A knock-out white dress is often at the centre of a major fashion moment.
Whether it’s Marilyn Monroe standing over a grate with her skirt billowing up, Angelina Jolie in a plunging silk number at the 2004 Academy Awards, or Michelle Obama wearing Jason Wu for the 2009 Inaugural Ball, the perfect white dress can elevate a look to something iconic like little else.
And while a white frock is pretty much timeless, it was particularly popular on the spring/summer catwalks. Designers showed us just how versatile it can be – whether that meant adding sparkles at Burberry, or keeping things pure and summery at Erdem with broderie detailing.
It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of wearing white. But a white dress easily qualifies as a necessary item in any summer wardrobe – it can be dressed up with heels or down with trainers, and a biker or denim jacket thrown over the top will keep you warm and looking chic.
This season, the key is to keep things floaty, whimsical and fun – like a fashion palate cleanser; something we’re all in desperate need of right now after weeks in jogging bottoms. Even if you’re not leaving your house much or at all, summer is by no means cancelled, and you’ll want to be fully prepared with a white dress ready for any event you might be attending in the future.
Another bonus? We’re all becoming increasingly hyper-conscious of how the decisions we make can impact the environment, especially with things like fashion, so a trend like this is well-timed. A white dress – whether it’s short or long – will never go out of style. It’s the kind of faithful item you can dig out of your wardrobe when the weather starts to warm up year after year, knowing it will be ideal for your next summer party.
For this trend, keep to simple, block colours. You can experiment with varying shades of whites, creams and ivories if you want to, but it’s really about keeping your look plain and fresh.
Want your own iconic fashion moment this summer? A romantic white dress is all you’ll need…
The key to pulling off a short white dress without looking too twee is to keep things loose and casual. Take inspiration from the empire line dresses seen at Rihanna-approved designer Molly Goddard, or opt for a tiered style instead. Steer clear of too many ruffles or any kind of ribbons – you don’t want to look like an extra from Picnic At Hanging Rock.
This isn’t a time to be wearing uncomfortable bodycon styles either. It’s all about dresses that will actually give you the freedom to move about. Wear with a pair of sandals if you want to dress it up a bit, or colour block with clean white trainers to keep the look relaxed and casual.
These don’t have to be super short, micro-dresses, but hemlines grazing or even covering your knee will do just as well.
M&S Pure Cotton Embroidered Shift Dress in Winter White, €54
The midi is one of the most wearable styles when it comes to white dresses – it’s easier and not as informal as the mini, or as intense as the maxi.
We particularly love a midi shirt dress – this look oozes Mediterranean glamour. Sophisticated and effortless, all you have to do is throw it on with some sandals or wedges and you’re ready to go.
Even if you’re not going on a jaunt around Italy any time soon, a billowing white midi dress is the perfect way to bring a bit of the summer sun to your home. And yes, for many of these dresses there’s the added bonus of being able to act out your own Marilyn moment whenever you walk over a grate.
Principles Petite Ivory Broderie Anglaise Cotton Petite Midi Dress, €29 (was €58) in Debenhams
This is where the trend really comes into its own. Maxi dresses were the most popular style on the runway, seen at everyone from Chloe to Alexander McQueen. You might normally shy away from a full-length white dress because it looks too much like you’re going to your wedding, but there are ways to pull off the look without raising any eyebrows.
To make sure you don’t look too bridal, experiment with different fabrics – like scuba or terry cloth – and play around with cut-outs and detailing, taking the dress away from looking a tad too traditional. This isn’t the kind of dress you’d wear to a red carpet event – instead, keep things billowy, floaty and relaxed.
PETITE Ivory One Shoulder Scuba Maxi Dress, €63.75 (was €85) in Miss Selfridge