If there’s one thing I know, it’s dresses. My wardrobe is full of them, and I wear them 99.9% of the time. I’ve always struggled with casual (long-time Who What Wear readers will have repeatedly read about my ongoing struggle with denim—sorry to be a bore!), so easy, good-looking frocks are my most trusted fashion staple.
I have affordable ones that I wear each and every week. I have special, more expensive ones that come out for important occasions or big meetings. I have those in-between, mid-priced options that bridge the gap between casual days and fancy ones. I own styles that are ultra-summery and best for heatwaves and holiday packing, but I’ve also got a fair number of clever, trans-seasonal styles that can work layered up and with tights in winter or with bare legs and sandals during warmer months. I even have dresses that I’ve made at home because I can’t always find the exact colour, shape or fit I’ve been dreaming of. I have some It dresses, I suppose—although, I’m always very careful to buy something that really speaks to my personal style and that I know I’ll wear even when its cult status has worn off. I may own a lot of frocks, but entry into my wardrobe isn’t easy. I’m a pretty discerning customer who values quality and longevity above all else.
On Hannah: A pre-loved Rejina Pyo dress I found via Vestiaire Collective. So who could be better positioned to bring you a very trustworthy edit of the best new-in dresses than a self-confessed frock obsessive with a very picky taste? No one! I’ll update this gallery often, but to begin with, here are the loveliest styles I’ve seen this week.
It’s linen. It’s got puff sleeves. It’s in a delightfully unique shade of cornflower blue. This beautiful midi has everything going for it.
I’ve become fixated on finding a perfect black mini dress to wear to the parties I’m really hoping I’ll attend later in the year. No other brand does them better right now than London-based 16Arlington, and plenty of celebrities would agree with me.
I am lucky enough to own this dress in black and it is even more DIVINE in real life, I tell you!
Polka dot dresses are never out of fashion. This one feels particularly easy to throw on and either work from home in comfort or for any possible reason to leave the house!
I think you can probably guess by this point that I’m into dresses that feel comfy and simple to wear but still have plenty of design features and impact. This loose-fitting gingham style from a new affordable British brand called Albaray ticks the boxes.
Alemais is a new Australian brand we’ve got an eye on. This subtly beautiful linen dress is the kind of special item minimalists and maximialists can both appreciate, and it will look good for many, many years to come.
I have this Free People Oasis dress from a couple of summers ago in a hue that’s slightly more beige and I wear it on repeat throughout the warmer months. There’s a reason why FP are bringing it back time and again—this is a silhouette that flatters everyone and the swishy skirt and voluminous sleeves feel really luxe.
Don’t hate me for thinking about autumn trends, but there’s a big movement for modestly-cut knitted dresses and this is a very chic version I’d regret not having when the temps drop.
I’m not known for choosing short hemlines, but there’s something about these full-skirted Rhode dresses that make me feel more comfortable with the idea. The brand keeps bringing this silhouette back in different colours and prints, so I’m clearly not alone in my appreciation.
Okay, yes! This brings all the drama with its gathered neckline and voluminous sleeves, yet it seems oh so casual to fling on thanks to the dark colour and roomy midi silhouette. Personally, being 5’1”, I’d probably belt this so I didn’t drown in it, but I like the idea of wearing it loose á la the Olsen twins with flats and boho hair.
I’m a very lucky and spoilt person who managed to get hold of one of these dresses ahead of the crazy-big waiting list. Don’t hate me! Just trust me when I say this comfy, ultra-summery tiered gingham masterpiece is worth pracitising some patience for. Kitri’s dresses always fit my petite frame well, and I had plenty of wear out of this style in a plain orange linen fabric last summer, so I know it’ll have many days in the sun.
I’ve collected a mini Ghost dress collection over the years for a reason: This brand is brilliant at creating slinky, flattering bias-cut styles that just skim over your body effortlessly. This new Alara style will have me channeling some kind of Lily James-esque 1940s character, perhaps with espadrilles and a little basket bag.
Talking of espadrilles and a basket bag, how perfect would this red sundress be with that accessorising formula? When I invest in more expensive dresses, I tend to gravitate towards plain, unprinted styles because patterns and motifs can date more easily. This has all the charm of a vintage piece with the modernity of something new and pared back. From the statement sailor collar (which extends so beautifully to the back) to the darted waist and frilled hem, this has many beautiful details that I’ll appreciate forever.
Owning multiple black midi dresses isn’t a crime if you pull them out time and again over the decades! So this tube style is definitely the kind that will always garner compliments and make an impact thanks to its asymmetric cut-out neckline, but it will also be timeless enough to feel wearable on repeat. I like how Weekday has styled it here with kitten-heel sandals and shades for a very ’90s take.
If you haven’t met Loud Bodies yet, then let me introduce you. Size inclusive, sustainably minded and actually stylish, this indie brand based in Romania is setting the bar so high, and other companies should really be paying attention. Even the scraps of fabric left over after the small team hand-sews these dresses are used to create pillows that are donated to animal shelters. I mean! I saw this dress in a brighter pink shade on Nicole Ocran and have been into it ever since. The sizing goes from XXS to 10XL, but you can also get in touch for free-of-charge custom orders if you have any specific requirements.
I have a broderie anglaise dress from Warehouse which is now all but sold out. So I’m recommending this in the hope that it is a similarly great fit and is really nice quality. The fact that it’s a substantial cotton fabric with a proper cotton lining makes all the difference in comparison to other lesser high-street versions—not see-through and should sit well. I like wearing mine with a black belt to emphasise my waist and matching black sandals because they’re the summer shoes I own the most of!
Anything with a safari vibe in summer lures me in, so this smart-but-simple belted dress from Usisi Sister is automatically on the list. A great heatwave work option but also a very chic choice for events like garden parties or BBQs. All you need to complete the look is a pair of tan sandals and a smattering of gold jewellery.
Australian designer Christopher Esber’s cut-out waistlines have become something of a phenomenon this year, and his summer pieces have been selling fast. The trend is set to continue well into autumn/winter (no, fashion people don’t feel the cold), and I think this cashmere-blend version does the look in a very sophisticated, subtle way (yes, fashion people are already thinking about shopping for autumn).
Wedding season has suddenly been thrust upon us, and I think this makes for the ultimate look-at-me dress that is still 100% comfortable. There’s nothing more distracting on the day than something you feel self-conscious in or have to spend all day adjusting. It’s a real “wow” piece, so you can keep your hair, makeup, jewellery and accessories minimal. Zero fuss, maximum impact. Next up, these are the autumn trends we’re planning to wear. This story was published at an earlier time and has since been updated. Additional imagery: @hannahalmassi