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9 Questions With Anne Dayton, The Genius Founder Of PIOL Dresses

February 4, 2015 by Jeanine Edwards
shefinds | Style
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One of the reasons I love wearing jeans so much is because it’s darn near impossible to find a dress that I feel good in. Either it’s too short, too boxy, too tight–something is always off. But the sad fact is, I can’t wear jeans everywhere which is why I jumped at the chance to put PIOL to the test.

Never heard of it? It’s this revolutionary website that makes finding the perfect dress super simple. All you do it take a quick quiz about your physical features and lifestyle and boom–it suggest countless different dress options that will look good on you. And yes, these are stylish, good quality dress you’ll actually want to wear!

Here at SHEfinds we’re all about women treating themselves, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to chat up Anne Dayton, the founder of PIOL, about why it was so important to start this company and make it easy for women to find dresses they love. Get to know her below.

SHEfinds: Tell us a little about yourself.

Anne Dayton: I am originally from the Midwest, came to NYC after college in the seventies and never left. I worked at Artforum Magazine during the eighties which was very exciting and then became an artist while I raised a family. After all these years, I still love the creative process, NYC, and anything that has to do with color.

SF: What inspired PIOL? How did you come up with the idea?

AD: As an older woman, I was finding it difficult to find clothes that suited me. It was with this frustration that I came across Edith Head’s book, How to Dress for Success, where she described a very painterly way of dressing. Her approach to a perfect dress was really from the perspective of a camera’s eye. Determine where do you want the eye to focus, highlight this area, and simplify the rest. It is using chiaroscuro as a way to dress. She also understood the use of color as color theory–the magic that color has when it is put next to complimentary colors. So her idea of a perfect dress was really an artist’s sensibility, and one I related to immediately.

SF:  What’s been the most surprising finding since launching PIOL?

AD: One of our most pleasant surprises is that most women know intuitively what works best for them. We have a huge range of dresses from which to choose, yet by using our system, she finds her dress very easily. She knows the most flattering silhouette, neckline, skirt and sleeve for her figure, and we are constantly being told how happy she is to finally be able to put all these elements together into one perfect dress.

SF: What’s the most common dress women order on the site?

AD: The tailored dress is our most popular dress because it shows off our make-to-measure capabilities the best. While it is fitted in the bodice and waist, it comes in a variety of skirts that can either highlight or conceal one’s hips, so it is a wonderful silhouette for a variety of women. Our second most popular dress is the sheath which is a slightly more relaxed and comfortable fit to wear throughout the day.

SF: How many PIOL dresses do you own?

AD: Lots! We are always testing our dresses–new necklines, new fabrics and new prints. There are four women in our office and we all take turns ordering and wearing a new PIOL dress.

SF:  How does fashion play into your life? Why do you think outfitting women in great dresses is so important?

AD: I love fashion–the colors, fabrics, craftsmanship and detail–but personally, I tend to be understated in my dress. I want my clothes to reflect my personality but not supersede it. It is another reason why Edith Head’s philosophy appeals to me. As a costume designer, the sole purpose of her dresses was to make an actress look and feel more beautiful and confident on screen. She was in some ways the first celebrity stylist! This sense of customization is at the heart of the PIOL system. And, of course, the dress is the most challenging piece of a wardrobe to find. As most women are not proportional top to bottom, having a dress that is made-to-measure to her figure is a real find.

SF:  What’s your biggest fashion regret?

AD: I have had some beautiful clothes through the years–Pucci and YSL in the seventies, Versace and Kenzo in the eighties–but living in NYC apartments, I never had the space to keep anything! It would be fun to still have some of these pieces in my closet. They captured a special moment in time and I might even enjoy wearing some of them again, too.

SF: If you weren’t running PIOL, what would you be doing?

AD: I love to paint, so I would always be happy to be in a studio again. However, I sometimes dream of running a small bed and breakfast in a quiet, incredibly beautiful spot somewhere. Surrounded by natural beauty, giving happy people on vacation a warm and inviting place to spend a few days–it sounds like another lovely way to spend one’s life.

SF: What’s the one thing in your closet you can’t live without? (Besides your PIOL dresses, of course.)

AD: It sounds very boring, but I have always worn one of Agnes B’s basic black skirts. It is slimming to my hips (always a godsend!) and with it I can wear all my favorite shirts and sweaters. I have had it in my closet for the last thirty-some years, and it is pretty amazing that she still sells it. That kind of consistency and commitment to basics that work is something we intend to have at PIOL.

Click through the slideshow to see a few of our favorite PIOL dresses.

Be sure to check out Taylor Swift’s under $100 sweater and how to wear a fedora.

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