Last summer Pinup Girl Clothing previewed the Renee dress, a halter neck dress with faux tied bust, Jenny-esque gathered skirt, and, most notable of all, a midriff cut out. Coming in 5 prints–Tipsy Elephant, Mint Pinup Girl, Navy and white Anchor print, and plain red and plain black–I immediately fell in love. Looking at the dress on Doris Mayday it, of course, looked utterly perfect. But I don’t have Doris’s body, and I have probably bared my midriff maybe thrice in my life? And that is just a guestimate as to what seems likely, not based on any actual memories of having done so. My stomach and its general surrounding area is my low-confidence area. So, while I haunted the Coming Soon section last summer waiting for the Renee (and the other dresses I was lusting after) to drop, I battled with myself as to whether I would have the ovaries to buy Renee when she came out.
All 5 Renee dresses, pictures courtesey of Pinupgirlclothing.com
The Tipsy Elephant, Mint Pinup Girl and the Anchor prints finally became available during summer and I was brave enough to order, but since then when I’ve posted pictures on my Instagram of myself wearing the dress I’ve often been asked about the cut-out detail, sizing and fit, as well as seeing remarks from other ladies that they love the idea of it but don’t feel they have the confidence to rock it. So, in honour of the red and black colourways finally becoming available recently, I’ve decided to do a full review on this dress covering fit, dress construction, sizing, and that special cut-out detail and what it means for you and your body.
First of all, let’s cover the basics of the dress. This dress has halter straps that cross over at the back and are also adjustable, a standard feature for Pinup Girl Clothing strapped dresses. These adjustable straps mean that you can play around with fit until you feel the dress fits your bust and your torso in the way that best suits your body. The bust has lightly padded cups and is constructed well enough that you don’t need to wear a bra. Normally I do, wearing a halter bra to ensure no visible straps from the front, but in the pictures I took for this post I left one off to show you that a bra’s not really necessary. The tie detail on the bust is faux, so you don’t need to worry about tying a perfect bow yourself (why do I struggle so much with making equal, pretty bows??), and the skirt is gathered as fully as the Jenny, giving you lots of luscious volume. Another awesome feature is that–ta da! This skirt has pockets. I love pockets in my skirts, even though it normally takes me 1-3 wears to realise a skirt has them because I am unobservant to the nth degree.
And the cut-out. The cut-out is reinforced and widely cut, giving quite a large cut-out area that I feel fits flatteringly and with little pooch out. I’ve worn this dress at my current size as well as when I was 10lbs lighter, and while I feel my stomach fluffs out a bit more in this dress at my current size I still don’t feel the cut-out created a restricted, muffin-top-type ooze feeling of my lady chub trying to escape the dress. While the skirt is gathered heavily like the Jenny skirts, this dress has much more give to it than a Jenny dress and I fit into it just as easily with my recent weight gain than I do getting back into my Jenny dresses. So, when it comes to sizing, if you follow the size guides and resist the urge to size up then you should come away with a well fit and flattering dress. The back of the dress is even elasticated along the top giving a little extra stretch so that zipping up alone is a much easier affair than it can sometimes be.
Those are the structural and sizing basics of this dress, but let’s talk now about having the confidence to wear it. I’m not a small girl. I’m a UK size 14 presently and a PUG L in general, though I’ve discovered lately I’m an XL in some of their items like high waisted pants and vintage bustier tops. Saying that, no, I know I’m not the largest of lovelies. So I’m sure I run the line of some people thinking I’m too chubby to wear this dress while other people will think the idea of me giving body positivity talks to larger ladies might seem out of place. I’m really not here to tell anybody what to do with their body or what to wear on it. But I do think that sometimes all of us could do with hearing ‘You’re beautiful. Your body is your forever home. We all have some chub somewhere, in varying quantities, and it doesn’t really matter. Wear whatever the fuck you want and rock it.’ Because every part of that is true.
