The trophy skirt - the festive season's most dazzling party piece
The festive season’s most dazzling party piece will elevate the plainest tops and jumpers, offering the lazy answer to getting dressed up, writes Meadhbh McGrath
For some, the last few weeks of the year give an excuse to go all out and adorn themselves in as many sequins, feathers and velvets as they can find. For others, the knowledge they'll have to make a bit of an effort with their wardrobe is reason enough to turn down the invite.
Modern dress codes are a minefield and there's nothing worse than arriving at an event in a silk cocktail number and stilettos to find the rest of the crowd are in black jeans and trainers.
Feeling overdressed can really hamper the fun on a night out, often leaving you self-conscious and itching to hide away. The easiest way to avoid it - apart from grilling your fellow guests on what everyone will wear - is to thread the needle with an outfit that covers as many bases as possible.
Enter the trophy skirt. It's this season's most dazzling party piece: see Lupita Nyong'o in a glittering Alexandre Vauthier pleated skirt and simple roll-neck top at an awards show last month. The effect is immediately striking, so different from the usual floor-length gowns on display, yet the skirt was more than up to the tricky task of serving red carpet glamour at one of Hollywood's less flashy events.
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The trophy skirt is your answer to all of those incomprehensible dress codes. It's also very fashionable - on the catwalks, Oscar de la Renta tempered embroidered velvet wrap skirts with beautifully simple white blouses and pointed courts, while Paco Rabanne showcased long skirts in glimmering silks and chainmail, paired with patterned tights and fine jumpers.
Dramatic formal skirts have been a staple of Maria Grazia Chiuri's tenure as creative director at Dior, and for autumn-winter, she styled tulle pleated skirts with fitted knitwear and pointed pumps, finished with a wide belt to accentuate the waist for that New Look femininity. Coco Rocha wore one of Dior's embellished tulle designs on the front row at the brand's couture show, and illustrated the power of contrasts by teaming her ladylike skirt with masculine tailoring in the form of a crisp white shirt. The juxtaposition of the structured top half and the delicate embroidery and patent courts on the bottom half stops the outfit from being overly formal, making for ideal party-dressing inspiration.
The shirt-and-skirt became a classic when Sharon Stone stepped out in a Gap button-down (swiped from her then-husband, Phil Bronstein) and satin Vera Wang skirt at the 1998 Oscars. It's also designer Carolina Herrera's personal style signature and has been much imitated, cropping up on the red carpet on the likes of Emma Watson, Meghan Markle and Helen Mirren, who paired her Oxford shirt with a leopard-print skirt at a premiere this spring.
If you don't fancy the white shirt, try a fine knit jumper like Lupita - though we'd recommend sticking to courts rather than sandals, as open-toes can look off-balance with a heavier top. For a more daring take, look to a bodysuit with mesh inserts or sleeves, which can help to keep you cool and show a little more flesh at the same time.
Or follow Janelle Monae's lead and tuck in a T-shirt. Slogan tees are particularly popular at the moment, but a plain white or black version will work just as well, firmly placing the look in smart-casual territory.
To get more wear out of your trophy skirt, make it daytime-appropriate with trainers or pointed flats and some slouchy knitwear. Even the sparkliest skirt becomes suitable for an afternoon out with a baggy beige jumper thrown on top.