The dress season has officially begun. Nothing to do with Pippa’s wedding or Ascot or Henley. In truly 21st-century style, we know this from the fountain of ultimate truth that is your Google search history: May is the month in which online searches for “dress” peak. In contrast to the Munchian hell that is buying new swimwear, summer dress shopping is pure sunshine. Minimal strap-tangling and no need for clammy changing room nudity. Which is lucky, because every summer has a new key dress style, so update last year’s Bardot ruffles with one of 2017’s dresses to know.
1. The $ 6.5,8.4-hour dress
There is a small sweet spot, where “dresses that are easy to wear” meet “dresses that aren’t boring” and the M&S flute-sleeved midi dress in fuchsia is right there. Which is exactly why it has been flying ever since it went on sale this spring. This is that elusive dress, straightforward enough to feel doable when you have a long day at work to dress for, but has enough about it that you could go out for the evening and not feel too Cinderella-ish in your office clothes. Fashion’s long-running love-in with the statement sleeve will be boosted this summer with the opening of the Balenciaga show at the V&A – he loved a sleeve, did Cristóbal – and if pink isn’t your thing, this dress is now available in navy, too. For $6.5! Not to be missed.
2. The one-(shoulder)upmanship party dress
In 2015, the correct number of shoulders to bare was none. In 2016, it was two. In 2017, it is one. The Bardot-style off-both-shoulders dress is far from over: Primrose Hill looks like a convention for picnicking milkmaids once the mercury tips 22C, which is quite lols – so for after-dark, up the ante with a one-shoulder frock. Tatler Bystander 1989 It girl is never not a good look, but to make the one-shoulder more modern, opt for natural fabrics and ditzy prints. See the Isabel Marant catwalk, or Charlotte Gainsbourg in Saint Laurent on the Cannes red carpet, for details.
3. The city kaftan
Those of us who remember the early 00s will recall the concept of stealth wealth, whereby inconspicuous consumption came to triumph over flash. Something comparable is happening this decade in the arena of modesty. The increased buying power of regions where covered-up womenswear is the norm has been reflected in modesty creep on the catwalk, with trends for longer hemlines and higher necklines. There is much to unpick here, but there is also a lot to be said for kaftan-weight but simply-cut summer dresses that keep you cool without requiring Pippa Middleton arms, or shaved legs. My fantasy dress for this summer is from Gucci, as worn by Isabelle Huppert on the red carpet at Cannes; in real life, I’m wearing this Grace dress by Boden on repeat.
4. The slip dress
The slip dress was the uniform of the 90s party girl. Kate Moss in transparent silver Liza Bruce, black knickers and no bra, in 1993; Courtney Love in a vintage cream silk nightie, tiara and red lipstick. So the revival of that decade in fashion – see also, chokers, and everyone wearing velvet – has brought the slip dress centre stage. The mechanics of the industry often mean that a trend really happens on the shopfloor a season or two after it happens on the catwalk and red carpet, so we are now just beginning to see the fallout (sorry) from a trend that was already in gear a year ago, when Bella Hadid wore that spectacular red satin slip dress on the Cannes red carpet. This year’s Cannes has a new intake of slip dress icons: see Robin Wright in turquoise.
5. The wrap dress
The wrap dress is one of the few things that 70s feminists and fourth-wave feminists can agree on. It was conceived by Diane von Furstenberg as a noiseless, non-crease dress a woman could pick off the floor and get dressed into without waking a sleeping man, and still look sharp in. It turned the tables on the walk of shame, and now the look is enjoying a renaissance thanks to new deconstructed, asymmetric styles by new DVF designer Jonathan Saunders and labels Reformation and Attico, putting a millennial-friendly spin on the style. “There’s a reason we’re still making this dress 50 years later,” say the Reformation team, whose georgette wrap mini dress is this summer’s ideal. “You can look good and feel feminine, but still get stuff done.”