Thanks to temperature control, you can still dare to bare your arms in most office buildings, says Marion Hume, especially if you add a matching coat
It has been a long time since a single garment has attempted to promise so much to so many. The dress of the season is the sleeveless shift dress, cut just above, or just on, the knee, and every designer and high-street fashion store has one, or two, or 10 on offer.

The shift dress is exactly that - a shift, with perhaps some surface detail or some clever seaming to give a garment that goes straight up and down some shape. The cloth, the cut and the label inside will differentiate it from all the many other shifts. The way to add variety to a shift dress is to put on that other item which is ubiquitous this season - the slender coat - but only if it is in the same fabric as the dress, the same length and a perfect match.

Bare arms for autumn may seem an odd proposition, but actually, this look makes sense. Outside in autumn it is chilly, inside (in many modern buildings, at least) it is the same temperature spring, summer and winter. So a bit of exposed flesh shouldn't lead to too many goose pimples. The fact that these shift dresses are in wool or wool-mixes means that your back, bottom and kidneys are protected from the chills of air-conditioning. Your granny will be pleased.

In fact, your granny may herself have dressed in something not unlike today's shift dresses, which are of course a dead ringer for the stark, tailored dress and coat combos of the early Sixties. Depending on the age of your granny, she'll approve of the footwear too - shin-high boots, low-heeled court shoes or sling-backs are what's required to go with this look.

The shift dress, the coat, the boots, the bag constitute, of course, one of those "fashion editor's favourites" being simple, plain, relatively timeless and hardly any bother at all. That is if you look like a fashion editor, with a long willowy body and the sort of hair that can be swept (sic) up into a power chignon and relied upon to stay there. Alas, though I like the simplicity of this season's ubiquitous dresses in red wool and black boucle and dog's tooth check and tweed, I doubt I'll be passing over workaday trouser suits to slip into them. I'm loath to admit it, but the person you see here is not the Independent's fashion editor, but a model. But she's sitting at my desk.

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