This year, if it has been about anything fashion-wise, has been about the right summer dress.
First we found ourselves in lockdown, with zero reason to smarten up at all. Then the sun began beating down, and our thoughts turned to the easy summer dress. The sort you pull on and forget about.
That took us through the first six weeks as lockdown eased, and saved us from getting up every day in our exercise wear.
Then we got the escapist dress urge. In this running-away phase, I bought a pale yellow, lace-trimmed dress that was ideal for sipping negronis on the waterfront in Paxos.
British style expert Shane Watson, shared advice for embracing the summer trend for wrap dresses. Pictured: Pippa Middleton in sunny yellow
Then a pink one printed with sprigs of flowers that looked great on the model on the white Vespa parked in an avenue of cypress trees.
They were a temporary mood boost, but I’m ashamed to say I have not worn either. Which brings us to the dress (or dress type) that’s hit the spot and won gold for the design that keeps on giving: the Longer-Than-Ever Wrap Dress.
I know what you’re thinking: you can’t reinvent the wrap dress. But this wrap dress is in a different league to the ones we’re used to and/or bored of. I was definitely off wraps before it came along.
Slinky, clingy, knee-length ones we used to wear look dowdy and middle-aged now, while ruffle-trimmed styles, though they can be fun, stretch, putting you at risk of that dressing-gown gape.
There are three conditions to a wrap looking new and nothing like a housecoat: a strong print, bold sleeves, and it has to be maxi or midaxi length.
The one I really like is the Joyce wrap dress by Phoebe and Grace (£295, phoebe-grace.co.uk). It comes in a fresh, 1960s-style daisy print on a soft grey background, and summer 2020’s maxi length (that’s shoe-revealing not floor-sweeping).
The elbow-length, puffy sleeves ensure it doesn’t have that sensible wrap look and give it extra flirty character; the print and the length make it feel young.
The great thing about this new-style wrap is that it is casual enough to wear with flip-flops at the beach on your staycation, and striking enough to wear with a turquoise necklace and light gold sandals in the evening.
MAXI WRAPS: THE RULES
- A maxi or midaxi length wrap looks new.
- Wear with trainers or a low, delicate sandal.
- Think modern graphic prints.
- Choose three-quarter, puffed sleeves.
Plus, the Joyce dress is made from recycled plastic bottles, which results in a light, cool fabric that you can wash on warm and hang dry with no ironing. That’s a lot of bang for one dress.
And, of course, it delivers on the regular bonuses of a wrap dress: you can adjust the fit to suit you (pretty irresistible for those of us who are a few pounds heavier since lockdown . . . if not half a stone), and whatever your shape, it somehow flatters it.
Big hips? A wrap glides over them, disguising lumps and bumps. Boyish figure? It gives you curves where curves were lacking. Small-waisted? Just perfect. Not so keen on your legs and want to emphasise your top instead? This is the dress to do it.
And this wrap feels like a maxi for right now, not for the Summer of Love.
For other, longer wraps that meet the criteria, Ganni has a good selection, including a brown, zebra-print, ankle-length design with balloon sleeves — you could wear it with boots in the winter — (£80, matchesfashion.com) and a leopard print almost-maxi (£153, ganni.com).
& Other Stories does a simple sage green floral-print midaxi with the essential voluminous puff sleeves (£75, stories.com) and one with wide-cut short sleeves in a red poppy print (£79, stories.com).
Or there’s Essentiel Antwerp’s bright pink or navy polka dot maxi wrap (£168, trouva.com) which is fun for evening.
For something more cocktail, go for the original wrap artist Diane von Furstenberg’s blue, big floral-print silk crepe maxi (£270, theoutnet.com) or the orange Isla berry-print silk wrap (£176, matchesfashion.com). This has crazy sleeves with a midway ruffle and fluted cuff — all the better to say this is summer 2020.