The Monica dress by Laura Byrnes for Pinup Girl Clothing is one of those dresses that is so classic and so flattering that near every woman who sets eyes on it wants to own it. At $140 a pop and so glamorous that the first instinct is automatically to classify it only as evening wear, it’s understandable that the average woman, and even the average pinup, often feels she cannot justify buying such a dress if she feels she won’t often get a chance to wear it. Still, the I-must-own-it lust generally still perseveres even after good sense has spoken it’s piece, as I can personally attest to having drooled over this piece for nigh on a year before I finally took the plunge.
So for those of you who are curious but undecided about this beautiful frock I’m going to give you the full ins and outs of this dress –let’s talk sizing, quality, styling, and most important of all, if it’s worth it.
Doris May Day, looking so damn delicious in this dress that it is near illegal. Photographed by Laura Byrnes
The Monica dress is a ruched jersey wiggle dress, available in 8 colours and counting, with an inbuilt bengaline shaper to help suck you in, keep you shaped, and make you feel supported. There’s clear elastic around the inside of the shoulders to help it stay in place if you choose to wear it slightly off shoulder, rather than immediately upon them. The bustline is a cross over, framing your bustline perfectly, whether it is ample or humble, and the ruching of the dress helps hide a multitude of sins for those of us who carry extra poundage than the beautiful Doris May Day. It’s this combination of supportive internal structure with the carefully designed draping of the outer dresswork that makes this dress so universally forgiving and flattering on all bodyshapes, which is why it’s wonderful that this dress comes in sizes XS through to 4X.
Personally, I’m a little too small in the boobs department to technically be considered a true hourglass figure in proportion to my hip measurements, and I carry my weight on my stomach, an area I tend to be self-conscious about. For this reason I don’t often wear skintight or wiggle dresses, so for the longest time I put off buying this dress because I was sure it could not look as good on me as it looked on all the perfectly portioned ladies on which I had seen it modeled. Sure, this dress was widely pronounced magic, but it couldn’t exactly obliviate the extra doughnuts cuddling up to my belly, could it? The lovely thing though is that it does. No, technically, slipping this dress on doesn’t work like liposuction, but it doesn’t need to. If you get the sizing right, this dress nips in at the waist and the ruching will cover all your insecurities like it covers mine. So, that being said, let’s discuss sizing.
When it comes to Pinup Girl Clothing I am a strange case in the sizing field. I was wary of laying this out for you all because I didn’t want my weird sizing issues to confuse anyone who already felt on the fence, but I decided it was important to show that no matter what your measurements it’s possible for you to get this dress in a size that fits as long as you do a little homework first. As a UK 12-14, my measurements technically put me in the ‘XL’ size category for almost every item I’ve bought from Pinup Girl Clothing. However, the XLs always run too large on me, either in the waist or in the bust, neither of which is flattering. Not only do the XLs simply fit too big on me, but it’s also a case that I am comfortable in very tight waistbands and my body somehow seems to accommodate fitting into a smaller size without spilling over top of it, making it possible for me to fit into an L comfortably.
I’ve never known another woman to have this strange between sizes issue with PUG, so my rule to all new PUG customers is always to follow the size charts and to check the reviews as a further safety check. It’s important you know your own body, not only in your measurements, but what type of fit makes you feel comfortable both physically and mentally. This sizing confusion is part of why I still held off on buying the Monica once I did decide to bit the bullet. The size charts claimed I needed an XL, as with all PUG clothing, but I know myself to be an L in their clothing across the board on all my past purchases, and reviews stated often that women had to size down in this dress to get a really flattering snug fit. So,the size chart claimed I was an XL, but if I was normally an L and the reviews said to size down, should I go down to an M? Surely not. As surely as I knew I was not an XL, I also knew I was not an M.
Some women talked of the zip bunching up on the side when the dress was too big for them, but other women reported that even when the dress was a little too big or too small for them following weight fluctuations it still looked good. With fingers crossed, I ordered an L and waited. Following further advice from the reviews, when the dress arrived I put it on by stepping into it and wiggling it up rather than unzipping it. The support structure of the dress is such that repeatedly zipping and unzipping the delicate invisible zip can be known to cause it to break, which is why the dress comes with a spare zipper and the advice to step into it or pull it on over your head. Follow this advice. There might be a brief moment somewhere in the struggle where you’re sure you’re not gonna make it out alive, but the dress will slide up, or down, as the case may be, and you will emerge not only still breathing but looking smoking hot.
