Top of the Frocks 2018

The one statement I hear more often than not from my lovely clients is “I hate shopping.” It’s a shame. Whether this has always been the case or these men and women have fallen out of love with the experience because it is no longer fun, I don’t often find out. But what with long working days, kids and the frantic pace of life, the days of a leisurely stroll around the town centre with a friend, stopping for a spot of lunch when your feet start to throb are long gone for most. Shopping tends to be a necessary evil, something to dread and put off until it has to be done for a special occasion. By the time I get to stick my oar in it may have become a pressurised situation with only a handful of days to go.

Sequin evening dress £89.99 at Zara (sizes S,M,L)

The problem can be simply not knowing where to start. I also hear a lot of concerns about not knowing how “to put stuff together” and “how to dress for my shape”. Add to this the enormity of the choice both on the high street and online and what we are faced with is a barrage of endless brands, trying and testing, pokey fitting rooms, inconsistent sizing and at the end of it all a load of stuff we are unsure about and have half a mind to take back a week later. I understand, I get it. You’d rather be anywhere else. Especially now department stores have started playing the Christmas songs.

Multi coloured dress £65 at Top Shop (sizes 4-18 )

With all this in mind you may be pleased to hear then that I have taken matters in hand and done all the traipsing around for you (both literally and metaphorically) and have collated what I consider to be the best occasion dresses out there. The criteria was simple; it had to be full length, a piece you could wear for a black tie do but also if you fancied for Christmas day because, why the hell not. I looked at online and I looked at the high street, from the cheapest of the cheap (H&M) to the higher end of the affordable market, (Ba&Sh and Reiss). I considered British, Spanish, Scandinavian, French and Polish brands and what I have come up with is here – prices range from £49.99 to £395, sizes from 6 to 26.* This list isn’t exhaustive and it isn’t completely objective either ( I like all those I’ve chosen as well as considering them excellent for the job) but I have covered over thirty retailers so it’s taken the majority of the hard work away. Grab yourself a drink, put your feet up and don’t forget you can click to go straight through to the retailer’s website!

If you want Sleeves…

Fluted dress £79 at Arket (sizes XS-L)

High neck ‘Julietta’ dress £120 at Phase Eight sizes (8-18)

There are many more designs with sleeves these days, in fact the other day I even struggled to find a dress in a certain colour without sleeves. Go for a style like this Arket one if you have boobs, the Phase Eight one if you don’t have quite as much.



If you don’t want to do Black…

Fuschia dress £89.99 at Zara (sizes XS-XL)

Floaty burnt orange dress £89 at Other Stories (sizes 6-16)

This one is a bit harder this particular autumn as black is back as the new black after a year off. If your skin tone is cool or you’re very pale then the crimson Zara number will be lovely on you, if you’re a warmer skin tone or a red head then go for the Other Stories burnt orange dress which by the way is the shade of AW18.


If you’re small on top…

Ruffle ‘Marissa’ dress £139 at Coast (sizes 6-20)

Asymmetric neck hem £225 at Reiss (sizes 4-16)







Lucky you, you can fully embrace the ruffles and high neck detailing. This red Coast design is a dead ringer for one Nicole Kidman wore on the red carpet and is stunning on (I’ve seen it) while the brown Reiss dress is more of a Jennifer Aniston. The one shoulder look is made for you – go for it.

If you’re bigger on top…

‘Despina’ chiffon dress £395 by Ba&Sh at Iris (sizes 1-3 EU)

Pleated ‘Violetta’ dress £179 at Coast (sizes 6-18)

Necklines are dramatic this season and thankfully unlike previous years there are plenty of open styles which are gorgeous for a more generous bust. Not having to wear a strapless or multi-way bra is a big plus as far as I’m concerned because really, who wants to spend an evening hoisting up their underwear? I need both hands to hold my Prosecco and brie and cranberry parcels.

If you’re bigger on the bottom..

Alanis Empire line dress £169 at Monsoon (sizes 8-22)

Asymmetric hem dress £176.25 at Karen Millen (sizes 6-16)

This is the hang up I hear about the most! It’s easy for me to say focus on the bits that don’t worry you (“thin ankles sweetie”) but honestly, a frock such as this beautiful Monsoon number will have everyone envying your shapely shoulders or daring décolletage and not what’s going on to the south of them. The bottom line (sorry) is to go for something that gently floats over your hips (avoid a cinched in bunched up waistline which will add volume) with a bit of detailing at the neck, shoulders or bust to draw attention upwards.

If you’re bigger in the middle…

Halter neck dress £49.99 at Stradivarius (sizes S,M,L)

Pewter dress £88 by Little Mistress at Simply Be (sizes 12-26)

It may feel as if there is nothing out there for you but there is, there’s never been a better time so have a second look. You probably have good arms and great legs so that’s what you need to be dressing – don’t worry about the bit in the middle that makes you reach for the layers. This dress (a steal) from Stradivarius highlights the top half and the split elegantly reveals a bit of leg. Meanwhile the Little Mistress show stopper showcases the neck and ankles. Who’s looking at the mid section now? Not me.

And if you want to dress your shape, have sleeves and do colour…

‘Alexandra’ jersey dress £99 at Coast (sizes 6-18)

‘Rebecca’ green satin dress £198 at Boden (sizes 6-22 )

Then here you are. This Coast design is a comfortable jersey fabric, the colour is stunning, neckline ideal for smaller busts and the price is plain daft. Done. The Boden is a classic with sleeves and the Monsoon is a bit of old school glamour for a curvy girl – very Marilyn Monroe. I didn’t say it would be an easy choice now did I? Be sure to let me know what you go for. Happy shopping everyone!

‘Stevie’Fit and flare dress £119 at Monsoon (sizes 6-18)


*Not all styles available in this size range

About aftercarrie

I help people refine their wardrobe to suit their shape, colouring and lifestyle. I am a style consultant, personal shopper and colour analyst working in London. Be the loveliest possible you. My first book SHOPPED was released on 5th July 2016 (September Publishing).
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