Get in line for a change of a dress

By Jan Shure, November 19, 2009
Ruched dress, £39.50, Limited Collection, Marks & Spencer

Ruched dress, £39.50, Limited Collection, Marks & Spencer

Trousers and their skinny counterparts, leggings, jeggings and treggings, may be in the ascendant on Planet Fashion, but in the real world, the Little Day Dress (or LDD) is what we are all reaching for this autumn if we want to look fabulously pulled together and on-trend.

Retailers across the sector report that dresses are selling well. Fenwick, with stores in W1 and Brent Cross, say dress sales are rising. “It’s still the one-stop answer to simple dressing — perfect for day-to-evening wear, with clever accessories to change the mood.” GIVe, George Davies’s new brand, believes dresses “are a key staple for any woman’s wardrobe this autumn”, while Per Una’s design director, Helen Low, also confirms that “dresses remain key”.

Part of the desirability of an LDD, of course, is the simplicity compared to separates: no first-thing-in-the-morning angst about whether the colours and/or proportions/shape of your top and bottom halves match. You just pull it on and, voila, figure fabulous, because a dress in the right cut for your shape really does do fabulous things for the body.

For really curvy girls, V-necks and wrapover bodices are brilliant, though a fine, plain cami or vest with a bit of stretch beneath a crossover bodice will prevent too much definition, which can otherwise have the opposite effect to the streamlining intended.

Fairtrade fashion brand People Tree has a particularly stylish wrap dress with a shaped hemline, in cherry red or dark navy at £48, and print versions at £55. GIVe has done a stylish silk blend dress with a V neckline and draped skirt which creates a flattering silhouette. Clever Ann-Louise Roswald has also produced some pretty silk jersey A-line dresses with V-necks and on-trend bracelet sleeves in pink at £329 or floral print £349 at Fenwick, Bond Street, while Browns has a great wrap-effect jersey dress by Surface To Air at £135.

Body-con is a distinct trend, though only kind to women with firm, gym-toned body — or prepared to struggle into shape-wear and, basically, not breathe. Herve Leger, who opened a London store in September, is the king of the body-con revival but with eye-watering prices (from £850 to £1,600), you may prefer to look for body-con on the high street. River Island has a great one in red at £29.99, while American brand Splendid, whose tees and vests are favourites with Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker, has a great mid-priced version with zip back at £180 from Net-a-Porter.

The other strong dress shape is the shift-with-attitude (SWA), inspired by Roland Mouret’s sell-out Moon dress. Waist-skimming with a straight or tulip skirt, slash neck and cap sleeves, it is perfect if you want to look sleek and pulled together, but with more edge than a simple shift, which can look corporate.

Spot shirt dress , £159, Reiss

Spot shirt dress , £159, Reiss

SWAs are around at all price ranges — look for five to seven per cent Lycra or elastane in the fabric mix to give it fit without constriction. Helene Berman has a very wearable one in midnight blue with on-trend puff shoulders at £149, while Pyrus have done a glammy black-and-white tweed version with cap sleeve and peplum for a very 40s vibe, at £179, both at Fenwick, Bond Street. On the high street, look out for a pleated sleeve SWA at Jane Norman (£32), and a simple, cap sleeve version in on-trend leopard print, £45, at Marks & Spencer.

Draping and gathering, another big trend for day and night, is perfect if you want to add to your curves. Marks & Spencer has done a very glammy drape dress in its Limited Collection at £39.50, but only in eye-popping fuchsia or electric blue. Clever Wallis has done a shapely one in charcoal at £35.

Detail, embellishment and quirkiness are also strong. The eye-popping trompe l’oueil dress in wool and silk jersey by Mary Katrantzou at Browns (£770) makes a real statement; Marks & Spencer’s Speziale collection includes a green shift dress embellished with cutwork panels; Reiss has a very on-trend shirt dress in cream with black spots; All Saints has a silky drape dress with tulip skirt and bow, and Comptoir des Cotonniers has a silky dress with short sleeves to work the day-to-evening look.

Last updated: 11:43am, November 19 2009