Ah, the tunic dress. The mumu. The make-that-milkshake-a-double-because-my-belly-is-FREE dress. There are many ways to refer to this bohemian go-to and many more ways to love it. Recently, I was loving this particular vintage tunic dress styled with equally forgiving wide-strap flatforms and mismatched layered necklaces. With a silhouette this breezy, I tend to feel that anything too put-together in the accessories department doesn’t quite jive. So, after slipping into this dress, I roamed to the various jewelry storage areas in my bedroom (yes, there are multiple), impulsively threw on what felt right and headed out to the office.
The office is actually the most appropriate place for this tunic, considering its history (and considering that my office is a boho wonderland). About a year ago I unearthed it from an overstuffed cardboard box in my parents’ crowded basement. I gave the silky fabric a shake in front of my mother and I asked if I could borrow it (which she by now knows to mean call it my own and Instagram about it). She smiled slightly. “Sure!” she said, then paused, as if recalling the last time she wore it, and added, “That was my power dress in the ’80s, you know.” Which immediately seemed like a lie. Because I’ve uncovered dozens of other frocks in her basement much more deserving of an ’80s power dress award. I’m talking shoulder pads the size of a slab of insulation and waistlines so rigid you could bust off a bottle cap on ’em. But, as impossible as that seemed in a decade known for sharp silhouettes, my mother did don this tunic dress, as she went on to explain, to business meetings and presentations as a computer programmer living in the South.
I’ve since spent some time trying to imagine my mother in this tunic, totally killing it in some workplace scenario. It’s not that hard – she is a total knockout – but picturing the dress in a corporate environment is trickier. The item itself isn’t archetypal power dressing, that is pinstripes, prissy separates and stilettos, but it certainly exudes a certain self-assurance. To wear head-to-toe pattern in poppy shades ensures more than a few stares from strangers, and to command that kind of attention is no small show of strength. When I slid this timeless tunic over my head for the first time, I did seem to feel a little taller, a little more graceful. After all, there is undoubtedly power in being comfortable. Whether that’s being emotionally comfortable in who you are or physically comfortable in the potato sack-like cut of your dress, I guess the resulting authority is undeniable. What clothing makes you feel totally powerful?