Wednesday, 5 September 2012

How to Wear A Mini During Daylight Hours, Part 2: The Dress

In many ways, a dress is the easiest throw-it-on option for everyday wear, as there are fewer co-ordination variables to consider, and hence less time and angst involved in putting your look together, and fewer ways in which you can get it wrong, providing you've chosen the right fit for both you and the occasion to start with... That doesn't mean that there aren't a myriad of methods with which you can transform your perfect dress (or 12) from day to day (and day to night, summer to autumn etcetera) once you've found it/them though...

How I Wear
Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers
Making the Mini Dress Work for You

The Shift
The right mini shift is out there for nearly every body type. It's a real wardrobe hero piece, as it effortlessly travels from day to night and summer to winter with the right accessories.

Sixties Lace
Although the fit of this dress is skimming rather than clinging, it’s subtly nipped in at the waist to maintain shape whilst still retaining its iconic ‘60s silhouette.

For a daytime look, I prefer to stay primarily within a palette of cream, caramel and champagne hues when accessorising this shift, as the micro length and retro style make a statement already. I think it looks cute paired with my favourite matching off-white lace tights and mustard Mary Janes for seasonal transitions. For Winter, I'd add woollen caramel tights and chocolate platform loafers, and layer a champagne blouse underneath for a romantic feel – the billowy sleeves make an interesting contrast against the clean shape of the shift. Of course, additional woollen layers may well be needed as the temperature decreases – I love the quirky semi-structured, almost dress-like feel of this Primark cardi.

Dress: Primark (Past Season)
Cardigan: Primark (Past Season)
Look 1 - Tights: Accessorize; Shoes: New Look
Look 2 - Blouse: Primark (Past Season); Tights: Primark; Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

Monochrome Trapeze
The combination of this dress's trapeze flare from just under the bust with its heavy jersey material makes it fall incredibly flatteringly despite not being form fitted – a real any-body piece.

It’s great with bare legs and cute pumps for day, or a statement updo, tonal vintage-style heels and maxi-earrings for summer nights, but gets a whole new lease of life in winter when layered with monochrome lace pieces – simple but deadly.

Dress: Primark (Past Season)
Lace Top: Primark (Past Season)
Tights: Accessorize
T-Bar Shoes: Faith (Past Season)
Pumps: Primark (Past Season)
Earrings: Primark (AW12)

The Peplum Hem
The dropped waist, peplum-hemmed shift (like this Victoria Beckham creation looking oh-so-chic on Michelle Williams)looks set to continue to be an important shape for AW. It's a little bit '60s crossed with a little bit of '20s flapper style. In monochrome, it'll take you from the red carpet (or whatever colour the carpet happens to be in your local Wetherspoons), with patent heels and clutch, a la Michelle, to a lunch date with pretty pumps, to a frosty Winter with opaque tights and an angora knit layered under or over.


The Fitted Lace Sheath
One of my favourite one-step "What the hell do I wear for this?" staples - fitted but not skin-tight, it works for day and night, summer and winter - colour pop tights, heels and lipstick up the fun girly factor a bit here, but a black blazer, opaques and courts would transform it into the centrepiece of a smart monochrome look (add red lipstick to up the glam), and simple tan accessories and bare legs work perfectly for summer days.

Dress: AX Paris (Past Season)
Tights: Boots (Past Season)
Shoes: New Look (Past Season)

The Fit 'n' Flare
Another easy throw-it-on option for when you want to look smart but still maximise certain assets - this length lets you show off your legs and waist but keeps the cleavage under wraps - with a midi version you could get away with a lower neckline, but this is one item with which you really do need to choose your battles! Swap your waist cincher and heels to switch up the look - colour pop for a fun retro vibe, or tan to keep it classic. A cropped jacket lets you retain the hourglass silhouette even when (partially) covered up.

Dress: Unbranded (Shop at Victoria Station!)
Purple Belt: Primark (Past Season); Obi Belt: ASOS (Past Season)
Jacket: Forever 21 (Past Season)
Mary Janes: New Look (Past Season); Loafers: Primark (Past Season)

The Tea Dress
The tea dress is probably the most foolproof option available when going mini - it always looks cute, classic and elegant, and works without adornment for days when you really don't have the time and/or energy to fathom work-of-art compositions.

However, it's also the perfect base on which to flex your ornamenting muscles - play up the English Riviera vibe with a boater, add a touch of classic-English-girl meets classic-English-gent androgyny with a trilby, or maximise the sweet vintage girl look with a statement hairband.

