Best shirt dresses of the moment

THERE is an old expression and it goes something like “Another day, another shirt that buttons up to your neck and falls at your ankles.” So maybe it’s not that old (or valid) an expression. But it’s true. The shirt dress is, in my very humble opinion, one of the most brilliant pieces of clothing ever made. An entire outfit in one garment, it’s feminine, varying hugely in length, colour, cut, structure, material and style – with just enough hardness thrown in by an austere, stiff collar. It’s the kind of piece that kicks butt in a boardroom and works well on the street.

Now, in my never-ending quest to validate how much time I spend online window shopping, I’ve compiled a shirt dress edit. It’s by no means exhaustive, and you might not agree with all of my choices, but as far as I’m concerned, these are the best shirt dresses of the moment. Some are too pricey even for a payday splurge, and some are much more affordable, but all are very, very covetable. Get shirty, pals. I’m all about the expressions today.

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BRIGHT AND WHITE

 

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COS

MANGO

UNIQLO

ACNE

ASOS

ASOS

TOPSHOP.COM

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ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL

TOPSHOP

TOPSHOP

ASOS

 

KATRANTZOU

TOPSHOP BOUTIQUE

TOPSHOP

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IN THE PINK

ASOS

MODA OPERANDI

THE WHITEPEPPER

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THE MONO-DRAMATICS

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COS

McQUEEN

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BACK TO BLACK

THE WHITEPEPPER

THE WHITEPEPPER

MONKI

BELSTAFF

Taking Stock – Stockholm Fashion Week Street Style

Stockholm is one hell of a city. It’s beautiful, open, pristine and organised. (You can read my travel piece, published in the Herald last year, here.)

And it’s cleverly governed. I know Michael Booth was pretty excoriating about lah-lah-lovely Sweden in his piece for the Guardian, and maybe he’s right in some ways. Stockholm is admittedly a dark city during the winter months, grey from when you wake until mid-afternoon, when it slowly turns to chilly, damp night. You can understand why people might want to insulate themselves from others, swaddled in blankets in warm (if famously minimal) apartments. And you can understand why the cold, dark and solitude can breed a certain kind of stoicism – a ‘let’s get through this’ kind of attitude.

But I found Swedes (and other Scandis) to be warm, inviting people, who could laugh cynically at the astronomical booze prices, and were deeply appreciate of state-subsidised efforts to break up the darkness of winter.

I also discovered two other things: boots and coats. Not that I hadn’t seen them before (you’d want to, visiting the north in winter), but I discovered that Swedes do boots and coats like nobody else. Makes sense that this is the land of COS, H&M, Monki and Cheap Monday, all of which do a roaring trade in the basics (or really, essentials) that make up all our wardrobes. I left feeling pretty embarrassed at my run-of-the-mill duds and footwear, with a yearning to find the perfect wearable booties and shoutily structured cocoon coat. I have done neither successfully.

But that brings me to one of the many bright spots on the Swedish winter calendar: Stockholm Fashion Week.

Running from Monday to Wednesday this week, that effortfully effortless style was perfectly exemplified. And who better to catch those candid moments than Stockholm Streetstyle for style.com? These are just a few – gorge on the rest at the site.

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Is this a sneaky cameo by Camille Over The Rainbow? Indeed it is.

All photos by Stockholm Streetstyle for style.com

Ming Xi’s Lazy Day in Vogue China

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The words desolate, dark, wet and lonely don’t really suggest a sensible shortcut via an alley, let alone a fashion shoot.

But Ming Xi’s mastery of her expansive and empty surroundings lends life to an industrial landscape in this editorial for Vogue China. Called Lazy Day, it doesn’t look very lazy (or very enjoyable, sitting around in warehouses or hoofing it across damp grit) but Boo George’s eye, combined with Joanna Schlenzka’s styling somehow takes simple monochrome shapes and dark backgrounds to create something vibrant and atmospheric.

And how beautiful are the tux trousers, and jumpsuit? I haven’t found a jumpsuit that fits perfectly so far (it’s a toughie when you’re really tall) but I think it’s time to look a bit harder.

