Al Fresco Dress Layering
This week marked the moment when it felt right to change my wardrobe over for the upcoming season. Now that we’re allowed to socialise again, I'm desperate to start wearing my collection of summer dresses which make up so much of my spring/summer wardrobe. Truth be told I don't need much of an excuse to get one of my dresses out – whether it’s popping down to the pub or having dinner in the garden with friends, even the smallest of social events still feels novel after the most recent – and longest – lockdown.
The problem is keeping warm. Balmy nights are still some way off and patio heaters can only do so much. The challenge is to know how to layer up without entirely compromising on style. Puff sleeves, ruffles, Victorian collars – all my favourite features need to be able to have their moment without the need to resort to full thermals.
Patchwork cotton and quilted print outerwear is having a real moment. It's a full on 70s folk revival, heavily rooted in original Liberty designs. Strict tailoring might still feel alien for now, and this softer take on outerwear allows you to mix prints and dress down your outfit. Having been a pioneer of this look, I’m a big fan of Isabel Marant's designs.
Don’t want to hide a statement sleeve? Not to worry – patchwork or quilted waistcoats are the answer – Mango, Other Stories and Free People all have excellent options for those on a stricter budget. Look for prints that feel relatively neutral and will compliment a number of things in your wardrobe – for instance, broderie anglaise, stripes, faded florals and leopard print. My favourite, and an item I've just ordered, is a gilet from Second Female which would even give a simple black dress an instant boost.
As for long sleeved jackets, well, we’re spoiled for choice right now. SEA NY has a beautiful version with contrasting piping, Vera Moda has a couple of understated, well priced options and Anthropologie is full of hidden gems. Etsy is always worth a look too, for really unique pieces. Make sure you look for styles with wide sleeves so you can wear your favourite spring dress underneath and pay attention to the smaller details, like piping, pretty shoulders, and trimmed pockets.
A lot of us have fallen for knitted vests over the past year and now marks the moment to take things up a gear. Forget practical and minimalist – opt for texture, colour and have some fun with it. Ganni was first out of the gate with its striped, jewelled buttoned waistcoats last year and this season, there’s a wealth of choice on offer. For those with courage and deep pockets, make Gucci your go-to. Outrageous in its sequin splendour, their design would give any midi dress a dazzling layered make-over. Meanwhile, Molly Goddard's neon strip knit is fun and more wearable than it looks. Great with pastels, denim or really make it pop against a white dress.
Studio B is a favourite online boutique of mine and has some great brands in its selection, many of which have vests this season, including Resume Copenhagen and Stella Nova – the latter of which has a gorgeous cream embroidered style I’m lusting after. With lemons on the shoulders, it's a Sicilian dream. If you’re looking for something more traditional, O'Pioneers have now matched their gorgeous prairie dresses with hand-knitted fair isle tanks. On the high street, Zara can always be relied on – if you want to experiment with a quirky vest without blowing the budget, there's no better place.
Denim With A Twist
I haven't owned a traditional denim jacket in years – they always seem a bit generic and an obvious styling choice over a dress. However, this season’s new wave of jackets and gilets have piqued my interest and offer a more wearable, fashion-forward solution. The great thing about denim is that it goes with pretty much everything, and right now you can either opt for cropped style with wide puffed sleeves or oversized, sleeveless designs.
The former is a more modern 80s take – just go oversized so it caters to multiple dress styles and never looks overly tailored or tight. Alternatively, go for an oversized gilet. My favourites are by The Label Edition and Vaquera – both of which come with lapels and over-reaching shoulders. To me, these are a summer equivalent of the winter puffa jacket, which give a pretty dress a more masculine edge. If you’re not feeling quite so bold, this version in a subtle shade of blue by Chloe Stora with its rope detailed waist has more of a chic utility vibe and is hugely wearable – it’ll look great teamed with a jumpsuit.
A cardigan is something I always loathed as a child and yet today, I find myself lusting after numerous quirky styles. Last year I invested in a pink floral Hayley Menzies creation and it has become one of my most-loved and well-worn items. Once again, it’s key to go for ones with larger sleeves, and even puff shoulders if possible, to cater to any style of dress or blouse worn underneath. Again, going oversized looks more luxurious and dramatic – and steer clear of any knitwear that has a distinct waist.
For embroidered, floral inspired designs, Alessandra Rich, Shrimps and Hayley Menzies are all leaders of the pack. Don't be afraid to mix prints, either. & Other Stories always offer a range of on-trend styles which look more expensive than their price tag, while Ulla Johnson's Flora cardigan has been on my wish list since it dropped at the beginning of the season.
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