White with a twist … Australian actress and model Sarah Ellen at Paris Fashion Week.Credit:Getty Images
A friend recently bought a white dress to wear to a formal event. After it arrived in the post, she put it on and, to her horror, found it was entirely see-through. She sent it back, resolving to never again buy a white dress online.
And yet, despite the high degree of difficulty in finding the perfect little white dress (LWD), the catwalks of the past months have shown that it’s becoming as key an item in a woman’s wardrobe as the little black dress, the archetypal LBD.
But as I have written before, the “L” in the acronym has come to represent a lot more than “little”, as in short or tight. It can mean “long”, “luxe” or “little”, as in cute, easy, versatile.
As the images from Paris tumbled into my feed, the question of, “Will designer X also do a white dress?” Was soon replaced with, “How will they do it?”
The answer at Stella McCartney was in crochet, while at Loewe, Jonathan Anderson highlights included a handkerchief-hemmed trapeze dress in ribbed jersey, and a short-sleeved, drop-waist maxi with made of two types of lace: retro honeycomb on top, and a mix of floral and geometrics on the bottom.
And let’s not forget Valentino’s all-white opening section, designer Pierpaolo Piccioli saying that by removing his signature bold colours, he could “get back to the essence of shape and volume”.
Valentino showed an all-white section in its show in Paris.Credit:Invision
And volume is key to finding a white dress that is high on trend and low on the self-conscious factor. For next season, Australian designer Lee Mathews pairs a subtle V-neck with a half-kimono sleeve that just brushes the elbow – it’s a textbook example of how a white dress can work for work.
If structure is your jam, then Saba, By Johnny and Silent Theory have you covered with blazer styles. A jacket style (note: it’s not just a long jacket, as care has been taken to ensure it won’t fly open in the smallest breeze) is also a smart bet for Derby Day that you can be assured you will wear again. For more blazer styles, see Acler, Torannce, Feathers and Mossman.
Ella Lymbereas, creative director for Amazon Fashion Australia, says the LWD is “just as versatile but a whole lot more fun” as the LBD.
“The LWD looks great styled with this season’s must-have woven and rattan slides and oversized pouch bags, in shades of tan and brown. Pop on a pearl bracelet, some shell earnings and you can walk into any summer party this season throws at you.”
And if you want to embrace the trend for head-to-toe dressing, Eva Galambos of Sydney luxury retailer Parlour X suggests adding a pair of white shoes, a bag and sunglasses to your look.
“I’ve always been a lover of a white shoe to add a bold pop to my look but our clients are now embracing it too via Balenciaga bags, Saint Laurent sunglasses and the original master of the white bootie, Maison Margiela.”
Daniel Romanin, co-founder of Sydney-based label One Fell Swoop, thinks dresses will trend less fussy, with more drapery and "clean" necklines. If you want to buy now to last, he suggests avoiding too many frills and appliqués. "Opt for fabrics that stand up over time – cottons and linens can tire quickly. A little white summer dress that skims over your curves and does not harness you in will always be key for our hot Australian summers."
Of course, wearing a white dress doesn't come without some risk, usually in the form of a surprise tomato sauce explosion at a barbecue, a red wine splosh or, my favourite, grubby albeit cute hands. Having a Sard Wonder Stick at close range at all times is my secret weapon but so is a little common sense. Maybe don't wear that gorgeous new white Aje dress to a two-year-old's party.
And, of course, be careful when applying fake tan or bronzer. Besides, a white dress will naturally make you look as if you've just had a holiday on the Amalfi Coast, even if you didn't venture further than Annandale or Ascot Vale.
Get the look
Jil Sander at Parlour X, $2395Credit:parlourx.com
Michael Lo Sordo at The Undone, $690Credit:theundone.com
Majorelle at Revolve, $280Credit:revolveclothing.com.au
Réalisation Par, $237 (approx)Credit:realisationpar.com
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