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Thursday 14 March 2013

Something Old, Something New: Stylish Shift Dresses

If you've had any exposure to a fashion magazine recently, you'll know that the 60s look is apparently back, back, BACK. It's all shift dresses and leaping around being young and carefree and wishing you looked a bit like Twiggy (I do wish I looked a bit like Twiggy). So, do you follow their example and go for the twenty-first century interpretation of the look or devote time to hunting out the original?

On one hand, I'm totally on the side of the original: well, it's the original after all, with a story to tell, they're still in plentiful supply in vintage stores at reasonable prices, and you're unlikely to find you're wearing the same outfit as the girl sat next to you on the bus. But, on the side of the 2013 version: you won't have to trawl through rack-upon-rack of clothes to find them, you should be able to find it in your size and, while the twenty-first century could be accused of lack of originality in terms of design, it certainly has moved on in terms of fabrics. With the contemporary versions you shouldn't have to contend with any itchy, scratchy, non machine washable or just plain odd fabric for your dress.

Well, good news. Ever your willing internet researcher, I've found the best of both. I've tracked down ten gorgeous shift dresses - five vintage 60s shifts, five dresses fresh on the high street - for you to deliberate over. So, on the left of the picture is a brand new shift dress, taken from the latest Mad Men collection at Banana Republic, possibly the reason behind this new rise of the shift. Is it a surprise that when the oh-so-stylish Mad Men moves into the 1960s, the high street follows suit? This design is £75 and is pretty much the classic, wardrobe stable shift dress. For more pink prettiness, and added pattern, the dress on the right is from Rokit and is a slightly cheaper, but no less classy, £52.

For a look that's less Joanie and more Twiggy, these striped shifts look like they're about having fun. The red, white and blue number actually dates from the 70s and is a mere £24 from Beyond Retro. Another four quid will get you the black and white stripe shift from Miss Selfridge. They also run the risk of looking quite shapeless. Being quite busty, I will definitely try before I buy to avoid looking like I'm wearing a large, stripy sack (though the comfort factor of wearing large sacks cannot be underestimated, especially after a fish supper). Gemma's guide to adding sleeves also comes in super handy with dresses like these.

Or some of my favourite shift styles come with sleeves already added which, with a touch of embellishment, can make for a very glamorous look. Case in point, the beading enhancing the French Connection trim shift dress on the right, currently in the sale for £91. The 1960s dress on the right uses lace and a bow to make for a, literally, peachy frock and it's only £25 from Berty and Gerty on ASOS Marketplace.

Quite a lot of the high street shifts make the most of the monochrome mod look but there are some gorgeous colours out there too. Case in point, Jarlo's Lace Mini Dress, £62 from ASOS. To hammer home the fact the 60s weren't all black and white, Belle Amie vintage are selling an embroidered yellow original in what looks like a flattering fit for £48. Snap it up if you're a size 10.

Finally, despite the simplicity of the shape, shifts can be extra fancy too. ASOS, again but with their own collection this time, are responsible for the pink sequin number, complete with flowers. Less than a third of its original price at £45, it's a real statement piece. I'm less sure about wearing it with the black dotty tights. I'm also heads over heels from this embroidered shift dress from one of my favourite vintage posh frock retailers, Juno Says Hello. It's £139 but is proof - if you needed any - that great style never really dates, though this dress certainly deserves to be taken out on many, many dates.

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