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Dublin sales haul, y’all

ITS JANUARY, that scientifically-verified most depressing month (although not for much longer, it must be admitted). It’s been a month of flux too – some bad news, some good – and my secondary school English teacher would be delighted to hear the weather’s been reflecting the mood. There’s nothing more changeable than an Irish sky in January.

I went into town yesterday to buy a measuring tape and some sewing needles (and mostly to get out of the house and avoid working on my much-talked-about, ne’er written chicklit). I neglected to bring an umbrella however, and that’s how I found myself going from shop to shop, ducking droplets the size of kittens’ heads. We can blame the weather, therefore, for my latest haul.

After the retail rush of late December/early January, I sometimes forget that the sales are still going this late. I was idly flipping through rails in Pull&Bear (I’ve always had a certain affection for P&B after a stint working there during college) when I lit upon a beauty – a structured, quilt-effect neoprene sweater. And there it was, in no short supply, and in all sizes, which made me wonder (not for the first time) if my sense of style is particular (and peculiar) to me alone.

I may have idly flipped through the rails in Zara and idly roamed the shelves of Office too. Check out my sale goodies below.

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Belts, Pull & Bear, €1.99

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Leopard-print Converse All-Stars, Office, €25, Black ‘YEAH!’ clutch, Pull & Bear, €2.99

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Pull & Bear white pleather shopper, €7.99, black neoprene sweat, €7.9920140130-151440.jpg

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Black neoprene sweat as before, Zara floor-length wool dress, €12.99.

Total: €58.95! I am, as they say, safe to let out on my own. Have you gotten any sales bargains, and where?

Canny Penneys

It’s been nothing but a pleasure watching Penneys (or Primark, as the rest of the world knows it) expand its range and tap into trends over the last few years. I used to work in the same building as the Penneys Dublin HQ, and get a little thrill of excitement up my spine seeing rails of trend-focused clothes rolling past or sharing the lift.

Primark is going from strength to strength internationally. This has also been the 12 months in which we’ve seen Primark’s flagship Irish store on Henry Street expand hugely, and the year in which the budget retailer expanded its wings and took to online sales at ASOS.

And all the while, producing clothes that truly look the business – no doubt the work of a team of canny buyers and trend forecasters.

I’ll be the first to admit it. Philo’s latest diversion scared me a little – just when you think lo-fi is comfortably embedded in the fashion consciousness and here to stay, the queen of minimalism throws something strange and discomfiting out. Gorgeous, to be sure, but shocking? Hell yes.

I’m not sure I’m ready to give up on my craggily structured coats, sweaters, skirts and muted tones. Thankfully, Penneys isn’t ready for me to do that either. Here are some of the gorgeous Spring pieces you can see in store now and soon.

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Jumpsuit in stores from  February

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Neoprene backpack in stores now

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Sheer dress available in store from March (shoes, bandeau and pants in the coming weeks)

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Sandals (in my opinion, a lot more publically wearable than Adidas Slides but still getting a good dose of monochrome)

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Grey quilted sweater and white visor, available now

I’ll dream about that sheer dress tonight.

Let’s make shapes

Ever heard of Rosa Rendl?

I stumbled across this Austrian snapper today. She’s been featured in publications like Another, Baron, Modern Matter, Tissue and Novembre. Her style is simple, working in a soft palette of pinks, mint greens, dusky blues and burned reds. What’s more notable though, is how she de-constructs everyday shapes to find new geometry, strange angular collisions in the space between objects and the meetings of walls.

Rendl’s talent lies in discovering the new in the mundane. Her eye finds satisfying combinations of colours and lines, resulting in pictures that don’t necessarily display their constituent parts in any identifiable way.

It’s easy to stroll through the natural world and stop seeing the beauty and form, to take what surrounds us for granted. Often we need to be reminded to stop and appreciate the millions of years of explosions, erosion, growth and rebirth, in a fantastic array of colours, to be thankful for a world that doesn’t just sustain us, but gives life a kaleidoscopic backdrop.

