The item that takes up the most space in my wardrobe (outside of a ridiculous shoe collection)? Printed dresses. But not just any old printed dress can slide past the uptight bouncer on the door—they have to be inspired by vintage shapes and patterns. My back catalogue includes a mix of new and old, and I definitely have enough for every day of the week (maybe even a fortnight or quarter), so it's rare to see me in wearing anything but a patterned midi.
Although there's little I enjoy more than a rummage around a thrift store, I've found that for ease—and that covers everything from fit to washing requirements or time spent searching and mending—it's good to be able to lean upon a range of dress-heavy brands that actually specialise in vintage-look styles.
Owning the "real deal" when it comes to '60s and '70s garms will always be the preference, and I'm a strong supporter of the circular economy, but there are other benefits to buying a more recent creation: For one, fabric development has moved on, and sometimes I'd rather buy a piece that isn't rendered in nylon (which can feel unbreathable or smell like it's never quite laundered someone else's sweatiest day away).
This "vintage but new" category has become something of a successful niche over the past few years. Just think of all of the booming brands women like me go to for this kind of flattering, timeless dress: Rixo, Réalisation and Ghost are just a few names enjoying an extended period in the fashion spotlight.
Keep scrolling to see the best vintage-inspired dress brands, who is wearing them and the loveliest styles to invest in now.
A big part of the reason Rixo was set up by founders Henrietta and Orlagh was to fill a gap they had seen in the market for vintage-inspired dresses that were modernised and affordable but premium. They continue that quest today, only with some fab additions in terms of separates, knits and accessories to boot. We still can't get enough of their dresses and have never seen anyone look bad in Rixo.
A little bit '40s, sometimes a tad '90s and occasionally veering into the '60s, Réalisation's dress offering runs the retro gamut, but they all share a certain louche-ness that brings each style into the here and now. The Aussie brand's tea dresses and slips have been particularly popular of late.
On the luxury end of the scale, you have Gül Hürgel, whose romantic, swishy, waist-nipping dresses are like something out of an Old Hollywood film set. I've never felt so princess-like as I did the day I got to wear the pink dress above, so I can't blame girls for investing in these styles for big moments like attending weddings.
4. COCO FENNELL
Coco Fennell's personal style is vintage to the max, so it makes sense that her range of dresses would remain true to her DNA. From '50s day dresses through to '70s-inspired party frocks, hers have been created to make all women feel good. Once you try one on, you'll know what she means.
5. BY TIMO
By Timo is a Norwegian brand that bucks the Scandi trend for simplicity. This is all frills and pretty prints and tiered silhouettes. Despite the utter girlishness of it all, you can still make them look cool and 2019-ready like Nnenna does here while wearing bright sneaks.
Yes, ASOS! Although the e-commerce giant will move with whatever the latest trend is, it also knows that supply for this vintage-inspired dress demand is a wise move. So you'll find cute retro wiggle dresses, tea dresses and more on-site—you just have to look for them.
If '40s-inspired silk-satin is your jam, Ghost's online store should be your new spiritual home. These bias-cut beauties also tap into the '90s, when Kate Moss would wear them with simple sandals and not a scrap of makeup. We're big fans of the Brit brand's midis for both the office and wedding-guest season.
8. HAYLEY MENZIES
With her own collection of amazing vintage pieces and having initially started up her business with a stall on Portobello Market over a decade ago, it's no wonder that Hayley Menzies's collection of dresses (and knits and accessories) are anything but eclectic and a little bit more bohemian than your average. Last week, the triplets all tried on the latest batch of dresses (see above), and we knew we had to have one… or three. Adorable.