There are three women who come to mind when I think about dresses with sleeves.
The first is Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) creator of the iconic wrap dress that’s 40-plus-years-old and still going strong. The New York designer’s signature style is timeless and ageless, and some might say priceless (the DVF Eloise silk wrap dress costs over £451 from matchesfashion.com).
Symbolising women’s liberation in the Seventies, the easy-to-wear dress was an instant hit and has been worn over the decades by influential women from Madonna to Michelle Obama.
For something similar at a purse-friendlier price, La Redoubt has a lovely satin look kimono dress at £35.40.
Keep it simple
The second of my ultimate Style Heroines is Joan Burstein, founder of Browns Fashion store on South Molton Street, London.
Mrs B, as she is affectionately known in the fashion industry, is the woman credited with discovering John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, and bringing big-name designers such as Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan to the UK.
Simplicity is key for Burstein, who always looks incredibly chic in a trademark tunic dress and statement necklace. The Winser London Georgette chiffon bell sleeve dress is a versatile day-to-evening option – just add a sprinkling of silver jewellery for the full Mrs B effect.
6 easy ways to cover your arms in summer
The summer shirt dress
And third on my list is Kirstie Allsop: a woman who wears a dress well.
On my way to a catwalk show at London Fashion Week a couple of years ago, the usual scrum of models, editors, street style photographers and Instagrammers were jostling around outside, angling to have their photos taken, when all of a sudden: a joyous waft of individuality. There was Kirstie Allsop looking fabulous in a super-chic Samantha Sung cotton frock.
Cracking what to wear for everyday occasions – as opposed to TV awards ceremonies or red carpet events – is one of the presenter’s many talents. The trademark colourful cotton shirt dress suits her lifestyle, personality and body shape.
Allsop favours designer but fortunately there are similar styles to be had on the high street. Next has a striped shirtdress, £45 – it’s 100% polyester, which can get a bit hot, but it’s worth noting that polyester is a non-absorbent fabric. There’s a lovely, knee-length striped stretch denim dress at JD Williams, £35, too.
Another place to find a vintage-inspired 100% cotton shirt dress (fully lined) is the small independent label Emily and Fin, where you’ll find the Tilly Spring Floral Shirt Dress, £79, (emilyandfin.co.uk, 020 7812 9992). Named after the two friends and founders, Emily Whittle and Ffion Armour-Brown, the website has a global online following but the clothing business started out as a stall on Portobello Market, West London. I’m sure Kirstie would approve.
How to style your long sleeved dress
Can you wear a cardi with a shirt dress? As Michelle Obama would say, ‘Yes you can!’. M&S’ pure cotton round neck cardigan comes in four colours (bright blue, white, mint and pale yellow), £19.50.
Ballet pumps are back but not everyone (me included) can wear them. Salt-Water’s classic leather sandals (from £52) come in an array of colours and look neat with summer dresses (salt-watersandals.com, 020 7281 8499).
And wedges are always a winner – try Clarks’ Un Plaza Cross cork wedge heel sandal and the low-flying, sporty Un Karely Hail, both £69.
Channel 1950s glamour with a pair of cat’s eye sunglasses. Oliver Bonas’ offer total UV protection, from £39.
And socially responsible brand TOMS’ one-for-one model applies to sunglasses (100% UV protection), too. Each pair purchased helps restore sight to a person in need. Try Travelers Rossio Matte Black and Florentin Matte styles, both £60, toms.co.uk.
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