The Base Coat - Underwear
This isn't a discussion on shapewear (I'm more an acolyte of the minimalist school when it comes to lingerie), but a pointer towards a few miracle bras which will slip under your strapless, backless, halterneck and/or slashed-to-oblivion gowns, and might even make them even prettier!
Best for Strapless FrocksNot much bests the Wonderbra Ultimate Strapless Bra - unbeatable hold, great shape, a plunging cut to suit low necklines, seam-free for optimum discretion and available in every size from 32A to 38G. Oh, and the matching thong may not be pretty, but it's perfect under clingy outfits.
If you're after ultimate gorgeousness and, ahem, oomph, and a completely smooth finish isn't so much of a concern, New Look's range of super push-up multiway bras is for you (- see a fuller review in this post). Browse the website or take a peek instore to see new styles.
If you're still concerned that a strapless bra won't provide you with enough support, invest in some clear or decorative jewelled straps and swap them for the plain ones that come with your multiway. Try these diamante ones from Debenhams or have a browse on GlamorousBraStraps.co.uk.
Best for Deep Plunge DressesAh, diamante bra solutions - saved me so many times when a typical strapless bra just wouldn't do. The cups of the Ultimo Miracle Frontless Plunge Bra are joined by a pretty (but sturdy) diamante panel, which looks fabulous peeking out from a slashed-to-the-navel number. It's available in A-D cups with removable gel pads, and DD-G minus the gel.
Best for Backless GownsAnother Ultimo lifesaver - the Diamante Back Bra replaces the standard back strap with a stunning string of jewels - sadly, it's only designed to fit A-D cups, but due to the way it fastens, larger girls might still be able to find a size which suits.
N.B. You can wear both the Miracle Frontless Bra and the Diamante Back Bra halterneck-style too.
The Top Coat (or Jacket... or Cape...)
OK, so your underwear's sorted, but your wear-everywhere winter coat just isn't cutting the mustard with your drop-hem chiffon number? The wrong cut, fabric or style can ruin the line and vibe of a showstopping outfit - here are a few of my tried and tested fail-safe combinations...
Top Row (L-R)
1 - Jacket: Primark (Current), Dress: Freemans, Shoes: New Look; 2 - Cape: Primark, Dress: Morgan, Shoes: New Look; 3 - Coat: Freemans, Skirt: Primark, Belt: ASOS, Shoes: Next; 4 - Shrug: Jane Norman, Dress: H&M, Shoes: Pied a Terre
Bottom Row (L-R)
1 - Coat: New Look, Shoes: Pied a Terre; 2 - Cape and Dress: Primark, Shoes: Pied a Terre; 3 - Jacket: Primark (Current), Skirt: New Look (Current), Boots: Peacocks; 4 - Capelet and Shoes: Primark, Dress: H&M
Best for Midis and MaxisFaux fur might not be for everyone, but I love the dollop of old Hollywood glamour it lends a sophisticated midi or maxi look. I think full-skirted styles generally work best with short jackets, to leave an unbroken line and emphasise the waist (although a longer A-line style can look fab if the length is right, and shorter jackets also look great with slimmer-fit skirts). Hip length and longer coats stun with pencil and full-length cuts - you can add a belt to enhance curves and add impact.
Generally, I think it's safest to avoid fur if you're going mini...
Best for MinisA statement mac or mid-thigh length coat, which can feel awkward over a longer dress, looks great when concealing a mini (or revealing an inch or two of hemline). Shorter jacket styles can work with minis, but often look a bit cheesy. If you're bored of your faithful trench, try a baroque style like this beauty from Izabel.
Best for Pencil StylesAlthough fitted jackets, and even 3/4 length macs, can look great with pencil skirts, I love to pair them with a cape or swing style - the bodycon fit balances out the added volume.
Peplum jackets also look amazing with pencil styles - I'm saving my brand new Topshop one to show you with my disco pants, but there are some amazing statement pieces around at the moment, like the gorgeous silver one from Fashion Union featured in this post.
Best for MixisA statement biker jacket works perfectly with a dropped hem - the clean cut adds a bit of edge without confusing the look. Leather is fantastic for funking up classic cuts too, especially when paired with chunky ankle boots.
You could also pair a mixi with a faux fur jacket - shaggy for boho chic or short-haired and sculpted for all-out glamour.
Best for Indoor Wow-FactorA shrug or capelet can be the cherry on top of the perfect outfit (and stop you feeling naked if the whole bare shoulders/arms/chest/belly button thing makes you feel a teeny bit self-conscious!) - there's a multitude of options out there, but these are two of my favourites - sparkles and (no prizes for guessing) faux fur! Cap sleeves with a little bit of volume are also great for emphasising (or helping to fake) an hourglass shape, and balancing hips, by the by.
Next week, I'll be showing you a few alternatives to the classic party dress (disco pants ahoy!) along with complementary outerwear, but if you're still searching for your perfect frock, remember that you can get an exclusive 10% discount when hiring your perfect designer lovely from the New Year Collection at Girl Meets Dress until midnight on Monday night with code GMD1SM - check out my last post if you're in need of inspiration!