Monday 23 April 2018

Shaken by shorts? Muddled by maxi dresses? Hating harem pants?

Don't worry, here's how to cheat your way to looking good in summer's hottest trends

Shorts from the Prada SS10 collection. Photo: Getty Images
Shorts from the Prada SS10 collection. Photo: Getty Images
Model Anya Jonchas wears a sequined mesh top, €175; drape cardigan, €195; shorts, €110, all by By Malene Birger. Shoes by Pour la Victoire, €220, all at Harvey Nichols. Picture by Martin Maher.
Come a long way: Anna Carey is a new convert to the maxi dress, €55; waistcoat, €30, Alwear. Photo: Martin Maher

Anna Carey

If you're over the age of 20 and you're not an Amazonian supermodel, you could be forgiven for feeling a bit nervous about this summer's fashion trends. At first glance, everything seems to be designed for willowy teenagers with glowing skin and perfect figures.

Wherever you go, you'll see maxi dresses, harem pants, shorts, playsuits, nude tones -- and however much you want to stay on top of trends, you may feel there's no point in shopping at all this summer.

But you'd be wrong -- hard as it may be to believe when you're having a panic attack at the thought of the Topshop changing rooms -- because everyone can embrace this season's looks.

It's about finding the right look -- and the right garment -- for you. Take the maxi dress. It's everywhere at the moment, but as someone who is 5ft 2in, I've always assumed I couldn't wear one without looking stumpy and sack-like. Indeed, I've seen women of my height wearing maxis and looking, well, a bit stumpy and sack-like.

But as Lia Tallon of Alwear points out, it's all about finding the right dress. "Not every garment will suit you," she says. "It's all about trying on different styles. And just playing around with accessories and different looks is key."

While the more column-like maxis are out of the question for the shorter lady, Tallon finds me a flowing olive-green dress with shorter layers of fabric falling over the skirt. It's slightly shorter at the front and the layers stop the dress from looking too long.

There's still a problem, however -- like many summer frocks, the dress is strapless. And I never buy strapless dresses because, if I'm being honest, I haven't got much to hold them up. But Tallon has such an obvious solution I can't believe I never thought of it before.

"Get a really nice ribbon from somewhere like Rubenesque and sew it onto the dress to make straps," she says. It literally takes a few seconds. "You can customise a dress like this really, really easily -- you don't need any dressmaking skills."

And just like that, I'm a maxi-dress convert. Meanwhile, my much taller sister Rachel has a different problem. Playsuits are one of this season's most ubiquitous trends -- but can you only wear them if you're tiny? Tallon assures Rachel you can still wear one if you're tall.

Playsuits allow you to show leg without worrying about accidentally revealing your underwear to the world -- you simply don't feel as exposed as you might in a miniskirt.

But even if you're short, playsuits pose a problem. In America, they're known as rompers. I am 34 years old. Can a grown woman really wear a romper?

"Yes!" says Tallon. "You can dress a playsuit up or down. Team it with tights and killer heels -- and a cardigan, if you want it to look more formal."

A few minutes later, I find myself wearing a dressed-up playsuit with tights, belt and fitted cardigan -- and I look like a grown-up. Playsuits aren't just for babies and Katy Perry after all.

But what of the playsuit's less flouncy cousin, shorts? Even Gwyneth Paltrow recently said she embarked on a punishing diet and exercise regime so she could wear tiny shorts on the red carpet when promoting Iron Man 2. If the gorgeous Gwyneth feels the need to go to such lengths, what hope is there for the rest of us? Especially those of us whose legs would still look depressingly Irish and blotchy even if perfectly toned.

But shorts don't have to be tiny and tight. Nor do they have to be ridiculously short. At Oasis, stylist Sarah Fitzsimons shows me a wide range of shorts, from tailored city shorts to looser, more casual pieces.

'You can roll up the legs on these shorts," she says, holding up a pair of wide-legged shorts with a sash-like belt. "People can be scared of showing some flesh but the more fabric you roll up, the wider the shorts get, and that makes your thighs look thinner."

Fitzsimons says there's no reason you can't wear shorts to work -- as long as they're tailored and you wear tights underneath (never a problem in an Irish summer).

"City shorts have that name for a reason. They look fabulous with a blazer, and they're a great alternative to the work uniform of pencil skirt or bootcut trousers," she says.

Shorts aren't the only challenging trouser cut this summer. There are also harem pants and pegged trousers. Fitzsimons says there's nothing to be scared of in the harem. "They do draw the eye to the lower body, but that just means you wear something fitted on top in a darker colour -- think a cropped jacket -- and avoid dramatic, chunky accessories," she says. "And always wear heels. It's a long, elegant, billowy look." Think 1970s Vogue shoots in Marrakesh, not MC Hammer.

If you're not ready for the harem, you can try high-waisted pegged trousers.

"It's not as dramatic, so it's a safer option," says Fitzsimons. "And it looks good on everyone."

High waists? Good on everyone? "Some people think that high waists draw attention to their problem area -- their stomach," says Fitzsimons. "But actually, they define the waist and draw attention to your curves. They're very flattering."

Of course, new trends aren't just about cut -- they're also about colour. So-called nude tones are one of this season's most striking elements. But is it possible for a pasty Irish person to wear these pale shades?

Yes, says Harvey Nichols' personal shopper Rachel Lenihan. "It's all about finding the right soft nude tone," she says. "Go for something with golden or pink elements that bring out your natural colour."

For younger women, Lenihan recommends a nude dress. For older women, "wraps are an easy way to introduce nude tones into your wardrobe".

After spending a week trying on pieces I never thought I'd wear, I've lost my fear of this summer's supposedly intimidating styles.

"You just need to be careful and pick your trends," says Tallon. "And you really do need to try a lot of different things on. I know what it's like when you go in and see a big queue for the changing room, but it really is worth it."

Fitzsimons agrees. "You just have to find what suits you and what to wear with it."

I couldn't agree more. And if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy some city shorts.

Irish Independent

Style Newsletter

Stay on top of the latest fashion, beauty and celeb gossip in our Style newsletter.

Editors Choice

Also in this section