The progress of the maxi — ubiquitous on the high street this summer — is a textbook example of planet fashion’s “trickle down” syndrome: a look that makes a huge impact on the catwalk but takes several seasons to hit the high street.
Cast your mind back to September 2007 when the spring/summer 2008 collections were being unveiled. That was the moment when a slew of designers, including Pucci, Cavalli, Diane von Furstenberg, Zac Posen and other hot designers, put maxis on the runway.
In their wake, a few key high street names and more rarified retailers offered maxis, but most ended up drooping forlornly on the sale rails. And while a few intrepidly on-trend fashionistas bought a maxi, UK pavements remained mostly unswept by the hems of a thousand floral print frocks. It was only this spring that the maxi went viral, wafting its late 60s hippy vibe across the high street.
The definition of a maxi is a tad inexact in parts of retail but, as a rule, if it is made of chiffon, organza, lace, taffeta, or any other traditional eveningwear fabric, it is not a maxi but an evening dress with an identity crisis.
The distinction between a maxi and an evening dress shouldn’t, by the way, deter you from wearing a maxi in the evening — maxis look fab after dark, with clogs, wedges, gladiators or flat, jewelled sandals, and bold bangles. For day, wear your maxi under a boyfriend blazer, a denim jacket or leather biker jacket, roughed up with tough footwear.
If you are over 45 and wary of causing a mutton-alert, buy a maxi for holidays. With its barefoot, hippy vibe, a maxi makes a change from a kaftan and sarong (for under 45s, too), and hides a multitude of cellulite sins at lunch or sipping a sundowner.
The perfectly on-trend maxi should be made from slightly floaty fabric — cotton, crinkle-cotton or silk — ideally in a 60s print (floral, paisley, psychedelic, tie-dye). And, even at the risk of tripping you up, your maxi should be properly ankle length or it isn’t a maxi.
Some of the best maxis on the high street are at Oasis, which has great prints as well as a black jewelled maxi which could go to the beach or be glammed up for dinner. The op-art and floral maxis at Accessorize and New Look, and a white one with coin trim at Internacionale, have a sweet hippy vibe; there are pretty handkerchief hem maxis at Warehouse and Matalan; and River Island’s ditsy print, short sleeve one and French Connection’s frilled white maxi are both a 70s-take-on-vintage.
For maxis with poise, James Lakeland has a striking bandeau dress at £199, and Pamela Shiffer has a sharply cut one in paisley. Fenwick W1 has a stunning grey/black tribal print with studded halter at £195 by Pyrus, and Fenwick Brent Cross has a cap-sleeve, palm-leaf print by hot, LA-based label Meghan Fabulous at £330.