Sunday 17 December 2017

Bairbre Power: say yes to the dress!

Cast off your safe, slouchy casuals and embrace the feminine

The adventurous 'column' dress from Aideen Bodkin.
The adventurous 'column' dress from Aideen Bodkin.
Aideen Bodkin's 'Spiral' dress.
The 'Pillar' pencil dress
Slouch hat made from mix of possum and merino wool, €49, and wrist warmers,€40, two super warm pieces from whose pop-up store is no longer in Dublin’s South Anne Street but has opened in Glaslough, Co Monaghan.
Dries Van Noten metallic skirt, €389, Brown Thomas
Dress, €380, Phoenix V, Maylor Street, Cork,
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Over Christmas, I was struck by how many women I met told me that their festive frock was the first time that they had worn a dress in almost a year. The increasing casualisation of fashion trends has triggered a growing acceptance of smart casual from day into night.

Factor in those luxury touches like a comfy cashmere, a fur-lined parka and finish it off with trainers liberally sprinkled with designer magic dust - good to go! Yes indeed, the Athleisure trend of gym apparel 24/7 seems to be taking over our dressing habits.

Many girls spent wasted hours as kids, trying to convince their mothers that they didn't want to wear girly dresses. I, for one, can remember the row about the Confirmation outfit but within a year, I couldn't get enough dresses in my life.

Shopping in a Dublin department store recently, I encountered a gloomy looking pair: the Confirmation candidate who wanted designer jeans, not a dress, and the despondent mum who, after getting over the sulking child hissy fit, had to find a dress for herself. In her own words: "A dress can take me right through the summer, to a wedding and a few Holy Communions thrown in." I wished her well and went on my way.

The transition from casual to dressed up shouldn't have to be stressful. Chatting with award-winning Irish designer, Aideen Bodkin, I was taken by how she approached her latest business venture - a collection called Dress which sits, like a sister, beside her more expensive occasion-wear range.

It's not by accident that Aideen was one of the preferred fashion choices by Presidents Robinson and McAleese. Now Mrs Sabina Higgins is a fan too and wore Aideen during the State visit to Britain in 2014.

Aideen reckons she has designed around 50 dresses a year for the last 17 years so she has a fair idea of what Irish women want and the shapes that suit them.

"The idea behind the 'Dress' range was to have a single item wardrobe - basically relying on a really good strong dress that you could wear on its own, and with accessories, or, if you wanted, throw a simple jacket over it. But the dress should be enough to actually create a full outfit," says Aideen.

Now in its second season, there are five styles in Aideen's Dress range and with variations in fabrics, that means there are 15 options to chose from and prices run from €180-€235.

The adventurous 'column' dress (€210, main photo) reminds me of the drama of a striking Mary Katrantzou digital print. Aideen has strategically worked the optical print featuring hot colours on a dark background so there are half diamond shapes at the waistline. This helps create an hourglass shape. Aideen says, "It gives you curves and accentuates curves. It's the kind of fabric that does all the work for you."

Aideen Bodkin's 'Spiral' dress.

The side ruching on her 'Spiral' dress (€229, above) does a great job for anyone scared of dresses if they have a tummy and the fabric has a lively bit of stretch too. The 'Pillar' pencil dress (€189, below) has that element of surprise because while the dress is plain coral at the front, with a trim of cream on the shoulders, turn and it reveals a cream panel on the waist with exposed zip. "Over the years, I like putting a little twist to my dresses. I've done short, flared, maxi, floaty and I believe that with Irish women in particular, the pencil dress is the key dress,"says Aideen. See

The 'Pillar' pencil dress


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