It seems gauche then to suggest we try and see that same beauty in man-made structures, in boxy rooms that follow a similar structure the world over. But as Rendl’s photos prove, there is beauty even in the most ordinary, the usual. It just takes a certain kind of viewpoint to see it – and we’re lucky she decided to share hers.

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All images from Rosarendl.com

Stellar in Stella: Bo Don good

 

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This is Bo Don, or more specifically Bo Don’s remarkably charismatic fringe, doing a star turn in Latin American Harper’s Bazaar, in the August 2013 issue (photographed by Hans Neumann). The shoot was all Stella McCartney, and the photos have a chilled, cool feel, as if we’re all all going for a stroll together, after the tourists have abandoned a seaside resort for another year. Summer seems to be nearing its end (and it’s officially autumn, meteorologically speaking, so that’s no great surprise). Neumann’s captured that back-to-school feeling – the ache where you look back and wonder if you made enough of the good weather, stayed out late enough, climbed enough trees or drank enough fizzy gin and Pimms concoctions.

That said, you’re not likely to be clambering up any stretch of bark in a Stella McCartney coat,  any time soon. It’s not a real heartbreak either. You might glance fondly on summer’s excursions, but camel coats like the pair featured here suggest more strolls, maybe with hats, gloves, scarves and  warm embraces on crisp nights.

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Pretentious nonsense, and really bloody pretty things

I have long wondered about Victoria Beckham. It is an interesting transition she has made, from her perma-bronzed, pneumatically-breasted, be-Skechered days as Posh Spice, to a designer of all things sleek, simple, evocatively feminine, and creator of a concept girl she has now taken to calling ‘subversively sexy, without trying’, and one she claims she’d ‘like to meet’.

Aside from the fact that someone who ‘marches rather than walks, drinks espresso, and devours books and art and film’ sounds like a bit of a military pseudo-intellect (and let’s be honest, a complete fucking nightmare), the VVB girl sounds a little like the impression VB herself seems to want to give these days.

We all have photos of ourselves in our more awkward phases. I know I certainly do, dressed as a fat goth at a day Irish camp when I was 12. The make-up was unfortunate and incidental. The chub would linger much longer. But there is no internet full of photos of me in a t-shirt so long it covers my leopard print bicycle shorts and nearly touches my Reebok Princesses, whereas every sartorial moment of her adult life has been recorded, dissected and left to moulder, forever, in that most horrifying repository of head-shake-and-tut-inducing moments in time: Google Images.

Baudelaire said ‘the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was making the world think he didn’t exist’.

Victoria Beckham’s was making everyone forget about Spice Girls. And the thing is -the sort of marvellous thing – that she’s done just that. There are hints – the tan has never fully faded, her hair still has that straight-from-the-wigmaker shine, and it must have been a very windy recording studio, because her trademark pout – amid much commentary, to which I needn’t add, but here I go anyway – has stuck.

But the photo of her smiling and jumping for joy yesterday, in front of the Hollywood sign, is a big sign (appropriately enough) of how her life has transitioned into a new phase. And it’s one she’s much more comfortable in. The skin she’s in – designer, mother, businesswoman, wife, half of a power couple – this is the one she was born to inhabit, and she does so sleekly, gliding through life with seeming flowing ease.

And she has plenty of reason to smile, because the VVB clothes are gorgeous. The blurb might need work. The duds do not.

Lord knows she was always going to have a hard time announcing herself as a designer. And critics salivated at the thought of lambasting her offerings. But season in and out, she consistently turns out the goods. And now, she has matured further, and tuned in to the nicest things about the sudden hunger for all things minimal. There are similar shapes to a lot of what we’re expecting for the season, and she’s gone back to basics with a lot of her cuts. She’s still got emphasis on flattering the female form, but the cinching is gone, and it’s a looser, more playful girl, than a woman. And when she does oversized, she does it with structure, and form – almost playing with negative space to bring out the best in the woman or girl wearing the pieces.

