"The Dress Looks Nice on You" as written by and Sufjan Stevens....
I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a lot of bright in you.
And I think the dress looks nice on you.
I can see a lot of life in you.

I can see a bed and make it too.
I can see a fireside turn blue.
And I can see the lot of life in you.
Yes, I can see a lot of life in you.

When the world looks back.
When the face looks after that.
I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a lot of life in you.

I can see a lot of life in you.
I can see a bed and make it too.
And I think the dress looks nice on you.
Yes, I can see a lot of life in you.


Lyrics submitted by vwkeychain

"The Dress Looks Nice on You" as written by Sufjan Stevens

Lyrics © NEW JERUSALEM MUSIC

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The Dress Looks Nice on You song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentI have a live version of this song that Sufjan did in Belgium. Before he plays this son he says this:

    So when we moved up north we lived here in Pickerall Lake. We took I-75, me and my 2 brothers and my 3 sisters, and we also took a Pommeranian dog, my brother had a california king snake, and we had a dog called a bouvier, bouveitus flanders, which, is a, as you probably know a french sheep-herding dog. They're very beautiful, it was my mother's favorite dog. So we all went in the station wagon we moved up here, into my grandmother's home. It was a summer home, so it was kind of cold in the winter, 'cause the winters up north are very terrible. Anyway, that's where I went to middle school and high school, up there, out of the city, in the country. And there wasn't a lot going on. It felt like going back in time, from moving out of Detroit up there. So there wasn't a lot to do until I hit puberty. And then I met my friend Robin, and she was 18 years old and we went to the same high school. She was a senior and I was a freshman, my first year there. She was really nice, and she had these really big glasses which were popular then, tortoise-shell types. And she had curly hair, which was popular then as well. And anyway, she had a car, which was really kind of cool. Uh, so I was climbing the social ladder, 'cause I had a girlfriend with a car. And I didn't even have a summer job or my driver's license. So we would go driving around sometimes and we'd go to the lakes and the rivers, sometimes we'd go fishing, sometimes we'd go waterskiing. But what she liked to do the best was to go shopping. And there wasn't much shopping up here. 'Cause there's just, uh, K-mart from the last song. There's a lot of K-mart and strip malls and things like that. So we would go down to this, which was the nearest kind of big city, called Travis City, and she had collected these porcelain plates, they were collector's plates, and they had famous people on them, she had one with Mickey Mouse and she had one with Muhammed Ali. She had one with Princess Diana, and things like that. So she would go down to the mall, 'cause there was a store that just had those, she would get those. And she also bought clothing. She bought a lot of dresses, so she tried on this one, and she came out of the dressing room and she says, "Well what do you think of this?" I was only 14, and I wasn't very mature or gracious yet. I didn't know how to open doors for women or buy flowers and things like that. So I said, "Well, it looks kind of complicated." Because this was a time when fashion was really going downhill, and people were mixing kind of paisley and floral and tweed and denim and things like that so it was just all over the place, 'cause I think at that time Madonna was kind of like the fashion role model for most women. So anyway, uh, she said, "No you're supposed to say, 'The dress looks nice on you.'" So, that's what she told me. She taught me a lot of things about that, about how to talk to a woman and what to say and what not to say. So years later I figured this out, and that's when I wrote this song about that. (Applause)
    Raving Lunaticon March 03, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe guitar intro never fails to tune me right into the song. Even though I always come out pretty disappointed with the repetitive lyrics, I absolutely love the sound of it.
    Art Shostakon March 02, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNo problem, wooki and NightNeverSleeps. Yeah, that first part took me forever to listen to and type, but I figured I since I was lucky enough to come across that live recording of Sufjan that I ought to share it with others. I just hope I get a chance to see Sufjan live sometime.
    Raving Lunaticon May 07, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti love the banjo in this song
    stoner4lifeon February 16, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI have a recording of a live show from 11/16/2004 in Toronto, and on it Sufjan tells this story. Since its a little different from the one posted above, I thought I'd type it out for those who are interested:

