My Brandy Bunch of Bernie Dexter dresses!
I got super hooked on Bernie Dexter late last year. Through working sales, store credit, and eBay finds I have acquired a quite a few BD dresses within a year! Out of all pinup and vintage inspired clothing brands, I became the most hooked on Bernie Dexter without a doubt. I remember when I first started fashion blogging and by default kept seeing other girls with so many dresses on my wish lists that were somewhat expensive I couldn't help but wonder how they were able to snag them up! Since Bernie Dexter is my biggest go-to (still slowly branching into Pinup Girl Clothing and now getting more obsessed with Hell Bunny because I just couldn't get away from BD!!) here I'll share my experiences with the brand and how to find discounted dresses!
It all started with the drunken elephant print dress. I love elephants. I have a religious studies background and that sometimes dives into other forms of spirituality and energy. I kept running across elephants as perpetual signs of good luck in multiple cultures and/or belief systems. Now, I am not religious and I really don't believe in much in life even-if anything-but given that I have had some bona fide bad luck streaks in my life I'm not totally immune to growing affection towards an animal or symbol that is supposed to bring good luck. I can't pinpoint when the obsession began, but I now find myself full of elephants in my life! 2013 was the year the Modcloth bug began to hit me. I had always been someone who wore dresses on the reg, but they were more from stores like Forever 21, Express, H&M, etc...meaning that some were more modest than others but they were all relatively contemporary and somewhat shorter lengths. In the spring of 2013 I found myself with some unusually large amounts of downtime so I started to re-watch old Grace Kelly (my idol) movies. I was approaching the end of my 20s and wanted to have my style grow up a bit, but not necessarily look like I fell out of the Gap (khakis, business casual, and so on have never been my thing and I've had issues dressing myself at any job(s) that mandate such attire). Watching these Grace Kelly movies I (re)noticed how her style was timeless, and while not everyone exactly wears below the knees skirts...they don't necessarily look dated either (IMHO). So I slowly began committing myself to having more "demure" lengths, but with fun prints and bold patterns to keep myself young and not be mistaken for anyone who was preppy but without personal style. Bernie Dexter literally marries all of the above that I was looking for, so it was a great place to start upgrading my style...and obviously I got hooked!!
Shoes- Steve Madden
Given that I shopped at places like Forever 21 and even Target, the usual Bernie Dexter dress $100-$156 price tag seemed steep. When I discovered the elephant dress in the fall of 2013 it was on sale at $108. I watched it daily to make sure it was still in stock in my guesstimated size (XS) and finally around the holidays it dropped to the two digits. It was still higher than I was comfortable with but I didn't want it to sell out and I believe I even had some store credit to play with. So, I bit the bullet! When I first got it, I must it admit I was perplexed how I felt about it. I had purchased mostly only skirts from Modcloth and one or two dresses that were above the knee. This was my first real below the knee dress. The pattern I loved as much as I expected to, but between it needing to be ironed and that I was somewhat out of my comfort zone it wasn't exactly love at first site. After trying it on a few times over the next few days it grew on me more and I realized I had a few shoes and cardigans that would make this dress versatile in all seasons. Within a month of receiving this dress I wore it to a baby shower (my first time wearing the dress out) and I felt like a million bucks. I got so many compliments and reaffirmed a realization that I had been slowly coming to for some time which was that I pull off more old fashioned looks for some reason...but frankly I think most women could too!
Friends outfit (left): unknown. Mine: Pearls-gift, Cardigan- Forever 21, Bracelet-gift
I couldn't wait to get a new Bernie Dexter dress and kept stalking both the Modcloth and actual Bernie Dexter site to hopefully score on a sale. None of the dresses that were on sale I was in love with so I had to wait until late winter when I found a purple and pink polka dot halter dress from Bernie Dexter that I had never seen before on eBay-also in the two digit range. I bought it and it is arguably the dress I wear the most out of my BD collection. (Also, the halter dress is my favorite fit...but more on that later!)