‘Subversively sexy, without trying’ means very little (hence the pretentious nonsense title of this post), although it sounds nice. To think you were just walking about the place, subverting the basics of sexual attraction, based on what you were wearing, makes me think you need a bigger mirror and brighter lights in your hallway, as well as some more truthful friends. That, or a long-running tenure in a basement sex club in Berlin. These clothes aren’t subversively sexy. They’re sweet, with a tinge of androgyny.

But when I hear the word subversive in relation to Beckham, I can’t help but think it’s appropriate, because she has subverted so much of public opinion. And all of it about herself.

I get the impression that Victoria Beckham, when describing the VVB girl, was thinking of herself. And I don’t doubt it was anything but accurately, either. She seems a cultured woman, and considering the amount of work she does, she probably does live on espresso, as she runs from one appointment to the next. But here’s the other thing – we don’t need to know that. And not because we’re not interested – but because she’s done it all, spun 180 degrees, and come out the other side a total winner.

VB doesn’t need to march instead of walking, because she has nothing left to prove. Because she’s proved that she’s no manufactured girl band member. Instead of vacuous lyrics, her clothes are doing the talking now, and she’s beating the drum at the head of the parade – and we’re all only too happy to fall in rank and walk in time, at whatever speed she sets.

Check out the rest of the VVB collection here.

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Do you Philo me girl

So the feline, simmering Daria Werbowy is continuing her tenure as the face of Céline for a third season running, looking unposed and candid in the newly-released Autumn 2013 photos.

Her mathsy bone structure and minimal make-up (the focus being a within-the-lines arterial-red, come-to-bed pout) suit the equally angular looks so well. Teller’s set her against stark or busy backgrounds, and the juxtaposition of bright, clean and irregular, against so much dark colour and pattern is a visual winner – the clothes pop right out of the picture.

There’s something else there too – the surgical green tile of the kitchen, the multicoloured pattern of a darkened entrance hallway, low down – these aren’t clothes that belong in the perma-cold of the tiled Iberian country home. The whole set-up says ‘take me away from here – if only to give these clothes the trans-Siberian adventure they call out for’.

The beauty touches almost get lost in the stunning images, but red talons tie together the story and a plain white bow cinches a top knot sweetly. It’s a little out of place, but if it doesn’t veer more complicated than unhemmed white ribbon, I guess it’s still still got Phoebe Philo tied in.

It’s a nice sign of what’s to come and only a snapshot of the whole gorgeous collection. I know it makes me sounds like an awful bore, but summer’s impractical heat (and as I glance out at the weather, occasional, and unpredictable downpours) makes me long for the layers and tougher materials of winter. And my goodness, that leather shopper is a beauty.

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Viktor and Rolf: Getting hitched in shirttails

My poor, lovely, long-suffering boyfriend knows when I have a certain look, and that look mostly manifests itself after after one too many gin and tonics, and it’s a look that can only really be described as ‘hand me the oxygen, baby, because I’m drowning in love for you here’. Then I’ll invariably nag him until he agrees to marry me within 12 months, which thankfully, he finds amusing, and then uses as fuel for a relentless, firey slagging the next morning when my head is sore and my defences are down. How do I still have a boyfriend, you ask? I, to be honest, am equally baffled.

Thus, I’d say he’s probably the last person who wants to see me posting about wedding dresses, so maybe keep this one under your hat.

But for the most part Victor & Rolf’s lovely white dresses are distinctly un-bridal. They’re certainly non-traditional, and the designers said: ‘We love playing with iconic garments, such as the white shirt, the LBD and the trench coat.’

And it shows. The consistent theme of white and ivory is the only real thing tying the pieces together. But while I don’t find the collection aisle-ready, with the exception of the bow-backed stretch crepe dress, there is a delicacy to each piece that you wouldn’t find in the average  street-ready dress.

What caught my eye was the beauty below, centre (click to enhance). The biased lapel-esque front, sweet collar, scooped hem and what might be the world’s first mullet train just sum up all the things that make me happy. Beautiful? Undoubtedly? Stern? A little, yep. Small and white? Clean and bright, and gorgeous. I’m an awful sucker for a shirt dress. Take away the bouquet and you have something just as perfect for strolling about or eating brunch. Probably with a bib on, mind you.

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