Wednesday 21 February 2018

Dresses to match the weather: Best make a House call now summer is coming

Constance Harris found far more than she was looking for in her search for dresses to match the weather

Gold shawl cardigan, €102, Episode; leopard-print dress, €180, Pied a Terre; brown waist
belt, €14.50, Therapy; gold-and-beaded cuff (right arm), €72, Kenneth Cole;
Gold shawl cardigan, €102, Episode; leopard-print dress, €180, Pied a Terre; brown waist belt, €14.50, Therapy; gold-and-beaded cuff (right arm), €72, Kenneth Cole;
Blue blazer, €48; white cherryprint T-shirt, €24; coral shorts, €46; navy polka-dot neckerchief, €14.50; coral-and-gold quilted bag, €30, all Therapy
Bird print dress, €104; blue bead necklace, €22, both Linea; turquoise belt, €19.50, Pied a Terre; red sunglasses, €200, Dolce & Gabbana
Grey pinstripe cotton jacket, €102; floral cotton shirt, €54; floral-print silk skirt, €90; floral-print scarf, €36; indigo leather satchel, €180, all Dickins & Jones; red wellington boots, €80, Hunter; socks, stylist's own
Navy oversized blazer, €180, Pied a Terre; denim jumpsuit, €96, Label Lab; blue oxford cotton shirt, €85, Helen McAlinden; navy suede platforms, €165, Kurt Geiger; navy polka dot tie, €40, TM Lewin; tan leather shoulder bag, €102, Pied a Terre
Blush pleated dress, €150, Biba; cream feather cape, €102, Biba Bridal; shoes, model's own
Pastel floral maxi dress, €222, Biba; tan suede shoes, €165, Kurt Geiger; gold butterfly chain, €144; gold Biba motif cuff, €156, both Biba

Constance Harris

What I am noticing around the place is how people seem to be holding their breath about spending. It's not so much about not wanting to spend, it is about them considering how they really need to spend.

For instance, the weather in Dublin has been glorious these past few weeks. I can feel summer coming and I am feeling optimistic. What I need is a lighter-weight-than-winter dress but not so light I am going to be cold.

When I unpacked my summer wardrobe last week, I realised that I hadn't anything like that in there, and as I hadn't gone shopping for clothes in a while I decided I had a need that justified a spend.

Yet, when I went looking for a nice, feminine, summery dress it was nigh impossible to find. Most shops were full of occasion-wear dresses because that is what they anticipated we would be looking for in April.

It was in Dundrum Town Centre that I finally found some solace: LK Bennett being good on the feminine, easy, dresses front, but a bit pricey for my "everyday" wardrobe pocket. And though Harvey Nichols and BT2 had lovely designer ranges, machine or hand-washable, day-in-day-out garb they were not!

Then in House of Fraser, I solved my sartorial problems and in doing so appreciated why it is that this store is doing so well.

House of Fraser's fashion floor is about 70 per cent its own labels, which you can only find in its stores. Some of these labels were designed to fill in the fashion gaps as House of Fraser saw them, so all have clear direction -- be they young or middle-aged, trendy, occasion or work wear. They all come in sizes eight to 18. And they are all fully co-ordinated and lifestyle-focused -- so if you like, say, the sophisticated look of Linea, you can find everything from lingerie to accessories, to bedding, to furniture and homewares, all with the style stamp of the in-house brand.

House of Fraser-created labels are: Linea, for the 30-something, working woman; Untold, which is funky, yet sophisticated occasion wear for the 20-plus crowd; and Label Lab a new, grungy, dark collection, along the lines of All Saints, for the 18-to-25-year-olds.

House of Fraser also owns several labels, such as the Seventies cult label Biba, for the stylishly cool, confident young woman. Biba is much stronger and better in this, its second season, and features a great wedding dress.

Other labels it owns include Pied A Terre, a very London "Egel" Joseph-type look, and Dickens & Jones, which fans of Avoca and Boden will love for its colourful, feminine, denim focus.

Mint Velvet is House of Fraser's latest label -- and one I predict Irish women who love romantic, soft layering, will appreciate. American urban brand, Kenneth Cole is exclusive to House of Fraser.

For my work-dress dilemma, I found some great options in Ted Baker, Marc Cain and Linea ranges, while the sterling Helen McAlinden -- whose collection is fabulous for women who like to dress in a confident, cosmopolitan way, with a subtle sexiness -- had both work and summer dresses.

If I had been hunting for cool separates, I definitely would have been a happy fashion editor from the choice to be found in Helen, Whistles, Pied a Terre and Biba.

Other labels available in House of Fraser are: MaxMara Weekend, Gerard Darel, Jaeger, Lauren by Ralph Lauren, and Ted Baker, which has some sensational wiggle dresses though sadly these were in my least favourite colours -- black and grey.

It also stocks excellent plus-size label Cesca, which I consider one of the best such brands I have come across in years.

Linea and Untold's lingerie choices are lovely and often feature 100 per cent silk nightwear at very affordable prices. House of Fraser also carries labels such as Wolford, Lejaby, Freya, etc.

House of Fraser's extensive homewares department is renowned for its directional style and colourful options, as well as practicality, but I have to say its bed-linen department is probably where I could potentially do the most damage.

I am really fussy about bedding. I hate meaningless prints, generic colour schemes and mixed fibres. None of these is to be found in House of Fraser.

Thread count is minimum 180 and often either 300 or 600.

In its Pied a Terre range you will find sumptuous white bed linen featuring gorgeous bird or blossom motifs. The Biba range boasts decadent velvets and satin, with flashes of animal print.

And now its Linea line has great interiors designers, such as Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, doing ranges exclusively for it.

So, yes, you guessed it, I went shopping for dresses, but I came out with my bedroom made over to the summer. Well, it's reckoned that we spend 40 per cent of our lives there, and, in my bedroom at least, the weather is more reliable!

Photography Kieran Hartnett Photography

Styling Mark Andrew Kelly,; assisted by

Lynn Styles @ House of Fraser.

Models Kristi Kuudisiim and Eve Grant @ Andrea

Roche Modelling Agency.

All clothes and accessories featured, unless otherwise stated, from House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, Dublin 16. Tel: (01) 299-1400.

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