    "Quick story, maybe you've heard this one before. After we moved out of Detroit we moved up state to a small town called Alanson, there was only 300 people. It was very boring. And that's where I went to high school. When I was a freshman, about 14 years old, I met this girl named Robin. She was four years older, she was 18. She had curly hair, and she had these big blue eyes, and wore these really cool glasses. And she had a car - she was a senior - so I was really cool all of a sudden, 'cause I was this kid who had this older girlfriend. And we used to drive around northern Michigan, we'd go to the lakes, we'd go to the sand dunes. And her favorite thing to do would be to drive down to Traverse City, two hours south, it was the nearest big city. And we'd go to Traverse City Cherry Capital Mall. Traverse City was the cherry capital of the world because it had all these cherry orchards. And it had a big mall there, and it had all these old stores where you could buy clothes, and you could buy ice cream, and popcorn, and you could buy shoes. And everything was discount - and that was her favorite thing to do. So she would buy these blouses, and these jeans that were already pre-ripped with holes in them and patches on the knees, 'cause that was really popular back then. And, her fashion sense was sort of... Victorian meets Cyndi Lauper - I think that's what was popular then [laughter]. So she would drag me around the mall and try on all these things and come out of the dressing room... One time she tried on this complicated dress that had a paisley design on the top, and then it was kind of a floral on the bottom. [laughter] It had the big shoulder pads, because that was popular then. And it had this complicated collar; it had zippers and buttons. She came out of the changing room and just stood there and look liked umm... [laughs] she kind of just looked like a big mix of wallpaper. Kind of like a scrapbook collage. And she said, 'how does it look?' She was very expectant. And I said, 'It looks very confused.' [laughter] And she gave me that look that women give you, that uh... 'silently deconstructing you' look -- that's that look. So years later, I figured out what you say to a woman when she comes of the dressing room."

    Hope you enjoyed that!
    jeparooon September 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationI know that this isn't what was the intended meaning of the song, but it always makes me think of my bulimia and how when i first told someone they just complimented me all the time. i dont speak to them much anymore, but what they said was beautiful.
    not only that, but the line "i can see a lot of bright in you" is like when I look in the mirror and realise there is still someone in there some, but you just can't get to them and be yourself again.

    either way, i love the song with all my heart.
    laalaalaaon December 20, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is a lovely love song because it show how love is both spiritual and physical. The singer loves both the womans' personality and her bueaty.
    Birdyon October 20, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgeez, Raving Lunatic, i feel in debt to you for sharing these anectdotes. very poigant.
    NightNeverSleepson April 23, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah Raving Lunatic, thanks for typing that down.

    "When the world looks back.
    When the face looks after that."

    Anyone has any idea what this means?
    wookion April 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that the meaning of this song is really quite simple. It is a song that recognizes the relationships we have within our world. Perhaps I'm going way out on a limb and have been listening to my English teacher rant all semester about an underlying meaning with in works of art. (this might be a generalization but i dont care) Everyone sooner or later wonders whether they are the only ones who exist in the world and that perhaps everything and everyone around them might just be a figment of their imagination or part of a dream they call life. You cant prove to yourself that anyone truly exists or is living except yourself. I think Stevens is taking a look at this theory in his own way. the persona in the song repeats over and over "I can see a lot of life in you." The question is how he can see life in someone if it is impossible to prove life exist in another human being. He is able however to senses what is on the surface. He sees a dress and can her brightness which could represent wither beauty or intelligence (not to be confused with life or existence. you don’t have to be smart to live or exist) When he sings about the bed and the fireside, the persona can again see the surface but cant tell if they actually live. However he can still interact with the non-living objects in the world just as easily as he can with the people in the world. Therefore proofing that he is unable to truly find life in the woman (hopefully a woman anyway.. its not really stated.... im not a big fan of cross-dressing) he sees.

    To answer Wooki's question i think this quote links nicely to my idea... or i should say Stevens idea, not mine, seeing as it is his if I’m right. When the world looks back could be God or just the world itself (whether it is filled with living things or is just you alone). Whatever it might be it is acknowledging a purpose which is what the next line says. “When the face looks after that” it is supposed to symbolize a sort of intimate face to face relationship with us being represented by the persona and the world/god. Therefore there is a purpose that we are here.

    That sums up everything I have to say.
    Sorry about the spelling and grammar and other mistakes
    I hope you can read it
    Tell me what you think
    I have no degree in this therefore there is no guarantee that its right
    However if it inspires you in anyway that is what the purpose is and I’ll be happy
    If you are worried about stealing the idea by all means take it
    Im not a big fan of the whole plagiarism deal
    I think ideas are meant to be shared

    Oh and btw don’t be so hard on people who put their input like raving lunatic
    Though his name matched what he submitted to a certain extent
    He has the right to share his ideas and information
    If you don’t want to read it DON’T
    H*LL DON’T READ MINE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO

    Last thing… I agree with the first two people who submitted to this song. The guitar is amazing I can play it and I love it!
    BE POSITIVE! Take it ez
    Canadianehon May 03, 2005   Link

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