Style Fashion

Thursday 19 September 2019

Miracle Dressing

With her expert eye for sleek silhouettes, Helen McAlinden has crafted a go-to collection for AW17, including the ultimate confidence-boosting dress, writes our fashion editor

Model Thalia Heffernan wears a red merino knit scarf, €120; turquoise merino knit sweater, €225, and 'Jill' pants in red, €210
Model Thalia Heffernan wears a red merino knit scarf, €120; turquoise merino knit sweater, €225, and 'Jill' pants in red, €210
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

Have you the curves ... because designer Helen McAlinden certainly has the contours.

The experienced designer has a reputation for delivering elegant dressing with a modern edge. Her fans appreciate her eye for ready-to-wear wardrobe solutions for the contemporary woman and, this season, her hourglass ‘Trudy’ dress (pictured right) is a real confidence booster.

 The colour blocking has been carefully placed to provide silhouette-slimming side panels to create the ultimate figure-

enhancing dress. It’s made in Ponte di Roma double stretch jersey and I was surprised at how comfy the dress was when I viewed Helen’s AW17 collection at her store on Dublin’s South William Street. Pulling the garment on, it was like wearing a long T-shirt, and the fabric has a winning soft-touch feel of cotton, modal, polyamide and the all-important 3pc elastane.

Six years ago, the concept of the hourglass ‘miracle dress’ made headlines when Stella McCartney dressed Kate Winslet for the Venice Film Festival. However,  that dress had a big emphasis on the bustline and featured scooped-in shoulders. Helen, on the other hand, has made her ‘optical illusion’ dress more user-friendly 24/7, not least because it has full-length sleeves — and show me a woman who doesn’t want sleeves, especially in winter!

Putting on her technical hat, Helen explains the mechanics of looking good in jewel tones of teal (so flattering on Irish complexions) and mustard.

“The reason the ‘Trudy’ dress works so well is because of the clever seaming on the side panels and also because it has a straight front. There’s  actually no waist definition,” explains Helen. “This dress is shaped at the side to give the silhouette and the illusion of a waist but there’s no waist seam, which sometimes is the most flattering way to create a really slimming  silhouette,” she adds.

Helen says her clothes “can be worn in a variety of ways and our customer is defined by attitude, not by age”. Her latest collection includes handy merino knits in pops of colour and some lovely 1970s touches, like the classic pleat slouch pant giving off a definite Annie Hall vibe. The worsted, mini hounds-tooth tweed has a hint of stretch for comfort. This look is pictured on the next page with the ‘Beatrice’ 100pc silk  tunic shirt, which, for me, is one of the stars of her collection.

The draped oversized tunic is a subtle star, with its narrow string belt, which sits slightly more forward than a normal tie belt and, as a result, is very flattering. The minimalist lines are sleek, with a box pleat at the back.

Helen admits a fondness for her ‘Milly Bee’ dress with bias-cut frill hem (pictured overleaf) but if I had free choice of the rails, my look would be the burgundy velvet blazer (overleaf) worn with a velvet pencil skirt and boots by day, and with wide-legged trousers by night.

And for a day’s racing, I’d pop the double-breasted ‘Victoria’ coat in terracotta on my shoulders, to further spice up the tremendously rich autumnal colours.

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