How to wear… the polka dot dress

It’s long, it’s lean and it’s covered in polka dots: behold, this summer’s must-have dress. The playful print is always in style, but this year, it’s been given an extra bit of a boost thanks to a couple of high-profile designs that have stolen the spotlight.

First is Alessandra Rich’s prim button-down number with pleated skirt, as seen on Kate Middleton a couple of weeks ago.

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It’s a celebrity favourite – Abigail Spencer was one of the best dressed guests at last year’s royal wedding in the same dress, and it has also been worn by Sarah Jessica Parker, Christie Brinkley and Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley, a group that ranges in age from 27 to 64. In other words, it’s a fabulously versatile piece, especially when worn with its accompanying belt to balance out the proportions.

This particular dress quickly sold out after Kate stepped out wearing it, but its €1,407 price tag may have proven prohibitive for many people.

LK Bennett and M&S offer similar long-sleeved navy dresses, or put your own spin on it with the latter brand’s more laid-back short-sleeve style, which you can take from day to night with ease.

The other big hit of the season is Rejina Pyo’s ivory midi dress with long puff sleeves in contrasting chestnut brown, which has been eagerly embraced by the street style set.

The catwalk styling, complete with barely-there heeled sandals and an acid-green crocodile skin bag, has set the template for playful yet elegant summer style.

Polka dots made appearances elsewhere on the catwalks: Burberry’s matching pussy-bow blouse, pleated skirt and ankle-tie pumps were particularly striking, while JW Anderson and Richard Quinn spliced up monochrome polka dots with vibrant colours and clashing florals. Yet it is the printed midi dress that everyone craves this summer.

Emily Blunt’s floaty white version offers gorgeous daytime event dressing inspiration: the simple white and blue print is delicately pretty, while the pleated asymmetric hem lends movement and gives the dress a lively finish.

The ruffled hem in Zara’s version leaves a similar impression, striking the right balance as sophisticated with a touch of fun.

Rixo’s red polka dots bring it up another notch – with a tiered skirt and short blouson sleeves, it makes a stylish statement, and needs only a pair of trainers and shades, or some slinky sandals and earrings for an evening out.

If you want to experiment more with colour, look to Lupita Nyong’o in vibrant yellow, the hue of the season. The twist-front design is feminine and topped off with a soft ruffle hem, with a pair of black courts to finish the look.

When combining a bold colour and a polka dot print, make things easy for yourself by keeping your styling pared back like Lupita. A flashy earring or dramatic pump can really lift a monochrome or neutral-toned dress, yet it risks coming across too busy with a vividly-hued one.

Petite figures may find that larger prints can overwhelm their frame, so you may prefer a smaller polka dot, but there are plenty to choose from, whatever size you’re after.

The best thing about polka dots is that, unlike summery florals or paisleys or the more autumnal animal prints, a sprinkling of dots works flawlessly all year round.

It looks good with tights or bare legs and is equally stylish under a denim jacket, leather biker or warm wool coat.

If you’re looking for a trans-seasonal piece that will last you through any weather, and you fancy a bit of a print, the polka dot dress is the place to start.

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