Shirts Under Dresses

Fall's lesson in unconventional layering continues today with the shirt-under-dress look. A favourite on the runways and championed by the one and only Alexa Chung, this transitional outfit idea--once a signature of Victorian governesses and schoolgirl uniforms--has the ability to extend the wearability of your sleeveless dresses and works for a variety of personalities too. But before you hit the party circuit in this unexpectedly chic look, be sure to take some style cues from the fashionable ladies featured into today's Microtrend story!

On The Runway
Though there were countless examples of this trend on the runways, we are especially fond of Carven's take on the look. The formula is simple and sweet: layer the Celedon Cashmere Jacquard Dress ($1100, similar style here) over the White Cotton Poplin Blouse ($365) for a between-seasons look that will take you from day to night. A more eccentric interpretation can be found at Marc Jacobs, where a white shirt buttoned all the way to the top was styled under the Black Leather and Popcorn Tweed Dress ($8900, 212.343.1490) and worn with the Red and Black Paisley Brocade Skirt ($1800, 212.343.1490). Needless to say, the trend-centric look, furry hat and pilgrim shoes included, is not for the faint of dressers.

At Events and On the Streets
Elle Fanning
Spotted at the Topshop Unique S/S 13 show during London Fashion Week, up-and-comer Elle Fanning showed off a mod-inspired outfit, consisting of Topshop Boutique's Zip Shift Dress ($160), J.W. Anderson for Topshop Embroidered Cotton Shirt ($80), and Topshop's Prancer Croc Riding Boots ($280). Not only is the ensemble in perfect keeping with today's layered trend, but its '60s influences make it an on-point look for spring too.

Nora Zehetner
At a New York screening for Killing Them Softly late last month, actress Nora Zehetner showcased a romantic version of today's trend. A ribbon tie and suede Pachacuti wide-brim hat enhance the sweetly feminine look of her Miu Miu dress and Jil Sander for Uniqlo blouse.

Natalia Vodianova
Celebrating the opening of Naked Heart boutique in Moscow last month, Natalia Vodianova chose an Ulyana Sergeenko velvet dress worn over a Celine silk and leather collar blouse. The apron silhouette and mix of rich textures give the outfit its of-the-moment appeal.

Dasha Zhukova
Dasha Zhukova deserves a round of applause for the Prada Tricotina Wool Embellished Coat ($2950, select Prada boutiques) and blue blouse she wore to the Christian Dior S/S 13 show during Paris Fashion Week a few months ago. The addition of the collared shirt lends schoolgirl preppiness to the modern dress and helps balance the leggy look.

Street Style
As seen on Stockholm Street Style, a stylish civilian offers a less formal interpretation, pairing her leather button-front dress with a scoop-neck tee and ankle boots. Together the casual top and leather accents give the outfit a '90s grunge vibe peppered with some downtown insouciance.

Get The Look/Tops
If you're ready to incorporate the shirt-under-dress look into your daily mix, make sure to keep the following product suggestions in mind. Button-Up Shirt For those of you who want to go the button-up route like most of today's ladies, a proper dress shirt is ideal-the fitted silhouette keeps the look from feeling too bulky. Some styles to consider are Theyskens' Theory's Fativia Blouse ($345), J. Crew's Stretch Perfect Shirt ($72), and Loft's Stretch Poplin Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt ($35). Crewneck Tees If you're taking style notes from Stockholm Street Style, a crewneck t-shirt is your best bet. American Apparel's Basic Short Sleeve T-Shirt ($15) and T by Alexander Wang's Mesh T-Shirt ($52) will help you achieve that relaxed, sophisticated look.

Get the Look/Dresses
Once you've figured out your top, it's time to find your dress. You can play with a variety of shapes here, but we find three cuts work particularly well. Modest Neckline A shift dress, like P.A.R.O.S.H.'s Sleeveless Shift Dress ($505) or Free People's Beaded Shift ($300), will give you that on-point mod look and pairs nicely with both a blouse and t-shirt. Low Neckline A dress with a deep-v neckline is great because it allows you to show off feminine details, such as a ribbon tie or statement necklace. Try BCBGMaxazria's Avery V-Neck Asymmetric Dress ($198) for an evening fete or Dorothy Perkins' Scuba Dress ($69) for the office. Apron Finally, to mimic Vodianova's Northern European vibe, go for an apron dress--a silhouette we've been seeing a lot of lately--like Comme des Garcons' Apron Dress ($222). Now that you've studied today's inspirational references and we've supplied you with a bevy of clothing options to try, you're sure to ace this two-part fashion equation in real life.--Jessica Baker

Photos of Elle Fanning and Dasha Zhukova, courtesy of Getty Images; Photo of Natalia Vodianova, courtesy of AKM GSI; Photo of Nora Zehetner, courtesy of Billy Farell Agency, Street Style photo, courtesy of Stockholm Street Style.