Darren Kennedy: Style dilemma
Q: I've noticed pleats in many fashion magazines and I can't quite get my head around them. The only time I've ever worn anything pleated was in my school days, when I had to wear a horrible grey pleated skirt. The thoughts of it still haunt me. I like keeping up with trends, but I’m not sure if I should bother with this one.
Caroline (29), Mayo
A: For spring/summer, the staple of schoolgirl uniforms is replaced with an über-cool pleat that is having quite a dramatic impact. Often, the success of an outfit relies on a few minor details and, aside from choosing the right accessories, the texture of the clothes you wear plays a major role.
Pleats are definitely one of those details and, judging by the collections that have touched down on the high street, it's a trend set to stay. You can banish thoughts of schoolgirl uniforms — the overriding theme of this new wave is an emphasis on flowing, airy pleats with the use of lightweight fabrics like this Pied a Terre dress (House of Fraser, €156) .
This Love Label pleated 1920s dress (€69, Littlewoods Ireland) and pleated cape (€45) are both perfect examples of this. Chloé, Christopher Kane and Jonathan Saunders were just some of the brands sending models sashaying down the catwalk with fabulous pleat detailing in dresses and skirts (fulllength and midi styles in particular). If you can't get your head around wearing a pleated skirt but you'd still like to play with this trend, then separates are the answer — pieces such as palazzo pants, trousers and chiffon tops will add a playful nod to any summer look. The ‘Sindri’ nude jacket (€238, Monsoon) will provide some pleat perfection to any summer wardrobe!
Q: I saw a picture of Cameron Diaz in a fab denim shirtdress and I've been looking for something similar. I bought one online a couple of weeks ago but, when I got it, I discovered it had an awful shape, so I ended up returning it. Where would you recommend looking? Sarah-Jane (34), Waterford
A: I'm quite the fan of denim shirtdresses. If you find the right one for you then it's the type of garment you'll wear season after season for a fresh take on classic casual wear. As you’ve discovered, selecting the right style is paramount. Shirtdresses come in a variety of styles, including regular shirt, tunic and empire cut. It's about choosing whatever one works best for your shape.
The ‘Corsia’ dress (€119.95) from Carraig Donn is quite classic and looks well when belted. Generally speaking, this look can be quite preppy and the don of all-American prep, Tommy Hilfiger, is bang on the money with his ‘Eline’ shirt dress (€160). I particularly like the detailing in the stitching, pockets and lapels.
In terms of wash, I prefer darker shades of denim, like the version by Boutique by Jaeger (€185, Arnotts). It's important the denim is soft and lightweight like a shirt. It should not feel heavy like a jacket. German label Tom Tailor got it right with his ‘Feminin Denim' stretch dress — it's very Stella McCartney and a bargain for €59.95. What's more, the wrap-style cut will really complement a fuller figure. Team any of these with a black leather jacket, a pair of booties or wedges and cross-body bag for a look that Alexa Chung would be proud to wear.
Q: I'm looking for a floor-length plain and simple — yet head-turning! — dress. A Keira Knightley vintage style, even. I'm totally lost, though, and haven't a clue where to look. My budget is around €200. Beth (20), Cavan
A: This sleeveless fuchsia evening dress with boat neckline is super elegant and fits the bill (€85.28, Warehouse).
The ruching at the waistband adds some simple detail, while a sophisticated split at the front will reveal a glimpse of leg when you move, for a demure yet eye-catching look.
Nudes are a particular favourite of Ms Knightley and this halter maxi dress by Lisa Jayne Dann (€216.48, Asos.com) has a definite vintage appeal. The halter tie neckline combined with a fitted waistband and the split to the front is simply stunning.
It's also cut low on the reverse revealing the back, a style we often see Keira working on the red carpet.