Look at Life: Dresses

23rd August 2019

Dress for Success

By Claire Moulds

Like many little girls, I spent much of my formative years wearing pretty dresses. In fact, my mother recounts the look of absolute horror on my face when she put me in dungarees for the first time. Admittedly, dresses weren’t always the most suitable outfit for someone who liked playing outdoors with the boys, but I would always find a way to work around that.

Fast forward a few years and, like my peers, I abandoned dresses for jeans (the teenager’s wardrobe staple) and skirts as if, by turning my back on them, I was proving that I was no longer someone’s little girl. The dresses that did make the cut were the ones that reinvented me, in my mind, as an adult – tight and short, with a low neckline – and only came out at night, for tentative forays to bars and clubs.

In my 20s and 30s I learnt the power of a tailored dress in the boardroom, the value of a trusted LBD for dates and amassed a sizeable collection of ‘worn once’ wedding guest dresses. Like many women, I also devoted a chunk of precious wardrobe space to ‘holiday’ dresses which, thanks to the less than predictable British weather, would normally only get an airing the few weeks of the year when I was abroad.

Over the last 12 months though, I’ve come to the realisation that wearing dresses, quite simply, makes me happy. And, like most things that make you happy, I don’t want to have to wait for a special event, the right weather forecast or a ‘reason’ for doing so.  

When I put on a dress, I feel as though I’m being true to who I am. I feel like ‘me’, in a way that I don’t when I throw on a pair of trousers and a top. I move differently in a dress. I hold myself differently in a dress. My confidence soars. And clearly, how comfortable I am shows, as I never get more compliments on what I’m wearing than when I’m in a dress – however simple and casual.

As daft as it sounds – I am 41 after all! – I also feel like a ‘proper’ grown up when I wear a dress. I don’t know if it’s the fact that it’s a symbol of womanhood, or because I feel as though I’m putting the real me out there by wearing one, but I feel so much more positive and in control. As the US fashion designer Rachel Roy once said “A great dress can make you remember what is beautiful about life.”

Naturally, wearing a dress also taps into the pure joy and excitement I felt as a little girl on getting a new one. My husband and I attended a 1950s-themed summer ball a few weeks ago and I bought a really lovely vintage dress – complete with net petticoat – for the occasion. I literally could not stop twirling in it, just like a small child, before we left the house… and watching the skirt fan out as we whirled around the dance floor left me grinning all night.

And it’s not just me who can’t get enough of them. Thanks to an influx of new designers, including BATSHEVA and The Vampire’s Wife, who specialise in dresses, the ease of ‘one piece’ dressing – enabling you to look ‘done’ without making a huge effort – and the fact that there’s a style to flatter all shapes and sizes, we’ve all fallen head over heels again with the dress.

You truly know that the dress has reclaimed its long-lost prime position in our wardrobes, though, when one becomes the phenomenon of the summer, to the extent that it has its own Instagram account. Enter the Zara polka dot dress which has been spotted (!) the length and breadth of the country, sought out by women of all ages and which has proved so popular that it’s not uncommon for multiple people to wear it to the same event – normally a fashion disaster. And, while this particular design isn’t one that I’ve bought personally, I will admit to dragging my other half all over Madrid earlier this year to track down another ‘must have’ Zara dress that had sold out over here.

Predictably, my new found dress obsession has resulted in a wardrobe that is struggling to contain all the new additions; my love of a good maxi dress means that there is, literally, mountains of fabric to be homed – but, as long as they continue to make me smile, I’ll definitely be putting my best foot forward in a dress from now on.

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