In praise of one of the hardest working pieces in your wardrobe: a dress


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For almost every wardrobe crisis of the “I have nothing to wear” variety there is a solution. And it’s this: wear a dress.

Nothing could be easier, or indeed, more of a straight-up power move.

A dress takes away the fuss, or at least the need to find a top that remotely “goes”. It’s a deliberate and definitive choice.

And a dress works just as well for those seeking to assert their authority (or at least their ambition) – look at Ivanka Trump in her endless array of pastel-hued sheath dresses – as it does a boho earth-mother who lives her days barefoot in a caftan.

Think about Claire Underwood, the ruthlessly ambitious politician in House of Cards. Her wardrobe of power shoulders, immaculate tailoring and stilettos reflects her power and control of the self. A boss move that reached its zenith when she became her most powerful, and wore a dress.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (invariably praised and vilified for her love of clothes) often chooses a dress for important moments, a move that journalist Anne Perkins noted, serves “as emphasis, not distraction”.

And there’s so many famous dresses – Princess Diana’s “revenge dress”, Liz Hurley’s safety-pinned Versace assurance that nobody would be forgetting her in a hurry. There was the time Lady Gaga wore a dress made of raw steak to the VMAs and the white lace dresses worn in A Picnic at Hanging Rock, launching a thousand fashion editorials.

New York Fashion Week has been a good reminder of the power of the dress.

For one thing, the brand behind the dress that changed many a-working woman’s life with the creation of its nifty, flattering wrap dress in 1974, Diane von Furstenberg, debuted its spring collection under new chief creative officer Jonathan Saunders. The wrap dress was still there, but fresher in bolts of orange, sequinned discs and leopard print (it is a neutral, after all) alongside sportier separates such as wide-legged trousers and bombers.

Elsewhere, Oscar de la Renta interspersed silky trouser suits with dresses requiring a rather ostentatious invitation and sheer slashed numbers in need of a party with low, smoky lighting. There was Tibi’s orange smock and the ruched millennial pink dresses with glitter sleeves at Tom Ford’s glamorous show

Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, the Sydney designers behind New York label Tome, offered up the rainbow in dresses crafted from splices of vivid colours that twirled when the wearer moved, while Rosie Assoulin – a favourite among fashion-influencer types – offered charmingly printed shirt-dresses and dresses with sculptural frills that have fun with proportion.

Carolina Herrera had elegant dresses for night and day – with sweet sheaths and glamorous exaggerated sleeved numbers in chiffon and puffs of tulle. In contrast, and proof that there is a dress for every style, Anna Sui’s crochet sleeves, loosely laced bodices and flowing floral dresses were made for the luxe hippy.

The style on the street outside the shows and the front row – a good barometer of what we’ll all be wearing next – was another exercise in the versatility of the dress. From Australian Yasmin Sewell, recently appointed vice president of style and creative at luxury e-commerce site Farfetch, wearing a checked strapless bodice dress over a yellow T-shirt, to Kim Kardashian in an entirely on-brand shiny black latex dress at Tom Ford, there’s a dress for however you want to wear it.

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