It’s all well and good having a Cinderella moment and turning up to a party in a sparkling gown wearing glass slippers but the reality is that most of us prefer to invest in a dress that will give us cost per wear. It’s a wonderful thing to have a dress or two in your wardrobe that can cover all occasions.

Women will always wear these dresses better than girls because they require a certain earned elegance to pull them off. In my view, it is always more chic to be the understated woman at a party whose outfit is whispering “talk to me” than the one who is sartorially screaming “look at me.”

You only begin to appreciate the power of elegant dresses when you are a grown up. At this point in life you know which accessories the occasion requires and, you probably already have them in your wardrobe. Maybe you will choose to add modern pearl jewellery and suede courts for a daytime event or perhaps a sparkly necklace with sequinned sandals for evening.

If you look around carefully, they don’t have to be expensive, you can spend as little or as much as your budget will allow. Here is my shortlist for Winter 2016.


Elegant dresses
Starting with a bargain, this dress works because of its deep Winter green which is a key colour for Christmas 2016. It is easy to wear, just ramp up the glamour with accessories in burgundy or gold.

Dresses that are not just for Christmas

Green Winter Dress

This is such a beautiful dress. I have played with it in store and it fitted beautifully but however hard I tried, I couldn’t justify buying it. It is especially beautiful from behind so I have added the back detail into the composite shot above for you to see.

Elegant dresses

Draped cross back dress

Now you’ll have to be quick if you want this dress because it’s showing as low stock. It would be great for most shapes. The asymmetry disguises pear shaped hips and adds a curve to straighter figures.

Elegant dresses

Asymmetric merlot dress

This dress is charcoal rather than black so kinder to complexions over 40. The relaxed fit of the bodice will be a benefit for those with a larger bust. It has a V back and a ribbon tie.

Elegant dresses


Charcoal satin back crepe  slash neck dress

This dress comes in lots of colours for fans of the wrap style but I’ve picked out this spectacular blue. It’s great quality and the wrap won’t flop open.

Elegant dresses

Blue wrap dress

Moving on to fit and flare dresses, the key to these is trying to find styles that fall at mid calf. Anything higher and you risk the mutton effect of “teenager going to prom.”


Elegant dresses
The tailoring on this navy dress is beautiful with a neckline that is cut to the clavicles. It is especially flattering to the form as it nips the waist at its highest (slimmest) point and then flares out into a full skirt to balance the figure. It’s an investment but one that you would wear for years to come.

Elegant dresses

Blue fit and flare dress

This is another dress that I’ve tried and loved. It’s a similar shape to the one above but the grosgrain ribbon at the waist adds a subtle finishing detail

Elegant dresses

Winter Berry fit and flare dress

The panels of colour add lovely definition to this well priced fit and flare dress. It has a slash neck rather than a round neck which is flattering. It is available in petite sizes as well as regular if you’re quick.

Elegant dresses

Blocked fit and flare dress

Another great value dress in a colour that works well all year round. It is beautifully finished at the waist and has strong eco credentials too.

Elegant dresses

Livia Firth dress

And lastly a very expensive dress that is currently heavily reduced in stock left over from the Summer sale. Be quick, I can’t imagine there are many left.

Elegant dresses

Full midi dress

Each of these elegant dresses could be worn for meals out and would work for desk to dinner in addition to parties. When you’re thinking about what to wear over the top, remember the proportions of the dresses and the fact that they are cut to flatter your narrowest upper point – just before your ribs hit your tummy.

With that in mind, it’s most effective to echo the structure with a cropped jacket, a stole or a cropped cardigan. If you don’t have a cropped one, you can wear a simple jacket or cardigan but shoulder robe it so that the structure of the dress isn’t lost. Alternatively wear a long coat or, if you’re working with something shorter that you already have, shoulder robe again.

My favourite elegant dresses

As you know, my favourite dresses of the year have been similar to these two styles, either flared and midi length like the Winser one…(now sold out but you can create the effect with their circle skirt)


…or fitted like my red Bombshell dress.

Midlifechic 4

Last week Katya from Bombshell sent me a sample of her longer sleeved Bombshell dress to show you in a newly launched navy colourway. I love this dress. For me it is perfect for client Christmas lunches and after work drinks events. I can pull the shoulders up if I need to make it appropriate for an office environment. I am particularly pleased to support a small British brand that makes elegant dresses in the UK.


As you know, last week I had plans to spend the weekend with my friends from the Over40Collective and on Friday night I found myself in a panic about what I was going to wear for the important photoshoot we were doing. I had fully intended to spend time thinking about it but we’d had one of those weeks. My mum-in-law had been rushed into hospital so I hadn’t been sure that I would even be able to make it to our London meet up.

Late on Friday we found out that she was improving so I needed to pack quickly. As a group we had decided to try to encapsulate our very different styles by each choosing to wear something smart that would represent our core look. I had so little time to think that I had to work by instinct and the Bombshell dress is the one I turned to, which tells you how much I like it.

We spent all day on Saturday working hard on our plans to revolutionise the world of retail for women over 40. On Saturday night we unwound over dinner and a few glasses of wine. Horribly early on Sunday morning we had our photoshoot with photographer Rachel Vogeleisen. Here are some unofficial shots that show what a difficult task she had – only Catherine is behaving herself for the camera here…


… and nobody is here…


…or here. We had a lot of laughs!


Needless to say, these are not the shots that we’ll be showing when we launch our very sophisticated Over40Collective website but I love them because they show that even at our age, there are still new friends to be made and new adventures to be had. A year ago we hadn’t even met and now we are forming a really strong bond.

I’ll be back on Friday with the last of my Christmas outfit posts before we move on to the serious subject of gift ideas. My advice is to hold off from gift buying for now and focus on clothes because stocks are running low. From the information I’m getting, Black Friday offers will be significant and will be spread over a week rather than a day to avoid the frenzy (along with the associated website and delivery issues). The best thing to do is draw up a list in preparation for when it starts. I’m planning to have lots of ideas and information to help you. Have a wonderful week.

Recent party dressing posts

Relaxed Christmas outfit ideas

Dressing for a very formal occasion

Black tie with a difference

Other Autumn / Winter style posts

Jewellery by the Over40Collective

Casual outfits of the week

The process of learning which colours suit you

Doing Black Tie differently

Using accessories to update your outfits – bags and jewellery

Using accessories to update your outfits – shoes and boots

Dressing in Hush from week to weekend

Reviewing cashmere on the high street

Women over 40 styling Marks & Spencer

Women over 40 styling Winser London

What I’ve been buying from Finery

Looking at Boden

Leopardskin ankle boots

Hope fashion – the new collection

Everything you ever needed to know about fragranced candles