The new dress code: Frocks are back but do you opt for Greek goddess or chunky knit?

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Evening

Seen at: Dior

A long evening dress is always a big purchase, since the cost-per-wear price tends to be high. However, with the Christmas season on the horizon, now is your best chance to indulge your inner diva. Karen Millen's sleek black strapless number (£225, www.karenmillen.com) is a black-tie failsafe, while Principle's asymmetric purple dress (£85, >www.principles.co.uk) has a Greek-goddess touch. The brocade bodice and empire-line style of Monsoon's dress (£160, www.monsoon.co.uk) make a flattering, alternative to more obvious options. If you have the confidence (and budget) to try something a little bolder, the diaphanous printed 1930s-style Jaeger frock (£399, www.jaeger.co.uk) is stunning, although a fairly willowy frame is required for best effect.

Cocktail

Seen at: Valli

Of all the dresses on the autumn catwalk, the cocktail dress reigned supreme. A Little Black Dress verges on cliché, but it was a designer favourite this season. John Lewis' glamorous beaded number (£179,www.johnlewis.com) has the rare advantage of sleeves (great for hiding pallid winter skin). Meanwhile, the frills on H&M's svelte mini-dress (£34.99, www.hm.com) echo couture looks. Asymmetric styles show off a good décolleté and, in an understated neutral (£228 (www.my-wardrobe.com), avoid the predictable glitz, while the skirt shape of the season – the "peplum" (£485 (www.my-wardrobe.com) – flatters a small waist.

Casual

Seen at: Sonia Rykiel

Swapping your off-duty jeans-and-top uniform for a dress will make you feel instantly more feminine. It doesn't have to mean sacrificing comfort, though, as Stella McCartney's wonderfully cosy chunky knit sweater dress (£595, www.net-a-porter.com) proves. Likewise, Kew's belted plum number (£44, www.kew-online.com) is an effortless winter outfit paired with opaque tights. Folksy girls will appreciate the Liberty-style print on Oasis' tunic (£70, www.oasis-stores.com), which can be layered with knitwear as the temperature slides. If you prefer a tougher edge to your style, the fluoro dog-tooth print on Orion London's T-shirt dress (£62, www.orionlondon.co.uk) works this season's punk trend.

Work

Seen at: YSL

The advantage of wearing a dress to work is that it will save you the hassle of composing an outfit in the morning. Brora's checked style (£195, www.brora.co.uk) channels autumn's "Balmoral chic" vibe. Is it a dress? Is it a coat? No, it's a coat-dress (£249, www.jaeger.co.uk), a big style this season and an ultra-smart option. Pink Soda's grey flannel tailored number (£181, www.pinksoda.co.uk) will look chic layered over a thin black polo- neck. And though it may be a little bright, anyone who works in a creative environment will appreciate the bold colours of Miu Miu's tunic (£205, www.net-a-porter.com).

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