because that was what I was originally going to review! I hear she makes a lovely blouse, and her quality is so top notch!

      Reply
      • June 20, 2017 at 11:35 pm
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        So can the Bolero dresses be customized for different bust/waist ratios? I have seen your reviews, so I know how much you like Bolero, but the largest size on her size chart is a 1XL, which lists a bust size of 44″ and a waist of 36″. The waist would be fine, but I was concerned that a 1XL dress would be too small in the bust. I know you did not have a happy experience with eShakti, but I have purchased many items from them, and I have been happy with about 90% of the items I have received. The few returns I have made have been painless. It’s hard to beat made-to-measure for fitting both my shape and my height.

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        • Erica
          June 30, 2017 at 11:07 am
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          Yes! Patricia often asks women their bra size when she makes the dresses because she as two patterns she uses depending on where they are cup size wise. She can also go above a 1X too although to be honest, I think her sizing runs generous. I wear a Large in her dresses right now, so if I can do that, you should be okay too. But if you email her, she’ll gladly hash out the details. She can make custom pattern changes as well for additional fees. It’s always worth the email, and she is very meticulous about her work!

          I keep wanting to try EShakti again, but to be honest, I’ve only been buying a few pieces since my weight has been in flux. I’d like to get my thyroid under control and see where that takes me before investing in too many beautiful pieces that no longer fit. 🙁

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    • June 26, 2017 at 11:49 am
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      Laurie – I’m so delighted to hear that you like your EK button down! In terms of your concerns about the dress length, the length showed on the website is based on the sample size 10. The length goes up or down 0.5″ per each size. For example, the size 8 length is 33.5″ and the size 12 length is 34.5″. Also, I have plans to increase the sizes offered up to a 28.

      Reply
      • June 26, 2017 at 9:44 pm
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        Hi Kristen–the shirt is very nice. It’s actually the first white shirt I have had in nearly 20 years, as I simply couldn’t find one to fit me. I’m afraid the dress would just be too short for my preferences. According to your size chart, I would be between a 14 and a 16, and would probably go for the 16. At 35.5″, it would be well above my knee. I prefer my dresses to at least come to the top of my knee, which on me is about 40″. I know short dresses are in style these days, but I am just not comfortable wearing them, especially fitted styles, which tend to ride up even shorter when I sit down.

        Reply
  • July 2, 2017 at 2:01 pm
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    Gorgeous dress and beautiful quality (the stitching, the lining!, the collar). If I was still in my profession career or had a special occassion I would invest in that dress. My body is in transition at the moment, but in a few months I will be ready to act. My eyes glow when I see the EK button down, long sleeved, navy shirt. I have wanted that shirt nearly all of my life. I was a very early bloomer. Since my tween years I have been buying clothes to fit my busts. The result is that the shoulders never fit properly. Developing so young caused me to be very self conscious and want to hide my figure (body image issues are so harmful). I realize now that a smaller wardrobe of properly fitted clothing is the right approach.
    (P.S. I enjoy reading your writing. It is a joy to encounter proper grammar and a broad vocabulary.)

    Reply
    • Erica
      July 6, 2017 at 5:27 pm
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      I’m glad you enjoy the writing, Nancy! 🙂 Yes! The navy blouse is gorgeous! I love navy almost as much as black, which is saying something, but it can be harder to find. Navy just keeps the pop of contrast that black has without some of the harshness. Properly fitted clothes which are well made have been my go-to for several years now, and I do not regret it. I tend to go for my favorite pieces anyway, so when my closet is stuffed, I still find myself wearing the same core wardrobe anyway. This way, I can invest in better quality pieces or do things like support a small business.

      Reply
  • July 4, 2017 at 2:03 am
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    That dress looks amazing on you. It gives you that I can do anything look. I love it. And yes that color is really nice. Keep up the great work you do! Thanks for all the great information you provide. – Terri

    Reply
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