Celebrity Dress Trends

As a statuesque blonde once said (in a slightly Germanic accent), when it comes to fashion, one day you're in and the next day you are out. Hyperbole notwithstanding-even in our current fast-fashion culture, it usually takes more than 24 hours-she makes a valid point: what looks fresh one season may look played out and tired soon after. With a keen eye trained on these sartorial shifts, we have decided to create a new series, Style Spotlight, dedicated to showcasing the way the world's most interestingly-dressed woman wear their wardrobe essentials.

In today's inaugural installation, we shine a light on some of the season's key dress styles and examine how celebrity trendsetters are currently wearing these important shapes. And while dedicating this discussion to frocks might seem a bit frivolous or obvious (after all a dress is a dress), we are always interested to see how certain staples evolve and emerge as the leaders of the pack. After all, just a few seasons ago, voluminous and swingy sixties-style trapeze dresses were the absolute ideal, whereas now the sack-shape feels dated and drab. We wouldn't want WhoWhatWear.com readers to wear out-of-date dresses-perish the thought!-so we pulled together an of-the-moment mix of fashionable frocks for your edification. There are both classic and cutting-edge styles in this collection, so something's sure to catch your eye. One last thought to keep in mind: though most of our stylish subjects opt for dressy looks, don't forget that you can easily adjust how formal a maxi or a mini feels-it's really the silhouette that counts.

Sexy Sweetheart
Julia Restoin-Roitfeld is a fashion heavyweight who knows how to rock the most daring and directional trends. Accordingly, we didn't blink an eye when she turned up in a tightly wrapped bandage dress-specifically, the Gathered Strapless Mini Dress ($21782) by Balmain-to the American Museum of Natural History Dance this March. We were, however, pleasantly surprised by said frock's unexpected sweetheart neckline. Typically associated with girly floral fare, the softly curved top added a playful element to her crystal-embroidered piece: the effect is unapologetically sexy and impossibly chic! The body-con silhouette of her pick is certainly risqué (hello, décolletage!), but we love how the innocently shaped bustline also adds a feminine feel. Try Single's Sweetheart Dress ($245) for a wistfully romantic rendition of the style!

Sleek Shift
While our initial contemplation of a shift dress makes us think of a stewardess uniform circa 1962, there's an updated version appearing on runways and red carpets alike this season. The slim sheath is also showing up on fashion it-girls like Dree Hemingway, who wore a crisp Calvin Klein shift to Parson's Fashion benefit honouring Francisco Costa. The light-refracting snowy shade plays up her porcelain complexion, while the origami-style geometric folds add a bit of texture to her selection. The final result is modern, low-maintenance, and totally high fashion! For a similar starkly-hued shift, try the Tory Burch Meryl Dress ($325), which would look smashing with a pair of black patent heels or summery sandals!

Long-Sleeved Mini
While abbreviated frocks are always around in some form or another, this summer we're particularly wild about long-sleeved mini dresses. The style will be huge for fall, but it's also ideal for breezy summer nights, as it allows you to show off lots of leg and gives you a little extra coverage up top. Whether you pick a style that is adorned with crystals, an eye-catching pattern, or comes complete with paneling or cut-outs (like Zoe Saldana's Peter Dundas for Emilio Pucci pick for the Los Angeles premiere of Star Trek) this style looks chic now and will be brilliant with a pair of tights for an early-autumn evening out. Though Saldana's dress is not yet available (it's from the Fall 09 collection), we love Topshop's Sequin Tunic Dress ($145) or Tart's Jacqueline Dress ($181). Show either one off now with tan legs and heels, then transition it into fall with opaque tights or high-high boots (depending how daring you are!)

Handkerchief Hem
Mary Kate Olsen is always at the forefront of the most directional dressing trends, so when she opted for an Olivier Theysken for Nina Ricci scarf-style dress for a Chanel dinner at the Tribeca Film Festival, we took note. The dress design, which we affectionately refer to as the handkerchief hem, experiments with proportion, volume, and lots of sheer fabric to create a very dramatic and bewitching look-like a glamorous Stevie Nicks-inspired pick! Whether you're drawn to the wide kimono-style sleeves or the jagged hem, there are lots of ways to wear this type of dress. We recommend Mara Hoffman's Kimono Mini Dress ($385) for a short version, or try Jill Stuart's Arlenis Dress ($1047) for a longer layered look.

In the world of dress shapes, the one-shoulder style is officially unstoppable. The recipe for its persistent popular is simple: it's universally flattering, appropriate for all ages, and can be easily adapted for day or night. Clearly, the single-strap dress appeals to woman all over the sartorial spectrum: everyone from the first lady (who wore a one-shouldered Jason Wu gown to the inaugural galas) to fashion fanatics (like Rachel Zoe, who opted for a vintage Halston design for the New Yorkers for Children charity event) gravitate towards this look. A classic asymmetrical shape is best as a floor-length column in a bold hue, as illustrated by Zoe, and makes accessorizing a breeze: just pick a great heel and some bold earrings to look like a modern day goddess! Go to great lengths with Jay Godfrey's One-Shoulder Chiffon Gown ($495) or T-Bags' Asymmetric Jersey Mini Dress ($195) for a short and casual choice.

Monochromatic Maxi
Each spring and summer, we start seeing maxis on some of our favourite fashionable femmes. While printed pieces have long captivated the boho set, right now that style can feel a little Lady of the Canyon-in a bad way. Instead of a kaleidoscope muumuu, we suggest going for a long dress in a solid colour, like the Osman Yousefzada navy maxi from the F/W 09 collection that Mischa Barton wore to the the British Academy Television Awards in London. The resulting effect is always modern, and provides the perfect backdrop for stunning statement accessories (like the Opulent Bib Necklace ($125) or the Silver Coin Bib Necklace ($68) from Banana Republic). T-Bags' Ruffle-Front Maxi Dress ($255) or Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent's Sexy Henley Long Dress ($385) are both great maxi options to help you get Barton's effortless-chic summer look!

Photo of Rachel Zoe, from INF; Photo of Mischa Barton, from Splash.