Shirts that work under jumpers; jeans that tuck into stylish but rain-proof boots; a trench coat that keeps out the chill while simultaneously being light enough to stuff into a handbag when you break sweat on the Tube … autumn outfit maths is challenging at the best of times.
But in a year spent mostly in tracksuits, finding suitable styling equations for the season’s changeable weather requires fashion numeracy most of us lost somewhere around lockdown’s second sourdough fail.
Enter the body-con knit dress, a wonderfully chic and cosy styling solution that is here to simplify your sartorial arithmetic this season. This new hero piece is a far cry from the Hervé Léger body-con dresses so loved by Noughties It-girls. No, this season’s body-con —seen on the runways at Bottega Veneta, Balmain and Jacquemus — is elevated in long-sleeved and floor-skimming silhouettes and comes exclusively in fine cashmere and woollen knits.
It’s the morning hug of dress that we’ll all need during this bleak pre-winter. Second only to braving the office in your dressing gown, the elegant body-con knit offers an excellent chic-to-comfort ratio with minimal pre-coffee cogitation required. Perhaps no surprise then that, according to global fashion search platform Lyst, searches for knit dresses are up 21 per cent since the start of the month, with body-con styles among the most searched for.
The trick to keeping slinky knits office-appropriate is to stick to midi and maxi hemlines, good-quality fabrics and grown-up earthy and muted hues. Indeed, fabrics so fine as to free the nipple are best avoided at all costs, as are stretchy materials and neon of any kind. Logos, slogans and graphics are also out, as are naughty cut-outs and OTT embellishment — these details are not part of the new mood. And don’t even think about showing your bra straps or knee caps.
The trick to successfully nailing the svelte and sophisticated body-con round two involves keeping accessories to a minimum. Let the knits speak for themselves. All the outfit-in-one investment requires is a great pair of shoes. The added bonus is that a quick footwear switch can take your new body-con BFF from office to dinner with five of your nearest and dearest (and no more).
For devilishly good daywear, pair &OtherStories’ mint ribbed sweetheart neck style with Isabel Marant’s buttery soft slouchy knee-high boots or Nanushka’s asymmetrical mustard midi with Bottega’s thigh-high westerns for a wear-anywhere vibe.
For pub lunches (still allowed, for now) and park walks, the collared terracotta-toned fine-knit maxis at Jacquemus would look lovely paired with Vejas and a cardi, as would Mango’s similarly cool — and less sweat-inducingly priced — collared counterparts.
For evenings, Khaite — the brand made famous by Katie Holmes, who broke the internet in their cashmere bradigan last year — is doing a sexy sweetheart neckline midi that would look fabulous paired with mules and a minaudière. And Whistles’ one-shouldered black midi would work brilliantly with pointy stilettos and a cropped leather jacket.
For those who are less sold on stomach-skimming silhouettes, JW Anderson’s tie-waist midis are the sort of figure-flattering, hibernation-ready stuff we all need in our winter wardrobes, while Proenza Schouler offered similarly forgiving ruched silhouettes that would tempt even the most resolute of jeans-and-jumper disciples to throw on a dress.
From stretchy ribbed knits to cashmere cocoons, body-con is back, however you choose to do the maths.