Tell me, do you stick with dresses come the colder months or are you firmly bundled up in jeans and multiple layers the minute the temperature drops?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a jeans and jumper girl most days, especially now that I’m a Mum, but I think there is still a bit of a common misconception that dresses belong in the summer camp only, destined to be packed away/ shuffled to the back of the wardrobe indefinitely when the summer sun is replaced by an icy winter blast. I touched upon the idea of re-purposing your favourite summer dresses and making them work through autumn and winter too, in my last outfit post, and it’s something I’m keen to stick by. Because you know, on the days that I do forgo the scruffy jeans in favour of a dress, I just feel better about myself. There’s something of a confidence boost in putting on a dress, something that makes you feel that bit more put together, ready to take on the world and play the role of glam Mum for at least part of the day (until your kid wipes snot/yoghurt/paint on your shoulder and you’re right back down to reality).
And it doesn’t need to be a dressy dress. You don’t only need to wear a dress when you’re also wearing heels and going out for a posh dinner (but when you do get that chance of course – GO FOR IT). You can be that well put together, chic, stylish, version of yourself while still wearing trainers and a comfy jumper too. That’s as much of a reminder for me as it is for you – as I seem to lose that memo regularly. When I was in my 20s a cute mini dress, black opaques and small heeled ankle boots was my go to come autumn winter. I lived in dresses and felt good in them too. But then as I got older, had a baby and coped with a changing body, I didn’t feel as good anymore. I started to dislike my now chunky legs, feel self conscious in minis and worry I looked too overdressed for a day of baby/toddler activities. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to bring dresses back into my wardrobe in a way that suits me, but I was determined to do so. And now I think I’m finally discovering my new dress style, a way of incorporating dresses into my outfits without feeling over the top or silly. A perfect blend of the former – cute, pretty, overly dressy – style I used to adopt, and the current – laid back, casual yet still quirky – stage I now find myself in with my style choices.
When TK Maxx got in touch and asked me to be part of their latest -£50 dresses campaign -to highlight their expansive range of dresses all at such affordable prices, meaning you can usually get a whole outfit for under £50 -it was just what I needed to rediscover my love of dresses this winter. I set myself the challenge of finding the ultimate versatile dress – one that would work with multiple items in my wardrobe, see me through various occasions, make me feel confident wherever I wore it and be chic enough to fit into both the dressy and casual realms.
I’ve long been a fan of TK Maxx for things like dresses and coats, as you know you can find top labels at much more affordable prices. Now that I’m aiming to be more conscious in my shopping habits and create somewhat of a capsule wardrobe with pieces I can rewear again and again, shops like TK Maxx appeal to me as they sell off past season stock that otherwise would have gone to waste, and ultimately it means that we can get those key wardrobe essentials for a fraction of the price. I knew that if I was going to add something new to my wardrobe – I needed it to be something I’d get a lot of wear out of.
My Winter Dress Style
So what is my new dress style I hear you ask? Well if 20 something me favoured the minis, then 30 something me definitely favours the longer length midi style. It’s not that I don’t ever wear minis anymore but just that I reserve them more for the dressy occasions or the days where I don’t spend most of my time on my hands and knees wrangling a toddler. Midis for me are just more practical at the moment. I also really rate a versatile style – something that I know can be dressed up or down and work with multiple footwear choices. And comfort is quite key too – I know, who am I?? I’m loving wrap styles, button down pinafores, and anything with a bit of fit and flare.
For winter I’m opting for any style that can easily be layered, and I’m a fan of warm tones and prints that can complement shades of black, navy, dark green and burgundy (the colours most of my coats and boots are in).
I shared a few of the TK Maxx dresses I was considering over on my Instagram stories, and asked for your help choosing one. I have to admit that most of you voted for a different style than the one I ultimately took home – a quirky rust orange coloured flared mini with billowing sleeves and a fun print – but while I definitely appreciated how unique that dress was, I just couldn’t see myself wearing it for anything other than a dressy occasion. I decided to put my sensible head on and stay on track with my self imposed challenge, choosing instead a style that I knew I’d get lots of wear out of, would fit with items in my existing wardrobe without having to buy new pieces, and that I could envision being worn in both a dressy and casual way.
I opted for this silk printed wrap dress as it really ticked a lot of boxes. The blue, green and red tones of the print which really appealed to me as I could see them working alongside everything from my bright pink fluffy coat to a red cardigan to my dark green and black dress coat. The wrap style which nipped me in at the waist and offered some shape. The floaty pleated skirt which offered some movement. The length which would work with both boots, heels and trainers. And that low neckline meaning it could so easily be dressed up too. And the best part? This gorgeous dress was just £10! I know, you can barely get a hot chocolate and a slice of cake for that these days! It meant I could also take home this beautiful Dune London snakeskin bag. I toyed between either the dark green or the burgundy but in the end decided to go for the green as I don’t have any bags in that colour and if there’s one thing you can be more experimental with, it’s accessories right? I’m loving the shade though and it actually works with so many more colours than I originally thought it would, so expect to see this bag popping up a lot over the winter season.
