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How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Get ready for summer nights in bright satin

How do you dress up Just Enough? That’s a question that used to preoccupy us before the pandemic.

We were always weighing up the balance of smart versus casual — wondering if the little black dress was too much, or the black jeans with the party top too little.

Raising the bar, ratcheting up the effort and the polish without tipping into formal dressiness, has been the goal of fashion-conscious women for well over a decade.

So now we’re wondering, how do you dress up Just Enough in this post-lockdown summer?

What do you do if you’re going for a drink at the pub, or on your neighbour’s lawn, or you’ve got a table booked at the restaurant but you’ll be walking there and back?

The answer is summer satin. It could be a dress or a skirt or trousers or a batwing top, it doesn’t matter. The point is it’s satin (we’re talking about satin finish, so it’s generally machine-washable polyester, maybe with a bit of stretch), because satin makes everything more feminine and luscious. It lifts the bar all on its own, especially in summer.

During Christmas party season you see jewel-coloured satin everywhere. In spring, a cream or pearly grey satin shirt is practically a wardrobe staple.

Summer is when satin really comes into its own: pale prints and lemon yellow, flippy, bias-cut skirts, fluted sleeves, draped dresses and floppy palazzo pants — all look dreamier and more gorgeous in satin. And strangely, given its lustrous look, it’s more robust than plain silk.

Best of all, providing you leave it be and don’t try to pretty it up with ladylike heels or dainty jewellery, satin easily dresses up (with sexy sandals) or down (with flat sliders or white trainers). The key is not to think of it as special, or only for after 6pm.

A simple bias-cut satin skirt was the surprise really useful item of 2019, and it’s still an easy everyday solution (to wear with a T-shirt or a similarly slippery boxy top).

The most flattering styles finish just below the knee, like H&M’s in chilli red or pewter (£24.99 and £20, hm.com), or the longer midi-length.

Mango has one in duck-egg blue (£35.99, shop.mango.com) and Zara has an elegant limited-edition style in champagne with a pleated belt and covered side buttons (£59.99, zara.com).

If you’re looking for something more work-friendly, then & Other Stories does a pale green print skirt (£75, stories.com); Me+Em has one in white-on-black leaf print, now in the sale (£51 meandem.com); and H&M’s satin zebra-print skirt in black and beige (£24.99, hm.com) would look chic with a black blazer and sandals.

Still, for my money you’ll get the most wear out of a satin dress. I’d start with H&M’s long-sleeved fit-and-flare dress in sea green leopard print (£29.99, hm.com). This is a good of example of how satin brings an extra something to the party: in jersey or cotton it wouldn’t have the same slinky elegance or that gleam that turns an ordinary day-dress into something glamorous.

Ganni’s longer, balloon-sleeved wrap-dress in stretch satin is quirkier (£255, ganni.com) and comes in a chocolate-and-coffee tiger print or a pale green on oyster print.

& Other Stories does a sky-blue wrap-dress with a frill, which is a tad bridesmaidy, but maybe not if you wear it with a pair of white Birkenstocks (£59, stories.com).

More versatile is the pastel-print sleeveless wrapover (£85, stories.com).

Mango has a russet dress with a keyhole front and asymmetric hem — a bit like a 1930s tea-dress with a twist (£59.99 shop.mango.com).

I can’t resist a wide-leg satin trouser in summer. Me+Em does a cropped pair in a green-on-pink geometric print with a sporty green stripe (£185, meandem.com) which you could wear with a white T-shirt, or the sleeveless matching shirt, plus a jacket for the office. What’s not to love?

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