There’s possibly only one thing that Rihanna, Theresa May, Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton all have in common: their love of a shirt dress.
And it’s hardly surprising; the phrase ‘easy to wear’ is overused in fashion, but it really does apply here. Now that it’s nearly time to trade in heavy layers for a light summer dress, there’s only one choice this season. It’s an undefeated classic. After the last few years, comfort is our watchword — but we’ve seen enough loungewear to last us a lifetime. The shirt dress offers the best of all worlds.
It will work just as well at the beach, in the office or at a wedding. It always looks polished. It may have been inspired by men’s tailoring, but it doesn’t need to look like an oversized shirt borrowed from the boys. Designers have turned it into something sensational. Gucci has a fabulous pleated midi. Valentino has a floral pink lace style, or an oversized yellow number with a side slit. Marni has a daisy print. They’re all stunning and all, obviously, expensive.
Dress, £39.50, marksand spencer.com; shoes, £279, lkbennett.com; bag, £32.90, warehousefashion.com
Dress, £175 (launching May 16), crewclothing.co.uk; shoes, £49.99, zara.com; bag, £95, jasperconran.com
Away from the catwalks, everyone is on a budget. With the ever-rising cost of living, we want something affordable that can be worn again and again. The shirt dress ticks that box. It’s as versatile as a simple shirt, with the same potential for dressing up or down and, of course, for layering.
Invest now and wear it with boots over a polo neck or under a knit. You could try yours under a trendy tank top, too — the collar adds the perfect stylish twist.
Left: Dress, £150, Kemi Telford at johnlewis.com; shoes, £55.30, warehouse fashion.com. Right: Dress, £195, Iris & Ink at theoutnet.com; trainers, £79.95, Nike at asos.com; bag, £89, jasperconran.com
Look for little details such as split hems and exaggerated collars on minimalist monochromes, or go with fun colours and loud prints. Shirt dresses are appearing in every fabric imaginable, including leather — although bear in mind that will be a lot harder to wear through summer.
Dress, £150, Jaeger at marksandspencer.com; shoes, £299, lkbennett.com; bag, £99, jasperconran.com
Marks and Spencer’s floral print design (far left) will look great worn open with jeans and a vest, or even used as a cover-up on the beach. Kemi Telford — a brand from designer Yvonne Modupe Telford — is stocked at John Lewis. Its striking abstract print design (third from left) is fabulous.
Dress, £329, lkbennett. com; shoes, £49.99, zara.com; bag, £110, jigsaw-online.com
And the Outnet’s pale blue offering (fourth from left) may be a classic colour, but it’s less of a traditional cut, with a tiered skirt and puff sleeve. It looks great with retro trainers, or dressed up with this season’s must-have platforms (which are almost as comfortable as a sports shoe).
Dress, £299, and shoes, £279, lkbennett.com
Dress, £165, jigsawonline.com; shoes, £299, and belt, £79, lkbennett.com
Crew Clothing’s white broderie anglaise design (second from left) is perfect for Henley, Wimbledon or a family wedding (don’t worry, it also comes in navy).
But no matter which you choose, they’re all a time-poor woman’s best friends.