Off the Rack ~ Reviewing the Retrospec’d “Norma Jean” Dress

This week I’m revisiting a brand I raved about a year ago, the Australian vintage reproduction label Retrospec’d.

Last time, I tried the Elizabeth dress, which featured a cross-over neckline that was surprisingly boob-friendly. I really liked the quality and fit, so I’ve been eager to try another style. I settled on the Norma Jean dress, but at the time wasn’t really interested in any of the available prints. They were all super feminine florals, and I’m just not much of a florals gal.

Eventually, they released a few graphic prints, as well as a black and white stripe with realistic yellow roses floating on it. And I do mean “floating”—there are shadows behind each flower to make it look like they’re resting above the fabric.

At 37”-29”-41”, I was unsure of sizing because my bust falls in sizes UK/Aus 12 and 14, but my waist falls in 10 (even though my waist is usually size 12), so I hesitated on ordering from Australia. Then one day, the dress disappeared from the Retrospec’d site! I knew it couldn’t have sold out completely, because I’d been keeping an eye on it for months and none of the sizes had yet sold out. Resigned to the idea of ordering my second favorite print, I waited until the $150 (or Australian $195) dress was within my budget.

But then I received an e-newsletter from Unique-Vintage.com, and there was the dress! I guess they sent all the remaining stock to UV. This was great for two reasons: 1) I could try size 10 knowing I could exchange it if necessary, with no international shipping; and 2) I could wait until UV had a coupon or sale, and get it for a better price. Two weeks later, they had a 20% off code for Memorial Day weekend, and I took the plunge!

(Note that UV translated the sizes to American, so to get the Australian 10, I ordered size 6 from UV.)

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Oh readers, I love this dress! It features a gathered bust, non-adjustable straps, flat waistband, moderately full gathered skirt, zipper up the back, and POCKETS!

The fabric is a beautiful weight—heavy enough that it feels very high quality, but still light enough for hot summer days. The skirt isn’t quite as full as some of the others I’ve reviewed here, like the Pinup Girl Clothing Jenny dress, but I honestly kind of like this better. It’s lighter weight yet the skirt doesn’t completely blow up and flash my underwear with every gust of wind.

As for fit, let’s start with some close-ups:

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First up, boob room: Though the fabric content is 97% cotton and 3% spandex, there is no stretch. Additionally, while the bust looks gathered, its lining is flat, so the gathered neckline does not expand.

As you can see, my boobs fit into the top, but it does have a bit of a push-up effect because it’s technically too small. There’s also a wee bit of tissue pillowing where the neckline hits my chest. However, instead of mashing my boobs, the construction of the dress causes it to cut into flesh much more in back, which is just fine by me. I’d much rather have chubby-looking armpits than smooshed boobs. I don’t even think it’s that noticeable, but I can definitely physically feel it.

Another thing to note is that the straps are quite short. I almost always have to alter straps to make them shorter, otherwise I end up with way more cleavage than intended, bust darts that sit too low, and tons of visible side-bra. I guess I have high-set breasts—apparently all my ridiculous torso length is in my ribcage! Anyhow, the point is, if you are very tall or never need to alter strap length, then these may present a problem for you. A bonus, though: These straps line up almost perfectly with my Freya Deco bra, so I don’t have to wear a strapless bra.

As for the waist, for once it’s long enough for me! The waist of the dress actually hits me at my natural waist instead of several inches above it. It’s a bit tight, but not uncomfortably so. I really wanted it to be fitted, and I expect the fabric will loosen up a bit given more wear, so it’s just about perfect for what I wanted. Additionally, sizing up would have meant the underbust would’ve been way too big, since my underbust and waist are the same circumference, and Retrospec’d has a difference of 2.75” – 3” with most of their styles (the Retrospec’d size charts list underbust measurement while UV does not).

One thing this dress is lacking (besides adjustable straps) is a hook and eye at the top of the zipper. Since the bust is a little small on me, the zipper starts to pull down when I move a lot. I’ll be adding one myself since it’s an easy fix, but for the price I really think it should come with one already.

Overall, it’s not the most boob-friendly dress ever, but it works better than many dresses of this style (such as the Bernie Dexter Paris dress, which is just laughable on my boobs—I’ll write a proper review of it one of these days).

 

Comments

  1. Rosalind says:

    I love this print! I thought the roses were lemons at first. Either way the yellow on the black/white pinstripe is striking!

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