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The wardrobe whisperer
Our experts solve one reader’s fashion dilemma
QSo many of the trending styles this summer seem to be prairie dresses and smocks, but they look childish and frilly on me. What alternatives are out there that look a little bit more structured and sophisticated, rather than frumpy? I’m specifically looking for day dresses, which could be worn with flat sandals or low block heels in the evening. I don’t mind whether I have my arms out or covered, however I think that puff sleeves might be part of the problem. What do you advise?
AHi Charlotte. I think the flouncy dresses that have flooded the high street this year are like Marmite. There are plenty of women who now boast wardrobes stuffed full of ruffles, but there are just as many who think the whole trend leaves them looking one basket bag short of a picnic.
AA Milne’s whimsical characters may not be your idea of a fashion pin-up (especially at not-so-quaint places like the office, or in the city) and that’s OK. It may seem like all the shops are high on frills, but there are plenty of other options out there.
Consider first a crisp shirt dress. With a sharp collar, in lightweight cotton or linen fabrics, this silhouette will never read as childish. There are sleeveless styles to be found at Hush, and elongating drop-waists at Toast, or I would add a statement belt at the waist to define Cos’s classic button-down.
The thing about a lot of the prairie styles out there this summer is that you can’t really see your figure through all the busy embellishments. I like Reiss’s V-neck dress for this reason – yes there is a hint of a ruffle around the shoulder, but the overall silhouette is extremely flattering and well tailored.
The barrage of ditsy florals covering everything from bags to blouses can be hard to see through, but it’s worth remembering that dress prints don’t need to look twee. Seek bigger, graphic botanical designs, such as on Zara’s long-sleeve poplin dress or Cala de la Cruz’s sundress, to enjoy the summer vibe without being overwhelmed in a meadowesque smock.
My top destination to recommend this year for a classic and simple summer dress is Seasalt. The Cornish brand has a whole collection of organic-cotton wrap, maxi- and A-line dresses, in block colours and pretty but not overthe-top prints. The whole range is washed in a beautiful, very British colour palette: sea-blue-grey, ochre, apple green and navy.
Available in regular or tall lengths, I guarantee you’d receive compliments on the Polmanter dress pictured here. It’s a unique print unlike any of the common florals found elsewhere. Ideal wares for your next staycation (in Polmanter or elsewhere), with no fuss.