How to wear the dress that can take you anywhere | Jess Cartner-Morley

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Jess Cartner-Morley on fashion Women's dresses How to wear: the dress that can take you anywhere

If there is a fashion item that is catnip to women of all ages, it’s a one-stop dress

Jess Cartner-Morley in long-sleeved, knee-length dress
‘A dress you can wear all day is a style classic.’ Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian

People say that modern femininity is really complex and I mean, yes, in some ways it is – but in others it is actually really simple. For instance, there is one fashion item that is catnip to women of all ages: a one-stop, go-anywhere dress. We straight up love that dress. We go crazy for it, almost all of us. We don’t even care if everyone else is wearing the same one. Remember that Zara dress, the viral hit of the summer? Explainer theories ranged from the #MeToo-friendly hemline to the Julia-Roberts-in-Pretty-Woman polka dots, but the secret of its success was pretty basic. That dress made life easy. You could wear it day or night, with trainers or strappy sandals. It had elbow-length sleeves and a calf-length hem and mid-weight fabric which, in the mid-table calibrations of a British summer, meant you were rarely too hot or too cold.

Like white trainers or tuxedos or gold hoop earrings, a dress that you can wear all day is a style classic. The one I am wearing here is a winter version of summer’s spotty dress. It is a bit cosier, without being knitted: the alpine vibe, so appealing in theory, makes for a hot commute and gets itchy in the office. The one-stop dress is bright and upbeat, but sturdy enough to look at home with a winter coat and tights. It can be layered should you wish to, but works perfectly well without. It can take the addition of gold jewellery or a velvet headband if the mood takes you, but it has enough detail not to demand accessorising when you don’t feel like it.

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I’m wearing the dress with my Mulberry boots, which have languished in the neglected knee-high boot bit of my shoe cupboard for so long that they have graduated from being “old” boots to “vintage” boots. Not being a fan of tights, I am thrilled about being back in knee-high boots. The ideal hemline for a cold-weather one-stop dress will depend on your hosiery preferences – if you want to wear it with ankle boots or trainers and bare legs, it needs to be fairly long, while if you are happy in opaques, a miniskirt is easier. To wear tights or not to wear tights: now, there is a topic on which women have a wide range of strongly held beliefs. But the glory of the one-stop dress is something on which we can all agree.

• Jess wears dress, £365, essentiel-antwerp.com. Boots, Jess’s own.

Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Lucy Ridley using Maria Nila and Nars

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