How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Found! The only dress you really need to pack

  • Shane Watson says the ‘only dress you need to pack’ is flowy A-line number 
  • UK-based fashion expert advises that it suits all ages, styles and figures  
  • She describes the frock as having fluted, loose-fit three-quarter sleeves 

Allow me to introduce the slow-burn, been-around-for-a-bit, suits-all-ages-and-all-figures dress of the summer.

You will probably recognise it even if you don’t already own a version. Proportionally, it has things in common with a kaftan: it’s voluminous, not fitted. It has a neck opening and that’s it: no zip, no buttons, no belt, just an easy A-line shape, often with a tier or two, and fluted, loose-fit three-quarter sleeves.

Generally, it finishes just above the knee and (unlike a kaftan) has a swing in the hem. I’ll call it the Only Dress You Need.

If that sentence doesn’t do it for you, I don’t know what will.

Royal approval: Vibrant look for Queen Letizia of Spain. Shane Watson says the ‘only dress you need to pack’ is this flowy A-line number

But, just in case, let’s itemise the ways in which this dress earns its keep. It’s the ideal beach cover-up — just pop it on over a swimsuit in the morning and then pull it on over your damp cozzie to go to lunch. (You can also use it like a changing tent, stripping off and getting dry under cover of your personal canopy.)

It looks like it’s made for long lunches under grape vines, barefoot shopping at beach stalls, drifting in the shallows or dancing the night away, but all it really needs is a sunny day — which is why the Only Dress You Need (ODYN) has taken hold in the UK this summer.

The key is the fabric, which must be neither gauzy or sheer (so it’s not just for the beach), and the loose fit, which makes it both cool in hot weather and a mother-daughter-swapper to rival Ugg boots back in the day.

The UK-based fashion expert advises that it suits all ages, styles and figures. ‘Proportionally, it has things in common with a kaftan,’ she adds

Where you wear it all depends on the fabric and how you style it. A blistering orange ODYN is more holiday. A black-and-white abstract print is more summer in the city. The more ethnic the details, the less you’ll wear it to the local pub garden; but if it’s navy with red and white embroidered trims (£140, aspiga.com), you’re wearing it pretty much anywhere. (This style from Aspiga has short sleeves, but the all-important swing hem and pockets.)

Birkenstocks or similar flat strappy sandals work well with the ODYN for everyday; espadrilles make it more holiday dressy; clogs give it a homespun lunch-in-the-garden spin. Sienna Miller would wear hers bare-legged with Cuban-heeled ankle boots.

If you want to smarten it up for evening, then strappy, flat gold sandals will do the job. The proportions of this dress mean it needs a solid sole to balance it out. Even a mid-height heel will tip this look over into Baby Jane territory, and we don’t want that.

Shane writes of the chic dress: ‘Generally, it finishes just above the knee and (unlike a kaftan) has a swing in the hem. I’ll call it the Only Dress You Need…’

Some women who don’t like an above-the-knee hemline (me) are wearing these dresses like super blouses, over narrow white trousers; but I prefer to seek out the slightly longer styles that you can get away with without compromising the swingy A-line look.

Interestingly, British independent brands are the ones who seem to be doing the stand-out ODYNs of the moment. Head to NRBY, Aspiga or Boden for the best selection and the best quality. (It’s important this dress doesn’t look flimsy and messy or it will do you no favours.)

NRBY specialises in plain, bright, soft linen ODYNs and my favourite is the Elizabeth fluted sleeve dress in candy pink which finishes just on the knee (£91, nrbyclothing.com).

I also like Aspiga’s blue and white striped print style, which has a deep tiered hem that finishes below the knee and has good dressing up potential (£110, aspiga.com). More boho and beachy, with raw edging on the tier seams and beaded neck tassels is the brand’s cornflower blue Willow dress (£115).

Boden does a relaxed linen variation on the theme (£98, boden.co.uk) and Pink City Prints — also a British company — makes ODYNs out of Jaipur hand block prints (from £95, pinkcityprints.com).

Freemans does an almost maxi ODYN in a blue and white or a pink stripe (£42.99, freemans.com). I have the pink one packed and ready to go, plus ribbon-tie espadrilles I can never quite find an occasion to wear. Don’t you just love it when things are this easy?

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