Why You Need A Leather Dress This Autumn

Revered stylist and former Tatler fashion director Anna Bromilow knows what makes a good autumn dress. In the latest instalment of her fortnightly SL column, she explains why a leather style is exactly what you need this season…

Leather trousers are a staple of my everyday winter wardrobe. In fact, I’d say they are one of my key throw-it-on, signature looks. My collection suggests something of an obsession: from cropped Isabel Marant zipped bikers to Pinko relaxed joggers, there’s a section in my wardrobe dedicated to these seriously useful separates. With a puffed-sleeve blouse or cute knit plus a pair of toe-cleavage courts, you have effortless day-to-night French cool. They feel easy yet they’re a little statement, adding texture and depth to a look, and giving a nod to rock-star vibes.

I’ve styled many leather-focused shoots over the years but, in terms of my personal style, I am mainly restricted to my bottom half. I own a couple of leather skirts that are keepers (one A-line mini, the other a slick pencil skirt) and get huge usage out of a Fendi punched corset belt. My biker jacket (surely a staple in most wardrobes) from IRO only gets the occasional outing these days because I end up feeling less Kate Moss, more Danny Zuko with my dark hair.

However, I am increasingly appreciating leather – real and faux – in a whole new wearable light, particularly in terms of dresses. Last Autumn/Winter acclimatised me to the fact that this traditionally hard, biker-associated material is now being created and worn in fluid, elegant forms. Dresses hit the runway at Victoria Beckham, Stella and Loewe, and started to have major influencer visibility. These dresses moved, were draped, were modern interpretations of a wearable ladylike prowess that stole leather away from dominatrix into liquid, decisive luxe.

Over the last few seasons, Nanushka’s incredible range of supple, ingeniously named ‘vegan leather’ pieces have become seriously covetable. Advances in the quality of synthetic material mean faux pieces look real – we are worlds away from squeaky, rubbery pleather. Caroline Sciamma-Massenet’s brand Skiim dedicates itself to a prêt-à-porter collection of real leather – a sexy trans-seasonal world of separates. This season, leather is really on the radar (it’s all over Zara) and shows no signs of slowing down. Clare Waight Keller used lightweight, buttery leather as rich, punctuating notes throughout her recent Givenchy show.

A leather dress is an immediate, standout passport to modern chic.

A leather dress is an immediate, standout passport to modern chic. A shirt dress has to be its most covetable current form. There are two options: go down the 60s retro route, shorter but with a wide A-line sleeve, preferably unbelted; or go midi and fuller, in a Roman Holiday meets Helmut Lang hybrid. In aubergine, black or stone, Nanushka’s Rosana dress is hard to beat. It looks like the most luxurious leather yet it’s machine washable at 30ºC. A soft silhouette, quilted belt and bell sleeves is elegance personified – if Kate Middleton were ever to wear head-to-toe leather, this probably would be it. I’d style it down with loafers, heavy gold bracelets (Tilly Sveaas is my current favourite) and a chunky knit over my shoulders for day (I Love Mr Mittens is a top choice). For business mode, go with knee-length matching boots (especially in that delicious dark plum) and a wrap coat. A fur coat and leather work well for evening, and I also love the idea of teaming it with one of Born in the Sun’s new leather hairbands.

Dodo Bar Or has a sensational cream belted dress for Autumn/Window that is the dream. I’d steer well clear of styling it with any black (monochrome leather terrifies me) but stick to purist, tonal dressing with complementary ecru and tan. It would also work well with clever, metallic accents for night. Ganni’s tan mini is a gem. Its soft caramel tone and chic flared sleeves are on the right side of vintage and matching covered buttons give it luxe appeal. For that Alexa Chung effortless cool, style with flats (loafers or boots). Topshop has also produced a version, but in cherry red and longer in length. Leopard-print boots would work well with this. Stand Studio have some more eccentric ones, including a bold pink trench that can be worn as a coat or a dress.

With all of these shirt styles, layer up in colder weather with a tonal fine-knit rollneck.

With all of these shirt styles, layer up in colder weather with a tonal fine-knit rollneck. In terms of jewellery, leather generally works well with chunkier kinds that pack as bold a punch. And a final bit of advice that I will stick to when wearing mine: moisturise. This new variety of soft, buttery leather – real or faux – will throw shade next to central-heated dry skin. Pump up the body balm and give this soft leather trend a run for its money.

Follow Anna @anna_bromilow

INSPIRATION CREDITS: Instagram.com/Anna_Bromilow, Instagram.com/PernilleTeisbaek, Nanushka.com
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