It’s a new season and with that comes new fashion. Even if you have all the clothes you need, it’s hard to resist something new that gives you a boost. But I regret to inform you that there will be no Zara “It” dress this spring, either at Mango or M&S.
Before you panic, this is a good thing. We all remember the summer of the ‘spotted dress’; when there were (at least in major cities) at least three sightings on any given day. No one wants to look like they’re part of some kind of flowing clothing cult. We can all be more original than that, regardless of our budget.
Either way, there’s so much more spring/summer fashion than just dresses – and that’s what’s on the high street at the moment. Take the combination set (a top with a matching skirt or pants). Worn together it resembles a dress or jumpsuit and is perfect for special occasions, but the two parts can also be worn separately. Very versatile and a perfect solution for those who have one size on the top and another on the bottom.
Wool shirt£115, and pair of trousers£125, Cos
Then there is the suit, which has been on the rise as a clothing item for some time now. A little slouchy is the best choice, and in an interesting color, like pistachio green or dusty pink, so it doesn’t look too boring. The brilliance of a suit is that it has the potential to transcend occasions and seasons, depending on how you style it. Now pair with a knit polo collar, with a crisp white T-shirt or silk tank top when the weather warms up, and switch between trainers or mid-heel slingbacks depending on how smart you need to be.
Pinstripe jacket£119, skirt£65 and vest£65, Albaray
Then there are the separates – cargo pants, blouses, skirts, all kinds of layered T-shirts – which make up the bulk of what’s in stores right now. John Lewis has embraced masculine trousers in a big way. They look so inviting on rails, but the problem is that they require styling, and that can feel intimidating. You need to take into account all the other items in your wardrobe when you buy them. If you do it wrong, you’ve wasted your money, or, if you’re determined to wear it, you’ve created an expensive problem of having to buy clothes to take with you. with it.
Wool-blend trousers, £85, John Lewis
So where to start?
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Clare Hornby, founder of Me+Em, says she has noticed a real shift in the number of customers needing advice on building and styling separates.
“We talk a lot about ‘outfit building blocks’, and what this really means is designing individual pieces that fit together perfectly and can be put together in many different ways, so your outfits always feel fresh, without having to invest in a whole . a new wardrobe every season,” says Hornby.
“A well-cut pantsuit is something I always come back to for a polished look that can be dressed up or down,” she says. For a less formal look, ditch the blazer, she advises. “I like to pair the wide leg trousers with sneakers and a knit for a more casual look, or combine a heel and a simple cardigan or T-shirt for a relaxed evening wear.”
For inspiration, take a look at how clothes are styled online. Boden and Jigsaw, as well as Me+Em, are brilliant at this. You can see how combining two contrasting tops, or two unexpected colors, can make the average look remarkable. Accessories are also important: add a belt to your pants, or a rope chain over your T-shirt. This doesn’t mean you have to buy the whole look (unless you really want to) – you probably already own versions of these items.
On that note, think about your existing wardrobe. If you only have printed blouses, it is unlikely that a striking printed skirt will suit them. Instead, an understated A-line midi or pencil skirt will work much harder (just style them as you would jeans). This is easy when shopping online – you can try a new knit with your favorite jeans, in a French tuck, over a shirt, under a blazer, and so on. If you can think of three different ways to wear it, it’s a keeper.
And what if you have a dress-shaped hole in your wardrobe and nothing else will do? This move toward separates has certainly made things more difficult, but there are still great dresses to be found, says Isabel Spearman, wardrobe consultant and founder of the Daily Dress Edit.
“The ones I really like are knitted dresses,” she says. “Jigsaw has a beautiful brown one with black scalloped details on it… [although knit dresses are] a difficult one if you are not well proportioned. If you’re an hourglass, you’ll look great in that dress, but not if you’re pear-shaped or top-heavy.
If you fall into the latter camps, look for simple silhouettes and trade prints for solid colors. “Everything is a little slimmer and depending on your body shape you can choose what suits you best,” she says. “So I’m wearing more black dresses than usual at the moment – even a black dress with a bit of detail, because it looks even more sober – and I’m looking for A-line shapes.”
Denim dresses are another favorite that suits this more minimalist fashion mood. Aligne, Spearman says, does the best.
Although even she admits to being a bit into loose clothing: “I wear A-line skirts, which I wore years ago and haven’t had in a while. I enjoy working with knits and skirts and making things a little more streamlined.”
The skirt: An A-line shape that suits most body types – try it with a boxy knit
Simone corduroy maxi skirt, £200, Cefinn
Collarless shirt, £67, Arket
The layered T-shirt
Double-layer top in textured cotton, € 49.45, Massimo Dutti
And when nothing but a dress will do…
Knitted dress with scalloped edge, £195, Puzzle
Gabriella denim midi dress, £99, Align
Vince High Neck Dress, £295, Selfridges