L-R   Outfit 1) Dress: Primark; Cardigan: Primark; Hat: River Island; Tights: Accessorize; Shoes: Dorothy Perkins
          Outfit 2) Dress: Primark; Coat: Freemans; Tights: Accessorize; Hairband: Accessorize; Pumps: Primark
          Outfit 3) Dress: Primark; Tights: Primark; Shoes: Dorothy Perkins

Don't stop at the hairline though - you can drag these dresses right the way through AW with statement ankle socks and tights - stick with neutral lace, polka dots and Fair Isle patterns to maintain the vintage vibe, or clash patterns or colours to inject some 21st century impact.

As the temperature lowers, you can also layer knitwear and polos over or under (for short sleeved dresses only please!). I usually stick to a shoe with a classic feel to accompany a tea dress, but I think I might try some slightly more avant-garde ankle boots this season.

Top Row (L-R)
1) Dress: Love at Topshop; Hat: Primark; Basket: Primark; Bag: Primark; Shoes: Peacocks
2) Dress: As Above; Top: H&M; Necklace: Primark; Tights: Accessorize; Boots: M&S; Hair Tie: H&M
3) Dress: As Above; Jumper: Primark; Tights: Accessorize; Shoes: Primark
Bottom Row (L-R)
1) Dress: Primark; Socks: Primark; Shoes: Peacocks
2) Dress: Primark; Shoes: Peacocks; Tights: Accessorize
3) Dress: Primark; Tights: Boots; Shoes: Primark

The Forties Shirt Dress
I love over-the-knee socks, but it can be hard to get away from those naughty schoolgirl connotations! A 1940s style shirt dress is prim enough to avoid them, even with a few inches of exposed thigh on show. Colour pop wedges add just enough of a contemporary edge to stop the combination looking too fancy dress (although I have actually worn this dress to a 1940s themed party, complete with victory roll!).

Dress: eBay (Originally Primark)
Belt: Forever 21 (SS12)
Socks: New Look (Past Season)
Shoes: Primark (Past Season)

The Minnie Mouse
You need a certain amount of chutzpah to pull off this look, but it’s so much fun for your inner Disney Princess (come on, we all have one...). The shape is actually really flattering, with a corset style top (revealing just enough cleavage) and curve-creating/concealing-as-required rara skirt. I wanted to up the fun factor by teaming it with cute lemon accessories, but if you really wanted to, you could tone it down with, say, a cropped black sweater layered on top and flat sandals or ankle boots – Spanish Plaza to Glastonbury in 60 seconds.

Dress: H&M (Past Season)
Cardigan: Primark (SS12)
Shoes: Faith (Past Season)

The Nautical T-Shirt Dress
Again, you need some balls (but please ensure they don’t protrude through the lycra) to pull off a dress like this, but I think the half-length sleeves and classic print let you pull it off if you have the attitude and stick to minimal, classic accessories – I’d go with wedges (you need a bit of Cannes glamour to carry off the micro length – I think flats would paradoxically look a bit cheap with this) and a slouchy boyfriend style blazer rolled up to the elbows.

Dress: Primark (Past Season)
Wedges: Primark (Past Season)

The Grecian Goddess
After lusting after this for months many moons ago, with much anxious biding of time and hedging of bets, came the joyous day when I finally snapped it up for half price in a Jane Norman summer sale. The "luxe toga" style is timeless, it fits like a dream and boy has it aged well (it’s 3 and there’s not a mark on it). The ethereal beauty of the fall of the drapery and movement of the fabric make it stunning with heeled gladiators for evening, but paradoxically also allow you to get away with daytime wear, teamed with flat sandals and a more casual neutral-toned cover up (I toned it down a bit for a Covent Garden wander after a casting with a slouchy mushroom-coloured batwing cardi).

Dress: Jane Norman (Past Season)
Sandals: Freemans (Past Season)

Transitioning into Autumn/Winter: Acquisitions and Mergers
Statement tights, hats and careful layering will pull many of my favourite minis through Winter and out the other side again. My secret weapon will also be unleashed once again - a prodigious collection of sweater dresses in an infinity of colours, patterns and shapes - mwahahaha. Hitting the shops, I'll be on the lookout for structured faux leather shifts, as well as less structured embellished flapper style numbers.

Making the Mini Dress Work for You

Pear shapes should stick to A-line fit and flare type dresses for the most flattering line.

Boyish frames can handle unstructured shifts, but for extra curves should keep their waists defined and skirt sections full.

Hourglass figures are best emphasised by a nip at the waist (not a nip protruding through a sheer dress though - keep 'em covered). Beware of very high necklines if self-conscious about a large bust.

Apple shapes are best served by gentle draping - try a sophisticated empire line or floaty '20s style shift.

Tomorrow: How to Wear Shorts

See more recent posts featuring mini dresses here

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