Steph Styles: The Plus-Size Summer Dress

What makes the perfect summer dress? For me, something loose and airy to keep me cool yet which is still slightly structured, comes in an array of colours and lengths and is adaptable from day to night. The last year didn't offer us much but it did give us – in my opinion – the jewel in fashion’s crown: the tiered dress. Why is it my absolute favourite style of dress? Well, what’s not to love?
Defined by a soft, unstructured silhouette with horizontal seams, the tiered dress is flowing, effortless and versatile. The shape works just as well in block colours as in different prints and this season we’re being served everything from floral to animal print. An evolution of the popular smock-style dress, tiered dresses are universally flattering and right now they come in a variety of lengths, shapes and dimensions – so we’re pretty spoiled for choice. During 2020's fashion month, tiers were everywhere, from the avant-garde catwalk of Simone Rocha, where overlapping layers of frothy black lace were paired with a crochet harness and latex headwear, to Oscar de la Renta, whose floral, floor-length gowns in tiers of cream and caramel were teamed with matching belts and bags for garden-party perfection.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have at least 12 different styles of tiered dress in my wardrobe. I have one with an inverted triangle silhouette, which means I’m two sizes broader on top than on the bottom. Because tiered dresses have a traditional A-line shape that gets wider towards the bottom, I find that the inverted style balances out my silhouette, making me appear more bottom-heavy and thus feel a bit more confident. Remember: the dress, with its dramatic wedding cake-esque layers, is doing all the work so you don’t need to go OTT with accessories in order to have a complete look. And when it comes to hem length, midi and maxi work best with this style – the longer the length, the more tier time you get. From Mango to ASOS, the entire high street has fallen head over heels for this style, so you can take your pick without breaking the bank. 
Below are three ways I’m styling a puff-sleeved dress by H&M Plus (similar here), and the best of the rest to shop now. 
Picnic in the Park
This is a simple look for hanging out with friends at the park or whiling away the afternoon in a beer garden on a date. I’ve teamed the tiered dress with some rust-coloured wide-fit buckle sandals from Very, and an oversized straw shoulder bag from Monsoon. To give it a bit more of a cottagecore edge, you could add a wide-brimmed straw hat. This tulle polka dot straw hat from Foxx the Label is a winner.
Casual Fridays
Returning to the office but sad to part with your loungewear? This look is ideal for more casual days at the nine-to-five: my favourite black denim jacket from Vero Moda, two-tone wide-fit slingback shoes from ASOS and a white oversized ruched clutch bag inspired by Bottega Veneta (but far more affordable). I’m serving you major Parisian vibes here! 
We Love to Layer
Just look how versatile this dress is! It can be worn as a skirt without losing the drama of the tiers. I’ve layered a fluffy jumper and a neon pink bumbag from ASOS to inject a bit of athleisure, finishing with a pair of chunky trainers from Reebok.

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