The Little White Dress really is the new LBD this season. Ice cool, as refreshing as mouth-tingling ice-cream, and appropriate for almost every occasion, this is what ladylike glamour means.
Ever since Pippa Middleton almost upstaged her sister in that white Alexander McQueen frock, the LWD has been sweeping through fashion in fabulous fabrics and clinical cuts. It even grabbed the spotlight for Mel C at June’s launch of the Spice Girls’ musical Viva Forever! thanks to a revealing Acne Barika tiered maxi-dress with thigh-high split (£310) that sold out next day at Net-a-Porter. Less serious than an LBD, more season-appropriate, it’s also not remotely bridal thanks to the exacting silhouettes combined with a seductive edge.
For overall impact, go for a slinky maxi-dress, whether an Alexander McQueen white cowl gown (£1,995), an elegant Grecian draped style from Temperley London (£2,565) or Sophia Kokosalaki (£1,370), a sculptural fan print ball gown at Vivienne Westwood Gold Label with inbuilt signature corset (£2,320), or a daringly sheer hand-embroidered tulle dress with matching bikini bottoms at Pucci (£3,610). But if you are going for statement dressing, keep the rest simple and opt for a strong necklace as your only accessory and add some colour with a glittering embellished clutch or brightly coloured lipstick or nail polish.
For day wear, think short and girly with layers of lace, giant broderie anglaise and the sheerest silks. See Alice + Olivia’s crochet dress, with its lace overlay and faux pearl fringe hem (£480), or romantic ruffles at Lanvin (£2,115) and Giambattista Valli (£2,715).
Finally, for something suitable for the office, there are tunic dresses with crisp, clean lines at Max Mara and Diane von Furstenberg (both £350), where futuristic embroidery adds va-va-voom without referencing a spacesuit.
Should you invest?
Do you worry that white equals bridal to such an extent that it cannot also equal everyday essential? Natalie Kingham, international womenswear buyer at online luxury retailer Matches, suggests that times may have changed. “White dresses have sold fast,” she notes. “We have only one left of the [woven] Azzedine Alaïa skater dress (£1,970).” Still, Kingham adds, if you are going to go LWD, “it has to be good quality, lined and well crafted. You need good underwear – and nude, so nothing shows through, and a little bit of body make-up that doesn’t rub off, or body foundation to smooth out the skin.”
Yummie Tummie has stylish easy-to-wear sculpted lingerie (prices from $42), while MAC can provide the water-resistant face and body foundation (£26.50). For those who prefer tights, Wolford has a range in nude from £14.
If you still aren’t convinced, however, and want to try before you buy at a price that requires the item be amortised over a lifetime of wear, Urban Outfitters has a wide selection of LWDs, including a futuristic cut-out style (£150) and a pretty jersey dress with 3D flowers on the hem (£130). Oasis adds glitter with a metallic collar and belt (£65), while H&M has a short, flirty halter-neck dress reminiscent of the famous number worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (£14.99).