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African fashion:How to wear a maxi dress

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In the 1970s heyday, no self-respecting woman would have been without her maxi dress while entertaining at a poolside barbecue, handing out pineapple-and-cherry toothpicks. The opposite of that other '70s favourite, the mini dress, the maxi dress came in lurid prints or bold hues, often in polyester. (Perhaps this is the real reason why men traditionally do the barbecuing?) Halter-neck designs were especially popular and they often featured ruffled necklines and hemlines.


The best maxi dress evar
Why you need it now

Fashion is having another '70s moment and Marc Jacobs led the way with a full-blown Studio 54 vibe in the latest spring-summer collections. Other designers offering ankle-hitting hemlines include Julien Macdonald, Christian Dior, Alberta Ferretti and Paul & Joe. They're the perfect summer leg covering - no need for sunscreen and plenty of breathing room. And you can throw them over a cossie and head straight to the bar.
new maxi dress
What to look for

The length should hit the ankle while stopping short of being dragged on the ground. Vibrant patterns work well - ikat prints, bold florals and graphic black and white are timely this season. A little flounce is OK here, perhaps a gently ruffled top layer in the bodice or a tiered skirt with plenty of movement. Empire lines (fitted over the bust then dropping to the floor) work well, otherwise you can belt at the waist with a retro-style leather belt. And no nasty polyester here - look for lightweight cottons, silks or even jersey.

Style to suit you

Athletic shapes Halter necks will suit you, as will strapless styles - look for bold print versions that tie at the bust.

Petite shapes Avoid too much fabric - jersey would be a good option as it is more close-fitting, as would solid colours.

Busty shapes Look for styles that have structure in the bodice, or others with a solid colour at the top and a printed skirt.
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