Dress for the occasion and beyond


by Camilla Ridley

Stylist Abby Wood explores the latest trends in dressing for special summer occasions and shares her expert insights in choosing your perfect on-trend versatile summer dress.


Stylist Abby Wood picking out some of her favourite pieces from summer 2023 collection at the Ridley London store in Barnes including a Manon dress in the Jungle Trip floral cotton print and a turquoise corduroy blazer 

What do a wedding and Royal Ascot have in common with a barbecue, a work meeting and a family holiday? While they’re all seemingly very different summer occasions, we all want to look and feel our absolute best at all of them. And if styled right, this could be achieved with one single versatile, transformational hero summer dress.

There's a real shift taking place in fashion right now with dress codes relaxing and the way we dress totally changing. If you were going to Royal Ascot or a wedding twenty years ago, you would have been expected to wear a traditional tailored style outfit, which you may have worn once or twice after that and then most probably, It would have spent the rest of it’s life taking up space in your wardrobe. Think again. Even the rules in the Royal Enclosure have relaxed with jumpsuits and trouser suits recently allowed. Across the board we’re all embracing a more relaxed, comfortable and functional style of dressing for weddings, dinners out and within the work place that fits with our more modern times. Most importantly there's a growing emphasis on the environmental impact across all of our purchasing decisions. In fashion terms, this means being more discerning, buying investment pieces to wear to multiple occasions which are produced sustainably, ethically, preferably locally and to last. If you’ve got any events on the horizon the chances are you’re looking in your wardrobe and thinking which pieces might work again for this summer. Or looking at this seasons very different trends, should I be buying something new? If so, what should this look like, and will it really work for me? And this is where working with a stylist can really help.

Nothing injects a big hit of serotonin and confidence like wearing a really flattering new dress in the sunshine, particularly after such a long winter of endlessly wrapping up in trousers boots, jumpers and coats. But it’s easy to look at ourselves in the mirror and worry that we’ve put on weight, we’re looking older, tireder and we’ll never look and feel like we did before children, work, stress, the menopause etc. In fact, great style has nothing to do with size, it’s about really knowing your body shape and natural colouring to create balance and proportion. Whatever your size, a great outfit will enhance your best best features, flatter your colouring, seamlessly fit with and project your personality, while being versatile enough to work across multiple occasions and be worn in multiple ways with other items in your wardrobe. These kind of decisions can be complicated at the best of times, let alone standing in front of the fitting room mirror or at the point of purchase. And more often than not what we all really need is an objective, expert opinion from a third party. But there’s still a misconception out there that stylists are only for the rich and famous, to look fabulous on the red carpet at the Oscars, or for a Vogue cover shoot. Like fashion, the role of the stylist is also changing. Like me, there’s a new breed of stylist emerging helping busy, normal women look and feel better about themselves and curate more effective and versatile seasonal wardrobes that really work hard for them and represent excellent value. And core to this is having an edited set of hero pieces that you can rely on to always make you look and feel amazing.

While most fashion still comes of the peg, one or two brands like Ridley London are embracing the idea that we’re all unique and offering customers an integrated customisation service. Not only do Ridley produce the most beautiful on trend dresses, but every style can be made to order in any of their luxurious printed or plain silks and cottons and can be individually adjusted for your most flattering fit. Because you’ll look and feel amazing in it, you’ll get more wear out of it. The made to order process vastly reduces wastage so it’s far more sustainable, and their dresses and jumpsuits are made to last using traditional tailoring techniques. But most of all, because it’s uniquely made for you, you can go to your event knowing you’re never going to run into anyone wearing the same thing as you. So with an eye on this season’s hottest trends, what wardrobe essentials should you be thinking of purchasing for this summer? Here are my top 3:


1. The versatile statement midi dress


Stylist Abby Wood picking out the new versatile Alba midi dress in the silk satin zebra print

If you’re going to a special summer event, I don’t think you can beat a statement summer dress. Dresses are fantastic, they’re far more flattering to most female figures and can be adapted to skim and hide certain areas and emphasise your best features. They’re also a singular outfit in their own right so all, you need to think about are a pair of killer heels and your accessories. Above all, they can be easily dressed down by adding trainers and a denim jacket or cowboy boots or kitten heels for a more relaxed occasion like a barbecue or sandals for a hot holiday. Ridley have some really fantastic on trend styles for this summer, I particularly like their new Alba midi dress in Zebra print. Both the midi length and print are absolutely on trend right now, but this is a dress that won’t date and can be brought back on trend with new accessories. And of course because it’s Ridley, this dress can also be customised to flatter in some amazing florals and hot plain colours if you prefer.


2. The do it all jacket


Stylist Abby Wood showing off a new Ridley London summer portia blazer which can be tailored to fit in white tweed

A great blazer is a brilliant invest meant piece for every summer wardrobe and these cropped Chanel style jackets are right on-trend. If you’re heading to a more formal occasion like a wedding or Royal Ascot and are concerned about the weather and slightly cooler temperatures that we can get during an English summer, one of these will see you through and will lift any look. Tailored blazers also give a slimmer, trimmer and more defined appearance. Likewise you can also dress them down with jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of trainers pumps or even heels for a sophisticated on-trend urban look.

3. The easy everyday silk summer skirt


Stylist Abby Wood picking out a new Ridley London statement silk satin maxi skirt in red and fuchsia Port Carnival print

This is likely to become the hardest working piece in your wardrobe this season as they’re just so versatile and easy to throw on. Ridley’s silk skirts come in lots of amazing floral prints with a variety of colours which make them much easier to pair with your existing wardrobe. Pair with heels and a blouse or sweater for a smart look, a vest style top, a pair of flip flops and a denim jacket, or a cami top and sandals for a relaxed high summer look.The other great thing about a skirt is you can introduce on-trend colours that wouldn’t necessarily work with your natural colouring but because they’re worn away from the face you’ll look great. And because of silk’s magical insulating properties, silk is incredibly cool in summer and warm in winter, a Ridley silk skirt could easily stretch into autumn and beyond.  

Meet Abby in person and enjoy expert insights, personal styling advice and hospitality at Ridley’s Barnes store on May 4th from 6 - 8:30pm.  Follow Abby @styleupwithabby

Ridley London's new Spring collection of made to measure statement dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and knitwear is available to purchase online and in Ridley's Barnes store. Celebrate your individuality this season with a unique piece that's  individually crafted to flatter from your choice of any of our stunning new printed floral or solid silks or cottons. Or call us to arrange a virtual fitting: 

Ridley London, 82 Church Road, Barnes, London SW13 0DQ T: 020 3336 7900

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