How do you wear a dress over trousers?

Photo: Getty Images 

It’s a great solution for spring’s in-between weather. But how do you actually make it work? Hannah Banks-Walker explains

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By Hannah Banks-Walker on

Last week, I took off my tights. As much as I love those opaque leg-huggers, I have to say I felt liberated. Like I could breathe again – or, at least, my legs could. But, despite the one nice day of weather, I still didn’t feel like it was warm enough for bare legs. So, I wore my easiest, throw-on polka dot dress with a pair of straight-leg jeans and my new mules and I felt suitably spring-like without having to actually subject any bare limbs to the elements. And it felt great. I was just the right temperature, wore it to work and then even went out in it in the evening. While friends and colleagues remarked on the practicality of such an outfit ( as well as it being a key spring trend), most also lamented the fact that they weren’t sure which dresses would go with which trousers in their own wardrobes. So, how do you do it without feeling silly?

Stick to midi dresses

The early noughties were not kind to us, sartorially speaking. There was a time when Hollywood’s finest would wear bootcut jeans with knee-length dresses and, quite frankly, the results were not ideal. When Jessica Alba looks frumpy, I’m not convinced that I’m going to look much better. To avoid this altogether, stick to longer dresses that hit below the knee, preferably with straight-leg jeans or cropped trousers. It looks entirely more modern and won’t leave you feeling like a J Lo tribute act circa 2002. Unless that’s the look you’re going for, in which case, we should probably be friends.

Balance proportion

If you’re wearing a pair of trousers that are anything other than straight leg or skinny fit, a baggy dress might end up making you feel swamped in material. Similarly, a more fitted dress is difficult to pair with bulkier trousers (especially jeans) as you end up seeing the waistband underneath. Wrap dresses are a good option, as are the current intake of button-down dresses so prevalent in the shops – button to the waistband of your trousers and leave the rest open.

Choose your trousers carefully

The safest, most wearable option is a pair of straight-leg jeans. Coupled with a long-sleeve midi, you can’t really go wrong and, even if your dress has frills or flounces, your jeans will balance this out nicely. Alternatively, if you want something a bit smarter, a pair of classic cigarette trousers look great with a shirt dress (it makes for a stylish twist on more traditional office outfits) and pointed flats or loafers. If you’re into cropped kick-flares, these work well with slightly shorter midis (just below the knee as opposed to near the ankles) in clean, unfussy silhouettes – a simple shift dress, for example, or a long-sleeved jersey dress.

Consider your colour combos

Jeans will go with everything, so again are an easy option. If you lean towards being experimental with colour, it’s a good opportunity to try some bold combinations. Red and pink, for example, or pink and green, work really well together, although I would avoid print and stick to block colour in this case. A failsafe, really, is a pair of black or navy trousers, however, which will go with most midis. If you’re in all-black, you could always wear a colourful pair of shoes or jazz it up with some fancy earrings.

Work out your layers

I’ve found that any long coat works well with this combo – at the moment, I’m wearing it with an ankle-length trench to protect myself against the April showers. If you’re going for a more casual approach, an oversized biker jacket looks great, as long as it’s not too cropped. A longer line blazer is also a good option – it looks particularly great with ankle boots.

Click here for the dress-over-trousers edit 


Photo: Getty Images 
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Hannah Banks-Walker
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