Tuesday 20 August 2019

How to wear... the new maxi dress

Late summer is the ideal time for a long gown, but if floor-sweepers aren't your style, try this season's more flattering ankle-skimming length, writes Meadhbh McGrath

Actress Margot Robbie stars as murdered actress Sharon Tate in the film (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Actress Margot Robbie stars as murdered actress Sharon Tate in the film (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
Margot Robbie. Photo: Getty Images
Sienna Miller. Photo: Getty Images
Joely Richardson. Photo: GC Images
Blue, €39.95 from Zara
Floral, €52 from Topshop
Black, €795 from Zimmerman at Brown Thomas
Pink, €350 from Michael Kors at Arnotts
White, €103 from Warehouse
Ruffled, €69.99 from Mango
Green, €67 from Marks & Spencer
Graphic print, €39.99 from H&M

The maxi dress has had a bit of a makeover. Critics are calling this new iteration the "midaxi" or the "mixi", but it's basically a slightly shorter, vastly more wearable hemline that stops just above your ankle.

Last week, we discussed the flattering properties of the cropped trouser, and the new maxi offers many of the same benefits. Unlike the classic floor-sweeper style, it shows a hint of skin, so you're not completely swamped by skirt. It's cool and breezy while providing more coverage than summer's minis, and that extra flash of leg makes it a good deal less formal, greatly reducing the risk of looking try-hard.

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Though usually reserved for the warmer months, this revamped maxi will serve you well into autumn/winter too - it appeared on the catwalks at Givenchy in dreamy micro-pleated florals and at Alexander McQueen in sleek monochrome, worn with flat, clompy lace-up boots.

But the new maxi really came into its own on the high street thanks to the success of cult brands, such as the Scandinavian favourite Ganni and Rixo, co-founded by Derry-born designer Orlagh McCloskey.

You'll likely have seen those signature wrap dresses and vintage-inspired prints at any number of weddings and occasions in the last couple of years, but the hemline lends itself just as well to more casual looks when worn with trainers and a utility jacket.

The midi has become one of the defining silhouettes of the decade, although for some women, the mid-calf length can be unforgiving and, depending on your shape, accentuate the widest part of the leg.

This new hybrid gives the best of both worlds, focusing the eye on the slimmest point of the leg, while also being far more practical than the classic maxi, which can leave you feeling underdressed or overdressed, but rarely just right for the event. Whatever your height, it's worth getting a shop-bought style altered so it falls to the correct spot.

For summer, keep the ankle bare to take advantage of the figure-flattering effect. At Wimbledon, Joely Richardson opted for a gently flared maxi in bubblegum pink, covered in black polka dots. It was a gorgeously playful print, but the mock neck, balloon sleeves and elegant silhouette gave it an easy sophistication. A pair of white woven pumps and a Dior saddle bag completed the look, rendering it a touch more laid-back for a day at the tennis.

On her press tour for Once Upon A Time In… Hollywood, Margot Robbie stepped out in a white lace Chanel gown, making the most of the ankle-skimming hem with shiny silver sandals. Another bonus of the new maxi is the opportunity to show off a great pair of shoes. Zara has a similar metallic style, which would look just as chic with a pretty lace gown or a shirt dress. On Margot, the shorter length drains some of the stuffiness, somehow making a structured lace dress with couture armbands look low-key.

Sienna Miller opted for a floral Sonia Rykiel gown with a cape overlay for a summer cocktail party, and the result is darkly romantic and classically feminine. In the brand's lookbook, Rykiel styled the dress with block-heeled ankle boots, a thick waist belt and a neat snakeskin handbag, illustrating how versatile the new maxi can be.

When the temperatures start to fall, you can swap your strappy sandals for a knee boot and a cardigan, which will help to relax the look while also coming across effortlessly stylish.

Irish Independent

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