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13 best dresses to wear this autumn, from floral midis to corduroy shirts

Here's our staple choices for the new season

Emma Henderson,Ellie Fry
Friday 17 July 2020 17:24
Leather pleats, oversized smocks and poplin frills are in this autumn
Leather pleats, oversized smocks and poplin frills are in this autumn

Kitting your wardrobe out for autumn is a tough job. The mini dresses of the summer months won't cut it as the mornings get chillier, but you also don't want to overheat on the tube in a chunky knit.

The humble autumn dress therefore has a big job to do: we want seasonal prints and a comfy fit that we can pair with a leather jacket and ankle boots as well as big coats and scarves when it gets even colder.

Long dresses were everywhere this summer, so the move from last season into autumn is not as pronounced as it usually is.

This year, the new season is more about different colours and textures as long, most definitely, is still in.

Of course, we’re not over leopard print – in any way. We’re really into the darker tones of green and burgundy, as well as the classic autumnal floral print.

Flowy materials with ruffles are still here, and we also welcome leather and corduroy into the mix, as well as polka dots and poplin frills.

From oversized smock styles to the continuing reign of the flowing midi, here are our favourite dresses this season that your wardrobe will thank you for.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

River Island the black Sienna dress: £50, River Island

If sheer sleeves and a moody floral print doesn’t scream autumn, then we don’t know what does. The wrap design and tiered frilled hem makes this dress really flattering on, it’s flowy but structured enough to show off your shape. The print is a classic choice, working equally as well with chunky boots and a leather jacket as it does with mules for an evening look. We found the neckline quite low, so layered a turtleneck top underneath it for work as the model wears here. The small cut-out at the back is a nice touch for when you don’t layer anything underneath. A floral, flirty midi dress that you can dress up or down.

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Ba&sh Paris dress: £305, Ba&sh

Created by friends Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief – hence the collab name – the brand takes inspiration from Parisian style, and none more so than this midi, perfectly named the Paris dress. Yes, it’s got a hefty price tag, but its design will make you feel great. We love the light material and its flowing pleated skirt which contrasts with the frill along the front buttons and shoulder seam of the arm. There’s a faint glimmer of gold thread in the material too. This is a beautiful piece you’ll find becomes a go-to this season and long beyond.

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River Island blue long sleeve mini smock dress: £40, River Island

Smock dresses are having somewhat of a renaissance and this offering from River Island lives up to the trend. It’s one of the comfiest dresses we tried with its loose fit and is flattering on all body shapes. The back is slightly longer than the front which makes it sensible to wear with tights to work and we love the flared sleeves, tiered hem and muted blue colourway.

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H&M green leopard print shirt dress: £14.99, H&M

With the change of season comes the welcome change in colours we wear and we’ve moved from our summer obsession of apple green to this army-type shade. And of course, leopard print isn't going anywhere. This simple shirt dress is oh-so easy to wear either in the office with black loafers or on the weekends too. It's quite thin so great for layering and works well paired with with a beige trench. We also like wearing it with a little black jumper over the top too.

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Nasty Gal as star as I remember frill maxi dress: £20.80, Nasty Gal

Maxi dresses certainly aren’t just for summer, and this star studded number from Nasty Gal is giving us witchy-vibes in the best possible way. Our tester has a large bust and was concerned that the high neckline wouldn’t suit her, but the elasticated waist and flared sleeves add shape to the dress which framed her silhouette nicely. The frilled detailing at the hem and waist adds to the charm of this maxi, we love the print and paired it with a chunky belt and biker boots for a fool-proof autumnal look.

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M&S Collection satin snake skin print waisted midi dress: £69, M&S

With its pleated skirt and silky-feel material this dress is a dream. To make things even better, it’s also a great fit with a flattering style that drops from the waist and turns into a beautifully pleated skirt. We also like the cuffed sleeves that are slightly ballooned and the unusual high neck with a folded over neckline which ties like a scarf at the back. We love the print with its multi tones of blue as well. It can be dressed up for an evening event, or down with a pair of trainers and a long trench.

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Nasty Gal just in case you for-dot plus maxi dress: £26, Nasty Gal

We’re obsessed with this emerald and rust orange polka print and the satin fabric is more forgiving than you may think. Nasty Gal describes this as a “relaxed maxi silhouette” and we happily agree. It's fitted enough to accentuate your shape while feeling comfortable and flattering. The gathered detailing at the bust accentuates your waist and we love the fitted cuffs. This feels and looks far more expensive than it is and would be great for an event or dinner date.

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Warehouse floral leopard print midi dress: £52, Warehouse

Another autumnal colour we can welcome back is burgundy. We love the mid side split of this midi dress and the ruched material around the high neck and chest. Aside from the shape of this dress, we also really like the hints of yellow and orange in the print that lifts it. Team it with a leather jacket for a real turn-of-the season feel.

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Missguided green jersey tiered long sleeve smock dress: £20, Missguided

It can be easy to rely heavily on jeans during autumn for casual outfits, but this Missguided smock is the perfect day dress to mix it up with. The pastel green fabric looks cute paired with knee-high boots and we’re really into the tiered frill detailing. The long sleeves are great for colder days and we found this long enough to pair with a belt if you’re after some definition at the waist.

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New Look dark green corduroy shirt dress: £25.99, New Look

Ok, so it’s another shirt dress, and it’s also green but we’re obsessed with this one. Although it’s made from cord, it’s super stretchy with a fit that snugs to your body without being too tight making it very comfortable to wear. And its mix of darker tones and thicker materials means it could not be more autumnal in our eyes. Pair it with thin denier tights, big gold earrings and black heeled boots. Also available in black.

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New Look red floral high neck split hem midi dress: £27.99, New Look

We feel super chic whenever we wear this midi dress. The high neck paired with puff sleeves makes this a really flattering choice, we love the small details like the sleeve buttons and split hem. The red floral print is a real go-to for autumn and we like how versatile it is. We love wearing it with ankle boots for work, but stick on a pair of strappy heels for the evening and you'll be on the mulled wine before you know it.

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Stradivarius pleated midi dress: £29.99, Stradivarius

Leather-look items are all the rage this season, but they can be hard to pull off. So we were pleasantly surprised by this midi from Zara’s sister brand Stradivarius. The pleather is lightweight and lined, meaning you won’t get stuck like Ross and his leather trousers in Friends. The pleated skirt adds a bit of fun to a more serious look and the cup detailing on the bust is an ode to the underwear as outerwear trend. We’d suggest sizing up in this, but love it if you’re looking for something a bit different. We can’t complain about this price point, either.

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PrettyLittleThing terracotta polka dot tea dress: £22, PrettyLittleThing

This colour couldn’t be more autumnal and we love it combined with the contrasting polka dots on this cute tea dress. Our 5ft 7" tester found it came up quite short on her but it was still appropriate enough for work with tights. We love layering a turtleneck top underneath this for extra warmth and the tie at the waist really cinches you in. The sleeves are flared which we found flattering and the fabric feels like a higher quality than the price-tag suggests.

Buy now

The verdict: Women's autumnal dresses

You can't beat a floral print and flowy fabric. That combined with the fact you can layer underneath it makes River Island's Sienna dress our winner. We also love the texture and fit of the New Look corduroy shirt dress.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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