That special something

Sandra navy lace gown, available at Monsoon.
Sandra navy lace gown, available at Monsoon.
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Make sure you are the leading lady of your own life by seeking out special event dresses for this party season and beyond. Stephanie Smith has advice.

It’s all about dressing to invest these days, not merely to impress.

An ongoing legacy of the debt-tracking times in which we continue to live, we do tend to be careful about what we spend our money on.

This does not necessarily mean looking for cheaper, but it does mean looking for better, in terms of quality, suitability and a hard-to-define “special to us” factor. This applies in particular to the autumn/winter season (when clothes and accessories always take on a more serious edge for true lovers of style), and most pertinently to big party and special occasion dressing, when we want to rise to the occasion, wearing something that suits – and is not also being worn by someone else on the guest list. So it’s time for some research, as special occasion collections are making their way into department and High Street stores now. The big drops tend to be October and another one in the first week of December.

Go online initially to identify what you might want, and also work out where you can try on first, as some special collections can only be found in Leeds and Meadowhall branches in Yorkshire.

High-end designer stores such as Harvey Nichols are the place to go for something really special, if you want to splash out, or simply to take note of what the big designers have presented for the season, to inspire you to put together something equally fabulous, but within your budget. House of Fraser and Debenhams are well worth a look too, especially now, while their ranges are flowing in-store and online, with all sizes still available.

Look also at independent boutiques, especially ones that specialise in stocking new and unusual designers. Many have exclusive rights to certain collections within a certain geographical area, which can help ease the “same dress” fear. Some even keep lists of who has bought what, and where they intend to wear it, so do ask, and make it known where you intend to wear your dress or outfit.

Many men, I know, find it baffling that women worry about “same dress disaster”, which is perhaps not surprising, considering that men tend to turn up to functions all wearing exactly the same outfit, and think no more about it. But it is very different for women, especially at special events. Two women, or worse, three, wearing the same dress, always look like matching bridesmaids, even if they try to avoid each other. It can be amusing, but it does rather change the nature of the event for those concerned. Always keep a whisper-fine silk pashmina hidden in your bag, for a quick dress makeover.

You might already have your perfect dress, of course, which is very cost-effective. Liz Akroyd, owner of Hull boutique Passion Pour la Femme, points out that it has become more usual for women to buy accessories to go with an existing dress, rather than splash out on new. “Get a classic piece, if you are going to invest,” she advises. “We are seeing lots of slinky low-back dresses with three-quarter sleeves. Classic black, especially sequin, is best – and everything is very glitzy this season.”

Twitter: @yorkshirefashQ