Fashion should work hard to pay its way. Stephanie Smith picks out the key pieces you need to dress up and down for all occasions, with some great summer bargains and hot picks.
Buy less, buy better is a shopping trend for our times, as we become increasingly disinclined to fill our wardrobes with fast, cheap fashion that we know we will have to sort through and bin within a year (even if it hasn’t fallen to bits).
However, buying fewer clothes does often mean that we have to spend a little more, or at least spend wisely, if we want them to last. So they have to be versatile and multi-tasking, able to translate from day to night, and preferably also from work to weekends to weddings. No more special occasion slackers for us, lurking unworn in the back of the wardrobe for years, sequins loosening and losing their gleam.
With the sales on at the moment, there’s a perfect opportunity to invest in quality clothing and accessories for less than we would usually prefer to spend. It’s the best time to take a good look at your wardrobe, get rid of or box pieces that you know you won’t be wearing for a while, and then work out what you need to complete a series of day-to-night, go-anywhere outfits.
Accessories are key to transitioning looks for a variety of occasions, and are an easier (and usually cheaper) way to channel current fashion trends to update season after season. As a minimum, have a quality pair of gold heels and a gold clutch bag always to hand (gold is warmer than silver and suits all skin tones and most neutral and seasonally bright fashion colours).
These are the classic fashion basics your day-to-night wardrobe needs:
A smart jumpsuit: Wide legs are current and a midi length will work well both with flat pumps and a leather or utility jacket or even a slouchy knit for day and then dress up for evening with glitzy high heels and a clutch. Choose black or white for extra mileage. The white one here is from Very Stylish Girl, a Leeds-based online fashion boutique launched in March targeting women 30-plus looking for contemporary, affordable fashion with pieces that can be styled together. Owner Helen Portas says: “The market is awash with young, inexpensive, fast fashion. As a 40-year-old, I and my peers found it hard to source simple, modern fashion which was appropriate and affordable while not compromising on quality.”
A silky shirt-style dress: Supremely easy to dress up and down, thanks to its elegance teamed with workmanlike simplicity. Choose classic cream or navy, so you can add different shades of accessories to change the look. The cream one here is from Ghost London in Leeds Victoria Gate Shopping Centre. Founded in 1984 by Tanya Sarne, it become known for its viscose crêpe, satin and georgette designs, modified slightly each season but not trend-led. Perfect with flats and trainers plus a slouchy bag for day, then style up for night with metallic ankle boots and sleek box clutch.
A simple wrap dress: Flattering and easy to wear, the one chosen here is by Leeds designer Bo Carter, who is known for her ethically-influenced simple fashions. Wear for day as here with flat espadrilles, and then bring out the cage heels and glam envelope clutch for night.
A printed kimono style dress: Kimono styles are ideal for day-to-night looks, with their inherently floaty and effortless appeal, but you do have to keep accessorising minimal both for day and night, to work with the volume. A monochrome print like the John Lewis Kin one here is easy to style with bolder shades.
A strapless dress: With a jacket or knit over, you don’t know it’s a strapless piece, so you can whip off your top later to glam up immediately, adding statement earrings or necklace. Choose a black, full-skirted, midi style like the one here from Sosander and you’ll be dressing it up and down for years to come.
Simple column maxi dress: The key to making maxi dresses work for all occasions is to choose one that is pared back in design, without frills and flounces that refuse to layer and will date. The ombre one here from Mint Velvet is perfect. Throw a boyfriend sweater over and wear with ankle boots for transitional day looks, wear with metallic flat sandals for holidays, and dress up for night with gold heels and tiny chic chain cross-body bag.
The cold shoulder dress: Yes, seasonally on-trend, but they will have more than a moment or two and will always have seductive appeal, especially for holidays. The Anthropologie one here is in a bold colour, but a wearable one that will not readily date. Dress down for day with light knit and wedges, and style up for night with contrast colour heels and statement earrings.
The see-through dress: Dresses over trousers have been a thing this summer and the trend looks set to run into the autumn. By choosing a chiffony dress, even one with sequins, as modelled here by Kendall Jenner, you can wear it over jeans or leggings for day, and then with a slip dress or, if feeling bold, just your underwear for later on. Although it might be time to invest in a nice sensible underskirt, for the sake of decency.