Thursday 8 December 2016

Playing dress up: The versatility of dresses

Let your frock work hard for you, says Bairbre Power

Published 30/04/2011 | 05:00

'Willa' lace
top with taupe
underlay, €81,
Darling
'Willa' lace top with taupe underlay, €81, Darling
Silver dress from Caroline Kilkenny. For further information see www.caroline kilkenny.com
Red coat, both from Caroline Kilkenny. For further information see www.caroline kilkenny.com
Cowl printed mini-dress, €178, St Martins
'May' top, €80, and 'Galinda' striped skirt, €115, Hobbs
'Carmen' red dress, €199, Unicorn at Belle boutique, Greystones; Maven, Aungier Street; Passenger, Clifden; Cyan, Rathmines
'Aquarius' grey wool-silk coat, €310, Hobbs

Industry insiders predicted that dresses would be knocked off their dominant fashion perch by trousers this season, but it hasn't happened. I'm not surprised.

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A great dress offers total versatility and is worth its weight in gold this summer, taking you from the office to a date, from lunch with the girls to a sultry dinner à deux, from a glamorous wedding or a family communion.

Choose the right accessories and you can work the same dress any number of ways.

Helen Mirren's choice of a cropped leather biker jacket over a leopard-print maxi for the London premier of 'Arthur' blew her sensible nanny role in the movie to smithereens and underlined, yet again, how you can be a sexy, fashion chameleon by accessorising with your own personal stamp.

Some shops make it too easy by offering matchy-matchy shoes, bags, hats, cardis and coats -- it's more fun if you do it your way.

Hunting around the boutiques and high-street stores for a dress for the races, my eye was consistently drawn to the very flattering Darling range, not just because of its sheer gorgeousness and tactile fabrics, but because of the prices too, which hover around €100. For a full list of stockists for this and the very well-priced Fever range of dresses, contact 01-429 5007 or info@acappella.ie.

Kate Middleton's shopping raid on Warehouse on King's Road, London, yielded four great, affordable dresses for the honeymoon averaging €65 each, including a poppy-print strapless dress, a tropical bird-print dress and a feather-print, asymmetric number.

The Herve Leger bandage dress is grand if you are stick thin or good at remembering to stand up straight and suck your tummy in. Celia Holman-Lee's deportment tip is to stand straight "with your ears over your shoulders".

Dannii Minogue looked sensational in an Heve Leger frock after losing her baby weight. However, if you are less confident about that silhouette, check out the oh-so- cute black and white Tara Jarmon prom dress at Arnotts, who also do the abstract-print T Tahari dress for €130, another good way of disguising tummies.

A well-designed dress in the right fabric and print will sort out lots of body issues. They can give you the illusion of boobs if you are flat-chested, skim the body to cover up a tummy or create an hourglass, 'Mad Men' silhouette for spaghetti-thin girls. For a full range of options, see right.

Speaking of Dannii, her Project D frocks, available at Brown Thomas and Harvey Nichols, are just the thing if you are chasing a dress for a stylish wedding. Irish women probably associate Vera Wang most with fabulous wedding dresses, but her womenswear range is worth checking out at Havana in Donnybrook, where the two-tone, green tulle sleeveless dress is simply scrumptious and has a very sensual dimension to it. It needs just the subtlest accessorising, and it's my frock crush this week.

If you want a bit of drama, you can't beat Mary Katrantzou's digital-print dress at Brown Thomas. She was ahead of the pack with this technique and her dresses this season were inspired by favourite interiors.

However, if you are nervous when it comes to 'look at me' dresses, LK Bennett has some great 1960s shift dresses, and Hobbs, which follows a similar design aesthetic, has any number of ladylike frocks, but I lost my heart to the wool-silk mix coat in pewter grey. The luxury fabric moulds to the body, which makes it look more expensive than €310.

For those of you planning an outfit for an early autumn wedding, here is an exclusive preview of some lovely pieces from Caroline Kilkenny's exciting new solo range, which should hit the shops in September. For more information see www.carolinekilkenny.ie.



  • Fashion addicts will appreciate the bargains at The Great Rail Sale taking place in Molesworth Hall, Dawson Street, next Saturday, May 7 from noon until 5pm. There will be 50 rails of pre-loved high-street, boutique and vintage buys in the hall directly behind St Ann's church.

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