Fashion: Don't fear the maxi factor
Think you can't wear a maxi dress? Think again. Stephanie Smith has advice and picks out the best on the High Street this week.
The maxi dress is a bit of a conundrum for many women.
We like the idea in theory, and we admire them on other women, but somehow they don’t always seem to look quite so glamorous or sleek or romantic when we wear them.
“I’m too short,” is the most common cry of complaint of those who have decided that the maxi is not for them.
Well, really, how can you be? If you are in proportion (and there is no reason to assume that you are not, just because you are short) there is no reason why a maxi dress should look any stranger on you than it does on someone of tall to middling height.
True, if you choose a dress with volume and tiers and ruffles, you might be in trouble. Fabric is fabric and does not, sadly, come in different densities to match the relative sizes of the dress it makes up (as anyone who makes dolls’ clothes knows only too well).
This doesn’t mean that the odd ruffle cannot be yours, but look for slim, whispery, fluttery frills, placed judiciously, rather than deep gathered curtain swags.
This season’s up-and-down hemlines are great for anyone of any height or shape worried that they might either drown or look like an awning in a maxi dress. In particular, look for ones that are higher at the front than at the back.
Jersey, although a fairly weighty material, is perfect for petites, thanks to its fluid and draping abilities. Maxi dresses specifically designed for petites are always a good idea if you’re 5ft 3in and under, so check out Dorothy Perkins, Next and Marks & Spencer for options.
For petites, the top of the dress is best fairly close-fitting, not necessarily tight, but fitted or skimming close to the body. This helps keep the look in proportion and streamlined. You can create the illusion of height by choosing a slightly higher waistline, although again this should be fairly fitted. A small figure in an empire-line dress simply looks shorter and wider (have you seen the Brontë dresses at Haworth Parsonage?).
T-shirt and column dresses also work well for shorter people, so experiment with those styles, too. Dorothy Perkins has some beautiful maxi dresses by Girls On Film, well worth checking out online. Sleeveless or cap sleeves are best for anyone who is concerned they might look overblown.
Some wonder whether or not maxi dresses are suitable for weddings, given that most women wear short to midi length to most special occasions these days.
Well, of course, maxi dresses are ideal for weddings, but never, ever in white, no matter how on-trend, beachy and festival chic the style is. Not blush pink either, and steer clear of anything lacy.
If the bride is not wearing white, check at least that your dress is not the same colour or style. It’s best not to wear a simple long slip dress with spaghetti straps or you will be in danger of being mistaken for a bridesmaid, if not the bride herself. Incidentally, also check out what colour the bridesmaids are wearing, no matter what the length of your dress, so you don’t look like a wannabe.
One of this season’s floral floaty dresses is a great idea, but still, style with a jacket, if in doubt.
Off-duty, floral maxi styles work well with a denim or utility jacket and flats, especially pumps.
For summer in the city, look for shirt-style maxi dresses and slinky vest and T-shirt styles. Less is more here, especially when it comes to accessorising, so keep shoes and bags simple and workmanlike, to avoid looking as if you have just escaped from a garden party.
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