Skirts out, frocks in: how women are dressing up

When it comes to making an impact, few items of clothing can compete with a dress.

Whether it's a red carpet showstopper, a gown for an inauguration ball or an everyday dress to wear to work, the killer frock is a guaranteed attention-grabber.

Its ability to make an impression is reflected in the fact that sales of dresses have soared 20 per cent over the last three years, with about 66 per cent of women aged 16 to 24 buying dresses in 2010, up from 46 per cent in 2007, according to research by Mintel.

Dresses have dominated the catwalks for much of this period, with the "statement dress" – often a short, embellished cocktail style – attracting numerous copies.

Memorable designs include Lanvin's short ruffled orange dress from spring/summer 2008, Balmain's green sequinned cocktail style from spring/summer 2009 and Gucci's tea dresses from spring/summer 2006. Of course, the dress never fell out of fashion. But there was certainly a renewed emphasis on it, and it was reinvented to suit numerous different occasions, from smart to casual.

While jeans and a decorative top were de rigueur for a night out until about six years ago, and wearing a dress was deemed old-fashioned and too smart, the trend for vintage clothes was one factor in making the dress cool again. Celebrities were also integral to the dress's rehabilitation, from Lily Allen in vintage ballgowns teamed with chunky sports trainers to Kate Moss in small retro tea dresses, which she later produced for her clothing range at Topshop. Kate Middleton has also been seen wearing an array of dresses, from a Topshop patterned dress to the blue Issa dress she wore for the royal engagement photos. Apart from the fact that the garment was daringly low, it looked far less formal than the bright blue skirt suit worn by Princess Diana when she and Prince Charles announced their engagement in 1981.

It might seem strange that spending on dresses would increase during a recession, but they require little thought, are versatile and the same garment can be dressed up or down for different occasions. According to Mintel, the clothing market for those aged 16 to 24 has also seen solid growth despite the recession, increasing by 17 per cent between 2005 and 2010 to stand at £10bn, outperforming the overall clothing market.

Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel, said: "This growth has been driven by a increasing fashion for dresses, with 2010 seeing a boom in styles such as maxi dresses, which this generation would not already own and therefore would need to add to their wardrobe.

"Skirt purchasing, however, has suffered as a result of this and also because of the trend towards wearing leggings more often, which can often be worn together with certain styles of dress, but less commonly used with skirts."

Without the financial demands of mortgages and families, this age group is able to keep up with the rapid pace at which modern fashion trends emerge. Suzanne Pendlebury, a buyer at Harvey Nichols, said: "Previously our younger shoppers would shop more leisurewear brands for premium denim and luxury basics, such as fashion tees and loungewear. Today's shopper is far more aspirational."

However, this fashion-aware group should know that despite the popularity of dresses, trousers have recently stolen their thunder when it comes to high fashion. For autumn/winter 2010 labels such as Chloe, Celine and Stella McCartney all put the trouser centrestage, and this season wide palazzo pants are a key trend, along with maxi and midi skirts and shirts.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea