Style Clinic


I need a party dress that says 'wow'

I’m turning 30 (which is not as bad as 70, as my 70-year-old mum keeps telling me), and I have been looking for a gúna for my party, with no success to date. I’m a size 12 and I love colour – but I’d like something a bit “wow” for the party. I have a budget of around €200, and don’t want anything that clings around the mid section, but I’m okay with sleeveless. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Clodagh, by email

I often find that the key to getting that “wow” dress lies in looking a little further afield than usual. If, for example, you are a big Topshop shopper, it’s unlikely that you will find something in there that makes you stop for breath because you’ll be too familiar with its stock.

Start by thinking about shops you don’t usually think about (which is not always as easy as it looks). Kilkenny is one of my newfound favourites; after years of considering it the kind of shop my (almost 70-year-old) mother would frequent, I took a trip with fresh eyes and realised that it has plenty of gorgeous pieces by Irish designers that I would happily be seen dead , or alive, in.

This red crepe swing dress by Fee G (€199.95, right) is a gorgeous shape and will look amazing jazzed up with some killer accessories (try Forever 21 for cheap and cheerful options).

Fran Jane is another shop you might have dismissed – I know I did for a long time, on the grounds that it was for girls doing their debs, or women who competed in best-dressed-lady competitions. But for autumn/winter the Irish brand has brought out a range of really cool and wearable dresses. This multicoloured dress (€179, left) is sophisticated but also fun, and the pink and orange really pop.

Lastly, Asos is one of my favourite online haunts – the key is to be specific. Search for dresses and you get 1,673 answers – but tell it you want a party dress between €100 (to weed out a lot of less exciting options) and €200 and you get 107 results.

One tall order:  the perfect winter coat

I’m hoping you can help me find the perfect coat. I walk to work, so it needs to be warm, with a hood. That may not seem too difficult, but I work in a professional office and need to wear it to meetings and so on, so it needs to look relatively smart. This is where I’m struggling, as all I can see are duffle coats. I’m 27, a size 12 and have a budget of up to €300. Aoife, by email

In a way, this is one of those problems that just can’t be solved. If you need a hood, I presume you’re concerned about rain; if you’re concerned about rain, you want it to be waterproof; if you want it to be waterproof, it will never look professional. And around and around we go. The easiest thing to do would be to get whatever coat you love and invest in a really good umbrella or a water-resistant hat. Under Armour has just brought out a range called Storm. These are water-resistant clothing and accessories that aren’t made of shiny plastic.

However, just like Ursula the sea witch, I take pity on poor, unfortunate souls such as yourself and will attempt to find a hooded coat that doesn’t make you look like a 1980s teenager. Although this may seem entirely at odds with that last sentence, Pepe’s padded coat (€177, below right) is a great option. Padding is back (oh, the sentences I write for fashion) with a bang this season and, in navy, this will go with everything. Be careful not to go too big, mind you; that’s when things get sloppy.

If padding is not your thing, try out this wool-mix coat from€119.98, below left). The burgundy is perfect for autumn and it’s a lovely length. Plus, there is not a duffle button in sight. It does have slight schoolgirl connotations, mind you, especially if yours was wine, but it’s best not to dwell on the past.

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