So seeing as versatility was key in my dress choice, I thought I’d prove that this style really can be worn in a number of ways and show you how I’ll be styling it with other items in my wardrobe.
I’m definitely all about the – dressed down dresses – look right now, because ultimately flat boots and baggy jumpers suit my everyday lifestyle of looking after a toddler and wading through muddy leaves at the park, so the more casual way of styling this dress is probably the look I’ll be opting for in an everyday setting. But it’s good to know that it can also be dressed up should I need to look smarter one day, or have somewhere to be that isn’t a toddler friendly cafe. And I must admit I felt quite bad ass in that second dressier outfit – I’m loving those burgundy boots (a Boden sample sale find at the start of this year which are seeing their first winter of wear) .
Bag – Dune at TK Maxx | Hairband and sunglasses – H&M
Jumpers over dresses is definitely a style trick that’s having a moment this season, and it’s one that’s not just for the instastyle-famous either, as it’s so easy to do. The key is choosing the right style of jumper – either go for something shorter and cropped so you can show off your waist and do that slouchy thing without drowning yourself, or opt for a long baggy style that goes over your hips so you can belt it and just show a fraction of printed dress underneath.
If you’re going for a shorter style, then tights and flat boots work well, but when it comes to midis I tend to stick to a bare leg or a sheer tight, that way I can wear trainers or grungy ankle boots still and keep the look casual.
A cross body bag or even a cute rucksack immediately take a dress into ‘dressed down’ territory as having your hands free somehow equates to ‘hey look I’m so casual’, so keep the shoulder bags for the office and the clutch bags for the bar.
For me this was a pretty easy outfit, and one I’ll definitely be repeating with various different knitwear and footwear choices. I just threw on a chunky rollneck jumper (attempted that stylish half tuck hairstyle and failed miserably) which meant I was cosy and comfortable, and wore the dress with my flat chunky soled ankle boots which because of their masculine, grungy edge, counteracted any prettiness of the dress.
Dress – TK Maxx | Boots – Boden (sample sale) | Blazer (charity shop)
Bag – Dune at TK Maxx | Sunglasses – H&M
I did consider heeled court shoes (which would also work well) but that would have taken the look quite far out of my everyday at the moment, so instead I thought I’d show just a slightly smarter look that ultimately I could still see myself wearing on a regular day, albeit perhaps a working day or one that didn’t involve soft play. We’re not quite in full winter coat weather yet, so I opted for a long black blazer instead (a charity shop find from a few years back) and added suede knee high boots (side note – knee highs under a midi is a super chic look and great if you don’t want to show any leg). This look will work with pretty much any dress, regardless of style or print, as long as you choose a coat/boots that complement the colours. i.e. tan suede boots with a cream/mustard/rust coloured dress, black boots with a pastel or bright floral print, navy boots with green/burgundy tones. The neckline of this dress is quite low so I wore my M&S lace bralette underneath (very comfy item and extremely versatile undergarment I might add). But you could easily add a white tee or a vest to make it more conservative. And a cream or black polo-neck would work really well too (and keep you warm).
Remove the crossbody strap from your bag and wah-la, chic handheld number that immediately appears more dressy. Then all that’s left is a slick of your favourite lipstick.
I’m looking forward to styling up more dresses this winter, and pushing myself to be a little more creative than just, jeans + top + ankle boots, most days. If you too want to give all those pretty dresses in your wardrobe their time to shine in the everyday, then these are my best tips on how to go about it…
My tips for wearing everyday dresses in winter
– Choose dresses and prints that are really versatile (that’s key – if you’re wavering over something new, try to picture it with all of your existing coats and footwear. Will the colours work together? Can you team it with both trainers and ankle boots? Do you have boots that would work? Can you imagine a jumper over the top?)
– Find your layering style (for winter in particular I think any dress that can be layered will be a top notch addition to your wardrobe, so figure out your layering style. It it blazers over shirt dresses? Pinafores over roll necks? Slouchy knits over printed midis? Once you’ve got one of those options you can re-do it with multiple dresses and have a multitude of outfit options.)
– Make the dress the stand out piece (a plain cream knit over a printed dress for example works much better than a jazzy jumper over a plain black dress. When styling dresses for everyday make them the starting point of the outfit and work around that.)
– Think about footwear (if you want to make sure you actually wear your dresses, then think about the footwear that you feel most comfortable/confident in and work out how you can team them together. Even if that’s trainers – it can still totally work. Do you need a complimentary bag? Should you lose the tights?)
– Tights or no tights (while I know tights are probably a necessity when it’s really cold, I’m here to say that black opaques only work with shorter dress styles in my book, unless you can hide them under a knee high boot. Consider sheer tights, leggings or some sort of long short that won’t be seen but can keep you from getting piles.)
Have I convinced you to make those pretty dresses part of your everyday wardrobe?
This post is in collaboration with TK Maxx and the items featured were gifted for work purposes. But as always the opinions, styling and photography is my own. Thanks for supporting the collaborative posts on this blog.