Fashion: Dress for impact

A big wedding is your chance to shine. Stephanie Smith has advice on how all ages can style up to the challenge.

Monday, 1st June 2015, 9:52 am
Sequin jacket, £40; shorts, from selection; silver bag, £25; white shoes, £35. Floral dress, £110; Hi bag, £35; sandals, £42; hair clip, £4. All at

Relish it or dread it, a big family wedding or gathering throws up interesting challenges. It’s a chance to see family members and old retainers you haven’t clapped eyes on in years and, crucially, an opportunity to challenge any misconceptions or preconceptions they might have about you. You might have been “miss shy”, or “that little madam”, back in the day, but now you are a grown-up, sophisticated woman – as your outfit demonstrates. So, here is my High Street dress-for-impact guide for all ages:

Teenagers: It is your job to challenge the established order and dress code. A family wedding is just the place to establish yourself as a new force to be reckoned with. Like Bethany in Corrie. Hit the shops and try on different shapes and colours. Check out what your favourite celebs are wearing but don’t try to be too sophisticated. Be unusual and daring. At your age, you can get away with it and the old dears will love commenting on you. while the 20-somethings will already envy your carefree grace. Go to:, Topshop, vintage shops.

Twenty-somethings: This is your opportunity to show what a sophisticated and independent young woman you have become. Clean lines and simple shapes that suit you work best. Avoid a dress or skirt suit or you’ll look as if you’ve come from a job interview. Don’t be afraid to go short. Monochrome could work (it can make 30-somethings look 40-something) and also simple shift dresses in a colour pop. Think polish, poise and good shoes. Go to: River Island, Karen Millen, Reiss, Ted Baker.

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Thirty-somethings: You are quite possibly at your most beautiful, although you might not feel it if you have children in tow. But you can afford to relax your look. Introduce interest, perhaps a touch of androgyny or intriguing shape. A silky fluid dress could work well, perhaps oriental style or even a fluid trouser suit Think detail and embellishment. Go to: Monsoon, French Connection, All Saints, Jigsaw, Mint Velvet.

Forty-somethings: You are at an age when you can really do sophistication. Monochrome is back on the menu, sleek tailoring should be considered. But also loosely structured shift and shirt dresses and daringly seductive dresses. Suit yourself. Go to: Hobbs, LK Bennett, Mint Velvet, Vivienne Westwood, Whistles, anywhere.

Fifty-somethings: You are entering Grande Dame territory and must embrace maturity with grace while your fashion sense is still spot on. Be bold with colour and design, careful with shape and drape. Go to: Phase Eight, Great Plains, LK Bennett Hobbs.

Sixtyplus-somethings: The age of elegance begins now and continues to the 70s, 80s and beyond. Play up to it with a gorgeous suit in a beautiful fabric; or a silk chiffon dress in navy, purple or deep green; a draped jersey dress or trousers with matching cashmere cardi. Go to: Pure Collection, Jaeger, Twiggy for M&S online.