Sometimes, working in fashion the ‘noise’ can get a bit too much – there are so many trends and microtrends screaming for attention, so many clothes that seem amazing on Instagram or in the pages of a glossy magazine, but up close look tacky or unflattering. At times like this, I want to pull on something unchallenging that still makes me feel good and I turn to my collection of ‘Easy Dresses’ – anti-fashion personified.
These are dresses from heaven; the kind where you won’t find yourself longing for the moment when you can take them off and heave a sigh of relief after eating a big dinner, they won’t pinch your sunburn painfully and you won’t find yourself tugging at them self-consciously because they’re shorter than you realised when you left the house that morning.
If you want to you can wear them with a pair of platform sandals, but they look just as good with flip-flops or canvas pumps. Add a blazer or a battered denim jacket, accessorise with stacks of bangles or a single, simple gold necklace. They will soften with age and come out of your wardrobe year after year looking just as good – if not better – than when you first bought them.
Instead of following the Hunter-clad, hotpants-wearing hordes at festivals this summer, chuck on an easy dress with Chelsea boots and a long woolly cardigan or pullover (think Keira and Sienna striding across the blustery Welsh cliffs in The Edge of Love) – and if you pick a floral print it’ll hide mud and other stains.
They’re loose, versatile, comfortable, pretty and ridiculously hard to find (and often when you do find them, they’re not cheap – but definitely a worthwhile investment, I believe.) I think this is why vintage dresses are so popular – those soft, washed ditsy cotton prints and forgiving shapes are fashion Dodos these days. But a few do exist and I’ve rounded up some of my favourites.
Designers like Margaret Howell and Paul Smith specialise in this timeless, subtle style – you know that bookish, chic girl striding along in a cream linen sack dress with beautifully battered brogues, tortoiseshell specs, awesome hair and a paperback tucked into her satchel? She’s probably wearing one of theirs. The key is you don’t want to look like a try-hard – these dresses don’t scream for attention, they compel it.
Labels like Toast (below) and Cabbages and Roses (above) are also a good source, as is APC’s Madras collection by Jessica Ogden and vintage stores if you can face their dusty, musty chaos (these days I can’t – there’s just too much overpriced polyester for my liking.) Look for all-natural fibres like linen, cotton and silk and loose, dropped or drawstring waists.
This elegant embroidered dress from Zara would be perfect with flat leather sandals on warm summer evenings.
I love the subtle shades and delicate print of this Uniqlo shirt dress - it will never date.
ASOS had so many fine examples of easy dresses to choose from, I had to pick four to show you. The restrained olive green of the one on the left below makes me think of the '40s (especially when styled with sensible ankle boots) while the white example from their Petite range is just so pretty.
And you don't have to go too girly - the soft, feminine shape of an easy dress looks fantastic when combined with a striking print or in stark black.