Cardigan- Banana Republic, Boots-Burlington Coat Factory, Umbrella- Flea Market Find
Then New Girl inspired my next one:I had heart surgery in February with a lot of complications that sidelined me until April. Once my mom went back to PA and I could laugh again without being in extreme pain I began to watch New Girl because many of my friends had been asking if I watch it and and had even said that Jess, Zooey Deschanel's character, reminded me of them-both fashion wise and personality. (They're not wrong!). I saw her wear this Bernie Dexter dress in an episode and was surprised at how much I liked it on her because seeing it online didn't do much for me. So many dresses look different in real life and I'm glad that basically seeing this episode inspired me to get it (#nerdalert #fangirlalert) because it's one of my favorites and I think it is sooooo much cuter in real life-even my photos in it don't give do it justice.
Glasses- Clothes Mentor, Shoes- Steve Madden
Not long after that my mom gifted me with the dog print dress (she has one too!) to cheer me up because I was in a bad head space post surgery. This one is one of my favorites because not only are there more colors than meets the eye to pair up with different shoes and accessories...but somehow every time I look at it I discover a new dog. I swear, you think you know the print and then one day a new dog face is staring at you that you never saw-I don't know how the print does it!
Seriously...Modcloth has the best store credit policy! Left- Jessica Simpson shoes. Middle-Soda wedges. Right- Melie Bianco bag, Jessica Simpson shoes
My next 3 BD purchases all came from Modcloth sales while utilizing store credit. With Modcloth sales in the winter and a handful of things I bought at full price over two online purchases where nothing worked, I ran the store credit train for a loonnnggg time. Seriously, it felt like I'd get something, it would be too big, return it, order something new with it, it would be too big, return it, and so on and so forth. Eventually I decided to go for Bernie Dexter dresses because I was pretty confident I'd keep them because I knew my size! I got lucky with the champagne dress (left) because it went on sale during my store credit one. I really wanted it since it debuted, but it kept being poorly reviewed for being too tight-and now I can say that's unfortunate because it's really not that bad at all. The other two were also on sale and I couldn't be more excited to wear them more throughout the fall and winter as the colors will go nicely with those seasons!
Glasses: gifted, Bag: Kate Spade, Shoes: Nine West
The most surprising dress to me was this dress (Hearts of Desire). I had seen it around here and there on shopping sites and fashion blogs but kept flip flopping my opinion of it. I almost bought it on eBay once but somebody beat my bid. Within the week of that happening, another one in XS popped up for $50, with no bidding and free shipping. I was sitting at my friends pool idly scrolling through my iPhone when this happened and closed the screen. I figured if I got home and it was still available then it was meant to be. But then I stopped and realized, you've wanted this dress before, the price is lower than the last time you almost got it, a Bernie Dexter dress of any print for $50 is a f*cking steal, there's no bidding drama, if it doesn't float your boat you could probably sell it for $10-$30 more than $50 successfully...just get it NOW because someone else for sure will. So I did! The day it arrived was a REALLY good mail day as I had a few other clothing related items delivered to me-which honestly I was more excited about. But then I opened up the Bernie Dexter package and my eyes nearly bugged out of my sockets when I saw it. The colors were so much better and richer in real life and the color scheme was also very unique to any other dresses I own. I tried it on and was tempted to do the Dumb and Dumber tap dance (when they decide on their blue and orange tuxes)...which is how I know I'm in love with a piece of clothing!
My most recent BD experience is similar. I won a BD dress for $46 on an eBay bidding war that I recently started to like. The dresses that have printed skirts but plain tops throw me off while initially seeing them online. The one thing I'm constantly complimented on on my Instagram is my "skirt collection". When I'm looking at dresses like this I'm almost just wondering if they make it in a skirt so I can mix and match different colors to it. But after loving the Heart's Desire one so much, and already being in love with the print of this Poppy Field dress, I wanted it more and more and fell in love. I was surprised upon getting it because the top is silkier than the normal cotton fabric from BD dresses. I'm super excited for this dress going into fall and winter as it's going to go great with boots and cardigans.
