There is no season for white quite like summer. Even in our “slip slop slap” culture, it’s near-impossible to avoid the sun in New Zealand, and white looks whiter against a bit of tan. And so, it’s time to bust out a classic summer workwear look – the white knit dress.
(Is anyone confused by these buttons? There's a matching skirt that you can wear under this dress, so the dress becomes a tunic. I plan to wear it tunic-style as the weather cools).
I’m in shape, but that shape is brought to me by an attitude of “I haven’t seen a gym in a while, and I ate a bag of Haribo today”. Tangfastics are the only treat that I truly can’t resist. However, every summer I want to wear white, and every summer I’m reminded of the same cruel truth – white is horribly unforgiving. As soon as I reach for the fitted white jeans, or the tight-fitting top, I realise that white throws tons of shadows – one for every tangy cola bottle I ate this week. While I’m chill with the idea of wearing shapes that aren’t that flattering, I’m not keen for passers-by to be able to spot cellulite at 50 paces, so thin white clothing is a straight no.
Also, and very specifically, can we please stop manufacturing white trousers that are see-through? It’s a simple test – if you can see the pockets through the fabric of the pants, they are see-through. I tried on some otherwise awesome white culottes today from Seed Heritage, and you could see my nude underwear through them clear as day. These are pants that were clearly designed to be worn in the daytime, and not over swimsuits, but which have less coverage than any average human woman would ever consider acceptable. This is a commercial decision that I find, frankly, baffling.
Enter this dress. I wanted a white dress for summer that could do double-duty: structured enough for a work outfit, but with something casual and soft about it for weekend wear. This guy is perfect thanks to its simple shape and knit fabrication – while pictured here with silver heels (to match the silver buttons), it’s also great with a pair of basic slides and an oversized denim jacket. The most important thing about this dress is the knit. When I lifted it out of the parcel, I was unprepared for how heavy it is. This is fabulous because it means it (a) doesn’t cling and (b) it truly hangs off my body, and never rides up. It does mean that it would be a nightmare in hot climates, but hi, I live in Wellington, “reasonably warm” on its sunniest day.
If you want to wear white, I think there are a few things that will help to make this more successful. First up, and per my rant above, pick things that are heavy enough that they aren’t accidentally sheer. I can imagine few things more hideous than realising at 11am that your pants have been slightly transparent for the past three hours. AGGGGGGGHHHHH.
Assuming you’re not inadvertently flashing your knickers all over the office, make sure your white is as clean as can be. I wear a lot of white, and I try very hard to keep it very crisp and clean, but the reality is that white shows dirt very quickly. You are going to have to commit to keeping stain remover in the house and taking things to the drycleaner. Also – don’t wear a white top with a new sunscreen. You need a sacrificial tshirt to allow you to test whether your sunscreen is likely to stain your clothes yellow.
White works well in contrast to other items. Here, I’ve slapped on some instant tan and a red lip, plus photographed myself in front of a dark wall – contrast ahoy. White’s a spotlight, so if you’re a bit closer to pasty than bronzed, you might need to balance your white by introducing other colours to act as the dark to your white item’s light.
Finally, think about what kind of white works best for you. While I would have loved those pants to pieces, I know that when I wear my white jeans I live in constant fear that I will l accidentally sit in something or drop food on myself…it is a life lived on the edge. White shirts, on the other hand, don’t seem to be the same kind of problem. A pair of white sneakers is an on-trend but entry level approach to wearing white.
This dress is from C/MEO COLLECTIVE, purchased from The Iconic during one of its seemingly endless sales. The shoes are Gianvito Rossi, usually hideously unaffordable but in this case purchased at NZ Sale for less than a pair of shoes from Overland. Mysterious. Here's an alternative. The sunnies are Le Specs (this is the exact pair), from Sunglass Style which STILL has not launched its website!