Follow us


SS20 Key Items: The Magnificent Seven… Dresses

Sandra Halliday
07 October 2019

And cut! That’s it, Fashion Month is over. Nothing to do now apart from developing real-world collections that consumers will want to buy in large enough numbers to boost the bottom line. Easy.

OK, maybe, it’s not so simple as all that. So where do start? Let’s look at dresses as these played a big part in the recent collections. Here’s our top seven picks for the season.

Flying Trapeze

The trapeze is the key dress shape for SS20, moving on from the popular looser silhouettes that proved such a hit in SS19. It flows directly from the shoulders, or occasionally from a line immediately below the bust, in the softest silk sheers for maximum fluidity, with sunray pleats added in to boost the effect. But find it in a crisper outline in taffeta, cotton, lamé, or even decorative effects like fringing. Lengths on the runway skirted the floor, which works for high summer, occasion and beach. But cut it shorter for everyday wear. (See main picture).

Tiers of Joy

Dries Van Noten, Dice Kayek, Valentino, Longchamp, Valentino, Vanessa Bruno, Dries Van Noten, Rochas, Rochas

You may have noticed the link between trapeze shapes and tiered dresses. On one level, tiers are just an additional way to add to the trapeze outline (and one that makes more economical use of materials too). But tiers are also a way to make contrasting or tonal colour statements, to create pattern clashes, to move on a simple slip dress for the new season, or to add interest to the skirt of a waisted dress. Try not to veer too far towards peasant and countryside dressing with this look as it has a more sophisticated edge than that.

Little White Dress

Isabel Marant, Valentino, Dice Kayek, Valentino, Carolina Herrera, Burberry, Burberry

LBD move over, it’s time for the LWD. Ultra short and ultra fresh, it’s almost a blouse (and many interpretations come next spring will see it marketed that way). But on the runway, it’s a great option for anyone with fabulous legs on summer evenings, coming as buccaneer shirtdresses, retro shifts, Victoriana minis, modernist and sporty looks, babydoll styles or as an extreme version of the tiered trend. Interpret it in crisp cottons, taffeta, functional synthetics, softer silks, sheers and lace or broderie anglaise.

Shirt Tales

Roland Mouret, Bottega Veneta, Joseph, Alexia Mabille, Valentino, Dice Kayek, Chloé, Valentino, Valentino

The shirtdress offers something for everyone in the season ahead from smart to casual and even formal enough for bridal. The oversized mannish shirtdress is a great summer option for beach holidays but can also work as a more relaxed take on careerwear with some clever draping or a minimalist approach. Make it collarless for the easiest summer dressing or use the bib front of a formal shirt as the foundation around which the piece is constructed. In soft sheer silks, a shirt collar is all you need to add to a winsomely waisted dress or a trapeze to elevate it into a whole new category.

Shoulder Charge

Rochas, Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Ermanno Scervino

The one-shoulder dress is a strong carryover that remains popular and can be interpreted in many of the season’s trends. Cut it as a soft trapeze, with asymmetric frill detail or the pure simplicity of a stretchy sheath. Mini lengths work as informally-formal dresses - try it with a single sleeve rather than the traditional ‘Grecian’ shoulderline.

Cool Columns

Valentino, Gucci, Miu Miu, Prada, Lacoste, Gucci, Prada, Givency, Bottega Veneta

The simplicity of a column dress allows designers to play games with print, embellishment, textural fabrics and cutouts. This season, blocks of sequins, delicate beading, or gentle gathers add extra interest to the most understated dresses, while stylised flora and fauna prints amp up the interest. The most purist columns also act as a perfect blank canvas to highlight the season’s new accessories.

The Winsome Waist

Tom Ford, Loewe, Dior, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, Prada, Stella McCartney, Rochas, Chloé

Waist definition usually comes with no-compromise belting, but for SS20, designers choose to define the waist more subtly. Try a simple seam and some gentle gathering for both occasion dressing and careerwear, and a dropped-waist or asymmetric drawstring for a more offbeat twist. The key is to never draw the waist too tight — think soft not cinched and draw influence from the sophisticated dresses of the 1930s and the 1970s, as well as a more sporty style that takes its inspiration from athleisure and outerwear.

Free NewsletterVISIT