Monday, April 16, 2012

The Great Dress Debate

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So there's been a lot of debate going around the internet about 'Dress Covers'. Some people are so over them, while others still appreciate the pretty. I thought we could discuss what we think of dress covers.

Firstly, I think it's important that we remember unless you've self published, you can have little to nothing to do with what goes on your cover. You might want a girl all in leather, or in a hoodie and jeans, but you might get a girl in a ball gown. It's also very easy to judge a book when you first see it and compare it to the description and decide, just from those few lines, that the cover has nothing to do with the book. As an author with a dress cover, I can safely say that my character wears that exact dress in the book. It does fit the book - but you wouldn't know that from the description.

Then I think it's also good we remember that sometimes, getting your book in a bookstore can be reliant on the cover. And quite obviously, dresses on books seems to be what bookstores are buying. Maybe there's a reason for all these beautiful gowns.

Maybe there isn't.

Let's take a look at some dress covers.

Books where the dress fits

All of these are gorgeous, and all of them are fitting to the book. For example, The Selection. The main character, America, is in a reality show to become the new Queen. She has to dress up and wear beautiful gowns. Hence the cover. Masque of the Red Death is also fitting because the characters enjoy wearing lovely dresses and corsets when they go out. Arise, well the character dies in a white dress and therefore stays in the white dress. And what else do all of these covers have in common? Well, they're beautiful. Absolutely stunning.

Books where the dress is gorgeous, but doesn't fit

Each of these covers is absolutely stunning. And definitely eye-catching. But, from what I know, these dresses aren't actually used in the book. Fallen - the main character goes to a dank, dark boarding school. No dresses there. Shatter Me has a main character who is locked away in a prison for a long time and doesn't have the time to attend a beautiful ball. And Everneath (which is my favourite cover of the three) doesn't have a scene with a gorgeous red dress. But the imagery on these covers is very powerful and would make me pick up the book on look alone.

I have to be honest, it was a lot harder finding a cover with a dress on it that featured in the book than it was to find one that didn't. However, I'll be the first to admit that I'm attracted to pretty things. And as a girl, I like beautiful dresses. I can't help it. I love dress covers. 

But, one problem with these gorgeous dress covers is that it's not exactly male friendly. I don't know about guys you know, but the ones in my life wouldn't feel too comfortable walking around with a cover featuring a kick-ass dress on the front.

But enough about what I think. What do you think about dress covers? What have been some of your favourite and least favourite dress covers and why?

Also - and unrelated - Harlequin Teen are hosting a giveaway over at my personal blog, and it's super easy. So drop on over and enter!


  1. On the one hand, there are SO many books with girls in dresses on the cover. On the other hand, I almost always think they're gorgeous.

    If I had a third hand, I'd also like to say that girls in dresses are almost always off-putting to male readers.

    So in summary, I like them but maybe there should be less of them instead of dominating the shelves?

  2. I think dresses on the cover are pretty but I am getting tired of seeing them. I feel like it's definitely a trend right now. It's one thing if it makes sense to the story but if not can we please have an interesting cover (publishers I'm talking to you). There are other ways to draw a reader's eye.

  3. Great post! LOVED the covers for The Selection and Masque! And I feel the same way - I'm drawn towards dresses too. But then maybe because there are so many, the dress has to be that much more stand out?

  4. Even your sidebar features books with girls in dresses! I actually like most of them, but it does irk me when it doesn't seem to fit theme of the story. Paranormalcy is another one, although the main character does go to a school dance toward the end and I think she still has on the fancy dress toward the end of the book. But the whole first 2/3 of the book she's very active and her clothes are described as a mix of combat gear and tank tops! OH well.

    The bigger trend I tire of is disembodied people. Why cut off the head all the time? Everneath has a gorgeous cover ... except for the beheaded model. Poor girl!

  5. I'm very, very iffy on 'dress' books. There aren't many that've caught my eye, probably beacuse they all blend together after awhile.

    Some of my favorite covers:
    IMAGINARY GIRLS by Nova Ren Suma
    WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion
    LARK by Tracey Porter
    BAD TASTE IN BOYS by Carrie Harris
    SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater (all three books)

    I like ones where the design is unique and really pops out from other books.

  6. I like them, sort of. If the character is the kind of person that wouldn't be caught dead in a dress, then I think it's not cool. If my MC ended up in a dress like this on my cover (of my pretend published book), I would have a WTF moment. LOL. But I LOVE Everneath's cover. And in Shatter Me there was a few chapters where she was made to dress up. ;0)

  7. I'm with you. I totally see the argument about covers not matching the book, but I do like pretty dresses. :) Ultimately they need to pick a cover that they believe will make people notice it. Clearly dress covers are working, for now anyway.

  8. I agree. The pretty dresses are eye-catching and make me want to pick up the book. I won't know until AFTER reading the book whether or not it ties into the story. But it is also true that with all the pretty dresses out there, a gorgeous cover without a dress with catch my eye even more. I also know for a fact that my brother would NEVER pick up a book whose cover features a girl in a dress, unless it was required reading for classes.

  9. I don't think pretty dresses or the lack of would effect my buying a book. I read the blurbs and if they're interesting, I'm hooked.

  10. I think the pretty dress cover is only one step removed from the dead girl cover. The point of women's high fashion, especially formal dresses, is that they are restrictive. Corsets, long trains, heavy layers and crinolines, they all serve the same purpose as foot binding - that is to make a woman seem, look or actually be helpless.

    Very few of these protagonists IS actually helpless though, which is why this trend is so troubling. I'd much rather see a girl in combat pants, looking powerful and active.

    The posture of many of these covers is also very passive, again going against what most of the books are about.

  11. Kelley's list of beautiful covers is amazing!

    And I like "dress" covers. They hearken back to those 60's romances where a distraught female in a nightgown wondered the grounds of a sinister looking mansion. I loved those.

    For me, the cliche cover is the one with anything dripping blood. Time to find another way to signify horror or murder.

  12. In Shatter Me Juliette wears quite a few elegant dresses, not exactly the one on the cover, but ones that are not too different from it (Warner, the villain has a whole closet of dresses, shoes, and accessories for her).

  13. Sales dictate covers, so until readers stop buying, they'll keep rolling out such covers. That said, I think most of them are lovely. It does bug me when they don't fit the book at all, though. Thanks for the post!