Now for the fits, quality for the price, and other things to point out. As many other reviewers and Bernie Dexter lovers alike have said...you're paying for the novelty more than the quality. But I don't think the quality is bad. Yes, it's just cotton material, but the dresses usually a very thick cotton material and they are the furtherest thing in the world from flimsy. I have never had a bad experience with a BD dress-period-either. She has the best novelty prints in town, all dresses have pockets (that are fairly big), and majority of the dresses come with belts. As you've noticed with my story of receiving a few BD dresses is that I got a lot of them by around buying other dress brands that didn't fit. Now that I know my size and what I'm (mostly) getting from a BD dress, I feel good whenever I order a dress-regardless of price or store credit to play with-because chances are I won't be sending it back. That said, she has many different styles of dresses that seem to fit very differently. Let's talk about some of the things I've noticed:
The Chelsea dress:
Being very on the nose here with my dogs while in my doggie dress!
This is my only Chelsea cut and I don't know if it's just the fabric that was used for all the dog dresses (there is a version in another style) or if Chelsea dresses are just different fabrics but I find this cotton to be lighter and softer to the touch. This is one of my favorite prints of all time, but without the ruching around the bust that majority of the other dresses provide (that leave room to expand or shrink to your size depending on your bust size) it was swimming on me as not only am I narrow around the rib cage but have a smaller bust. Under the arms were gaping so I had to get this altered (I'm wearing a cardigan here because it was pre-alterations). If you're built like me I'd be mindful of this and/or depending on breast size possibly size down as I found the dress to run larger. The only other quirk about the dress is the tie string for the front. Because I came of age during a time period when draw strings on pants were a thing (yuck) I hate this feature, despite seeing Betty Draper rock a similar dress on Mad Men looking oh-so-chic. It's just one of those things that I just can't get on board with me wearing it, so I usually tie it in the back and then belt it over that. Regardless, that's just a personal style choice and isn't a knock at the dress at the dress as much of a head's up!
I do my best avoid mirror selfies but my friend's mirror at his place in Miami was too much fun to resist!
As I have said, this is probably my favorite fit. Sometimes halters from other brands can be weird on my frame but with the BD halter the bust and rib cage area fits me to a T so even without the halter it would stay up on it's own-yay! Maybe it's because the dress has flexibility in that you can tie the halter as tight or as loose as you want, but I find this cut to be the least loose in the waist line without being "loose" if you follow. I wish these were made in more prints! I'm foaming at the mouth for the discontinued white one with blue script on it (seriously-pretty much my dream dress and I hate that I didn't see it until after it sold out!!) and I keep seeing the blue and red Eiffel Tower print pop up in a halter when I do searches so I keep holding out for an eBay score before committing to the Paris style version of it. Fingers crossed!!
The Sugar Doll:
This is all in all a very comfortable fit. The times I've worn them all day I'm kind of over it by the end of the day around the waist- but who isn't over clothing for various reasons at the end of the day. Any Bernie Dexter dress cuts that I didn't review fit very similar to this style where that they are tight but not in the least bit uncomfortable.
I'm not totally surprised why the one on the right was reviewed as running small, because the Paris cut is for sure the tightest Bernie Dexter dress that I've had the pleasure of knowing. That said, the one on the left fits exactly the same and that wasn't reviewed poorly so I don't know. Maybe the champagne dress were people's first experience with a BD dress...or pin up dresses in general (as they do tend to be tighter than sun dresses you could find at the mall). My (only) complaint about these dresses are that because they're so tight at the waist, they poof out more than usual as it falls into the skirt giving me a "hip-y-ier" appearance than I'd wish to have-not because curves are bad as much as it's sliiiightly disproportional. But, that's probably a quirk only I see. Otherwise I love the feminine feel of the cut and how it's borderline princess-y without being too over the top. Definitely a great 1950s style repo!
I hope this helped you convert you to the Bernie Dexter way, whether you were on the fence, discovering this brand for the first time, unsure about the fit or quality, or how to find a slightly cheaper one! Have a great day!!