As mentioned, this dress contains a support shaper inside from the bust, over the stomach, and down over the hips. This basically means that if you don’t want to wear underwear with this dress, you don’t have to! The bust is so well constructed that a bra isn’t necessary unless you happen to want the extra boost or support (ironically more likely for us less upwardly-gifted ladies, rather than you melon goddesses. Don’t believe me? Find pictures of pinup Cortney Maylee in this dress and you will understand.) Likewise, with the stomach, butt and hip support this has got going on you don’t need the extra layer and support of shaper panties. However if you want to wear your own shapewear beneath this dress you absolutely can. When I’m at the heavier end of my weight fluctuation scale I like to wear either a pair of firm control shorts or control skirt beneath this along with a cheapy underbust corset. Cheapy because all I need is a little nipping of the waist to feel comfortable in this dress, nothing drastic, so a short underbust corset with only plastic boning pulls me in enough that I feel confident but am not so restricted that I can’t comfortably eat or dance.
My Monica dress shapewear on the left, compared to a real steel boned corset on the right which provides a more dramatic waist. Not necessary with the Monica, but possible if you like the support and cinching
If you live outside the US ordering the Monica from Pinup Girl Clothing directly still–depending on your country–works out cheaper than buying it from another website online, I’ve found. For me ordering the $140 dress with $28 dollar shipping (and that’s not including the 10% off returning customers get, or the free shipping you receive on international orders over $350), plus the import fee I had to pay when it was delivered, means I spent £120 roughly on the dress in total. Found on a UK website stocking this dress I would have had to pay £140, plus delivery. From PUG my dress arrived in 4 days, as PUG often tends to do even coming from America to the UK, and it was perfect, so it was totally worth it.
I mean, come on. Look at it. Of course this dress is worth it.
But Amy, that is a lot of money to spend on a dress you can’t wear that often, isn’t it? I hear you say. Not often, you say? Oh reaaaally.
The Monica dress is glamorous. It is classic and elegant and 100% pure old Hollywood glamour. But what’s wrong with being glamorous outside of an invitation? Is it really so terrible to turn heads when you leave the house because you look more spectacular and polished than anyone was expecting to see in their local supermarket, at their favourite beach spot, walking down their street? I get that it can be a bit embarrassing when people stare, it’s something every aspiring pinup has to adjust to as she makes the transition. But people stare because they find you fascinating. They stare because they didn’t think this kind of glamour and classic femininity still existed in this day and age outside of a wedding reception or a 30th birthday bash. But as long as you have the guts to step outside of your front door looking like no one else you can wear whatever you want, and turn heads doing it.
So, yes, this dress might simply be outside of your budget, or you might be loathe to spend so much on one item of clothing when you can have several pieces for the same price. But the thing is, this dress is a lifetime piece. The quality is there, the design is certainly timeless, and if you own it you will forever own the promise of a dress that will not only knock everyone’s socks off but also make you feel like any other reaction to you and your fabulous figure is inconceivable. You will never again have a function about which you can fret that you have nothing nice to wear. And for the rest of the time this dress definitely does not need to sit idly in your wardrobe should you not want it to. As long as you want to wear this dress there is a dozen ways you can. You can pair it with flats, wedges or sandals; throw on a cardigan; add a casual handbag, cats eye sunglasses, a headscarf, wooden bangles, a hairflower as big as your face; put on a belt; style your hair in a casual updo; and throw a belted cape jacket atop it and knee high boots in winter. This dress is endless as long as you’re willing to be creative and say to the world ‘Yes, you would probably be too wary and normal to wear this dress for a day on the pier, or for a BBQ with friends, but luckily my fabulousity is undaunted and we both know I am bringing some Marilyn Monroe shit to your neighbourhood right now, baby. You’re very welcome.’
I love my Monica dress. I bought it a few weeks before my 28th birthday and saved it for my birthday trip to my first ever burlesque show because I knew wearing it would be so special that I wanted to experience it that first time for a special event. In a club full of gorgeous, glamorous people it stood out and it turned heads. It will do the same for you too.