This dress showcases the area I’m most self conscious about, but I loved this dress from the moment I saw it. Anchors? A Jenny skirt? Pockets? White and navy colour scheme? Cute bust detail? Those are all my favourite things! And yet I intensely wavered back and forth about buying it because I wasn’t sure about that damn cut-out. I had even been given the money to buy it from friends and family as a birthday gift and I still wasn’t sure. I’m a PUG L typically but at the time since this dress was a new release there were no reviews and I had worries that the L wouldn’t even zip up, let alone the chance that it might provide unflattering tummy pooch. Even if it fit I was worried it might look okay but that I would never have the courage to wear it. I mentally made back-up plans that if I got it and felt too self-conscious about the cut-out then I could either partially cover it with a belt, or else wear a white top underneath that was visible in no way except through the cut-out, and maybe that would look like it was just part of the dress…? On and on I pondered and swayed, circled and fretted.
Eventually I decided to just go for it. If it didn’t fit or I didn’t like it I could sell it. And if it did fit I would be challenging myself. I opted for the L because I had plans to lose weight anyway (ha! Gone utterly in the other direction) and an XL that was too big would have no hope of being salvaged. When I got it and found not only that it fit but that I felt it was flattering, I was both thrilled and scared. Okay, it looked great, but that meant…that meant I was going to have to show people my midriff. What?!
I wore it supermarket shopping the first time. That might sound crazy to you but I always wear whatever fabulous pinup ensemble I fancy that day whenever I go shopping or run errands, determined not to censor my fashion whims based on what is expected of a ‘normal’ person. So I went to my local supermarket, where the workers are used to seeing me dolled up… And I got a lot of stares. I did. As a pinup one tends to get stared at simply because the style is unusual and it’s eye-catching. The average person doesn’t look like they’ve just stepped out of a production of Grease or an old Hollywood movie. People stare at us in the same way I would stare at anyone else walking round in a silver head-to-toe sci-fi get up and acting fully natural as if that is just how they dress.
So there were the usual Pinup Stares, layered in, I noticed, with Oh Look, I Hadn’t Expected To See Your Midriff, My That’s An Unusual Dress stares. And it was totally cool. It didn’t bother me. Honestly, it made me want to laugh. Because how often do we see girls and women alike walking round in booty shorts or skinny jeans with cropped tops, midriff out? How often do you see men out in summer totally shirtless? It’s no great surprise in those cases, plenty of modern fashionable clothes have had cut-outs galore in the last couple years. But in an unusual 50s style dress, on a girl sporting full 50s hair and makeup, at 9am in the canned food aisle in the supermarket? Suddenly, people were baffled and intrigued. But that mild-mannered intrigue and surprise just amused me and, in a way, bolstered me. I was doing something tiny and unimportant that was somehow brave! I was showing strangers 6 inches of skin that literally had no function, provocation or use other than to keep my organs inside my body! Was I really that worried about what these strangers might think of these essential epidermis and fat layers?
Maybe all of that made you think this dress sounds scarier than it did before, because I’ve confirmed for you that people might look at you while you wear it. But people are always going to look if you’re a pinup. People are always going to look if you’ve got any small patch of skin showing that is even slightly out of the norm to be displaying. Hell, you’re a woman, people are going to look at you anyway. We are forever being looked at, visually fawned over and judged, whether we want to be or not. So since that’s the case, why don’t you just wear whatever on earth it is that you like? People are going to be looking anyway, so forget them. They have no right or say over what you put on your body. If you think the Renee dress is beautiful and interesting and sexy and cute and refreshing and fun, then put it on your body. Wear it. It doesn’t matter if you’re an XS or a 2X. I haven’t seen a single woman wearing this dress who didn’t look incredible. PUG makes their dresses in extensive plus sizes because they know that every woman and every body is beautiful, yours included.
So if you like the Renee dress and the only thing holding you back is that your midriff is a little bit sun-shy and bashful, then buy the dress, take a deep breath, and stand tall. Maybe walk around like you’re a bad bitch on a catwalk if you’re really feeling it (Do I do this? Maybe. Maybe.)
It’s a lovely dress. I think it’s wonderfully constructed, great quality, unique and good fun. If you like it I think you should buy it. I think you should be bold and be yourself. Don’t hold back from the things you love, any of them. Especially not pretty dresses. Life is both too long and too short to be imposing that kind of self-torture, self-censorship nonsense upon yourself.
Much midriff bearing love to all of you.