How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Shortcut to party chic? A soft, silky superblouse
You may feel you’ve had your fill of superblouses. Maybe you’ve looked the other way since they became a feature of lockdown.
Or maybe you’ve dabbled a bit, but are not convinced your wardrobe needs any more puff sleeves or pie-crust collars.
That’s roughly where I would be were it not for the refusal of this super-confident piece to give up pole position on the fashion podium and it’s impressive ability to get you out of a hole with minimum effort.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s I was a fan of French label Paul & Joe, specifically its special, often silky, occasionally OTT blouses which were my party go-tos. I wore them in winter with velvet suits, in spring with smart denim, I wore them with black trousers (swooshy or bootcut) and white trousers in summer and was probably never better dressed. And by better I mean just the right amount for the occasion.
On trend: Toni Collette
The right superblouse does all the work (almost) of a cocktail dress with a fraction of the effort, and at a third of the price. You can instantly dress up trousers, or wear with jeans and smart sandals and look like you’ve made a serious effort. Now it’s, once again, all about a party top and trousers, I don’t need any persuading.
That said, this time around I’m inclined to go for print and colour and keep the rest fairly plain. I’m saying no to big ruffles, giant collars and anything in stiff cotton poplin. (A superblouse isn’t a superblouse, in my book, unless it’s soft and light or satiny.)
I’m saying yes to volume, interesting sleeves, pretty details and strong prints, though I’m also tempted by black and ivory. Otherwise my tip would be, prepare to spend a bit more because you are investing in a blouse that can do the work of a great dress, and you’ll get ten times as much wear out of it.
SUPERBLOUSES: THE 2022 RULES
Go for volume not fitted.
Pick soft silky fabrics.
Team with straight trousers.
Go for brights or black.
Keep your eyes peeled: there are plenty of superblouses out there but guaranteed there will be a motherload of them in a couple of months.
Paul & Joe is not the party destination it once was. These days I would look at mid-market French brands (they have an affinity for special blouses) such as Zadig & Voltaire, Sezane or Isabel Marant Etoile.
Zadig & Voltaire does a silk and viscose open-neck top in a purple on ecru toile print (£310, zadig-et-voltaire.com) that looks great with jeans; Sezane has a silk blouse with an embroidered ruffle and collar (£100, sezane.com) which looks pretty with a few buttons undone, under a jacket.
And, inching into designer territory, Isabel Marant Etoile has a luxe peasant blouse in fine cotton with puff sleeves a round neck and lace detailing (£280, isabelmarant.com), which comes in honey but looks beguiling in black and ivory. Black and ivory are the exception to the cotton rule, so long as the cotton is very fine.
A dramatic peasant blouse in black, teamed with black wide-leg trousers (or the reverse in double white) plus jewellery, is an easy way to look smart in the months to come.
Note: you can wear your superblouse with a skirt — the superblouse plus super-short mini was big on the catwalk — but trousers counterbalance the flourishes of a superblouse nicely, making sure you never look overdressed.
Next port of call would be Essentiel Antwerp, a label that specialises in dramatic tops. Among the ones that fit the bill is a loose fit, round neck, light pink, red and purple print top with voluminous three-quarter flamenco sleeves (£145, essentiel-antwerp.com). It sounds a lot but works semi-tucked in to tailored ivory trousers, or navy for now.
It also has a glossy white and green plaid print top with three-quarter kimono sleeves (£160). This, plus cropped white trousers and gold or glossy red slingbacks is an instant cocktail party look.
If these all seem a bit too super, then you could try Zara’s simple pink and blue floral print blouse (£29.99, zara.com); it has a V-neckline with a bow that ties high on the neck. Or go for one of its basic silky blouses (£22.99) in this year’s emerald green. Got to start somewhere.
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