It is perhaps a universal musing that most women have asked themselves at one point or another: What makes a really great dress?
Is it dependent on the colour or the fit? Is it all about the length and the fabrication? Is there some kind of secret formula that takes a dress from average to irresistible?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately (particularly with London Fashion Week imminent) though rather than attempt to answer it alone, I thought it might be best to seek out the opinions of a few experts. Calling upon designers from Rixo, Kitri, Ghost, & Other Stories, Topshop and New Look, I posed the age-old question and surprisingly, their answers were fairly unanimous.
From contemporary brands to high-street labels, each designer agreed, a really great dress is one that makes you feel confident and comfortable. Of course, cut and construction are excessively important, as are flattering colours and quality fabrications, however, as Henrietta Rix so eloquently put it, ultimately a dress you “genuinely love and feel your very best in is worth the investment, as it will be something you always reach for.” Now that's a concept we can agree with.
Interestingly enough, it seems many women feel most comfortable and confident in midi-length dresses, as several of the brands below noted that midis are their most popular styles. Keep scrolling for six designers on what makes a really great dress.
According to Henrietta Rix & Orlagh McCloskey, the co-founders of Rixo, a really great dress is one you will wear for years to come.
Orlagh explained, "The most important thing to look for in a dress that will stand the test of time in terms of design and composition – something that can become future vintage. Timeless print or colour, a versatile shape that you can wear any time of the day or occasion and high-quality natural fabrics that will last as you re-wear."
Henrietta adds, "A really great dress makes you have an emotional reaction." She continues, "our most popular dresses are without a doubt our versatile midi styles, like our Chelsea or Zadie shapes, that fit easily into our customers' lifestyles and can take them from a day at the office to an evening event."
& Other Stories
High-street retailer & Other Stories also advocates for buying dresses that make you feel your best. "Go for a cut that you really like and that makes you feel both comfortable and confident," the brand told Who What Wear. "Our favourite dresses are the ones you have fun in. This spring, we're going for those that are very romantic—either in colour, print or silhouette—or styles that give a little nod to the '80s."
Haeni Kim of Kitri certainly knows what goes into making a really great dress. In fact, most members of the team here at Who What Wear own at least one of Kim's designs. "Ultimately, when looking for a really great dress, pick a style that makes you feel good!" Kim explained. "Something that you look forward to wearing, a print that makes you smile, a shape that you feel confident in. Dress for your shape and stay true to your personal style, rather than following trends."
The designer also noted that when looking for a new dress, it's important to consider the details. "Quality finishing is a key consideration when looking for a dress that will stand the test of time," Kim said. "A beautiful lining, a well-designed cuff, attention to detail on buttons and fastenings. For spring, we have put a lot of consideration into these details."
Sameera Azeem, creative director of Ghost, explained that finding a great dress is all in the shape and construction. "The cut and fit are really important," Azeem said. "The empire line is always flattering to every shape. Also, finding a dress that is versatile and can take you from day to evening or that you can layer with knitwear when it is cold."
"A great dress should be one that you put on and feel super confident in—one that expresses your personality and that you cannot wait to wear," explained the designers at New Look. "A great dress should also be versatile. We love dresses that can take you through from day to evening and equally where you can dress it up or down!"
The New Look designers also noted that the finer details are what truly count, explaining that it can be dependant on "attention to detail, such as trims and finishing, and, of course, the importance of a perfect fit."
"Our customers reacted so well to our chuck-on dress last summer that we wanted an update for the new season that is versatile yet chic—perfect for unpredictable English weather," explained Anthony Cuthbertson, design director at Topshop. "We are really championing trapeze dresses this season, with mini and midi options present across the whole collection."