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Carola Long: 'The maxi dress has had some really bad PR thanks to the bad-taste behemoth that was 'boho''

There's something about the maxi dress which makes it a permanent fixture as a fantasy summer look. The look where you acquire a golden tan without any UV damage and spend August enjoying the cool sea breeze on a yacht, rather than the tepid blast of the office air-con.

Maybe it's because wearing yards of fabric is one's best hope of spending the summer "wafting" rather than simply walking, but its appeal seems resilient, despite some bad PR. That's some really bad PR, thanks to the bad-taste behemoth that was "boho", and celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe's once ubiquitous Beverly-Hills-soap-star-meets-Talitha-Getty take on the maxi. In fact, according to Zoe's website, she can't wait to be "laying out in the Hamptons, wearing my favourite pair of vintage sunnies, a floppy-brim fedora and a boldly beautiful maxi dress." Thank you Rach, because you've just laid out exactly how not to wear a maxi. Leave the bug-eyed vintage sunglasses and the floppy hat in 2006 where they belong. Other details to be avoided are large, loud prints, tiered, crinkled cotton and empire-line styles with thin straps.

While Chloé, Stella McCartney and Roberto Cavalli all showed romantic takes on the maxi, an easier way to wear it is with a pared-down urban look that's more reminiscent of the Nineties than the Seventies. Tube-shaped T-shirt and vest dresses, as well as long skirts in shades of black, olive and navy don't look as if you're trying too hard and they're also easy to find without spending too much. Try the T by Alexander Wang range on Net-a-Porter, and H&M, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins all have inexpensive vest versions.

Admittedly jersey isn't that forgiving, so ensure the fit isn't too clingy or wear something over the top, such as a pale denim jacket, and team with flat sandals rather than heels. Unlike floaty chiffon, jersey maxis can be layered up and worn with ankle boots in the autumn – convenient given that long skirts are a big trend next season. E