I Know Dresses, and These 13 Classics Are Actually Worth the Money

For as long as I can remember, I've been a "dress person." Sure, I dabble in separates and would love to finally overcome my aversion to a jeans-and-nice-top look, but when I'm feeling most like myself I will probably be found wearing a dress. But not just any old dress, mind. I'm very picky about my choices; whether high-street, secondhand, vintage, made-to-order or off-the-rack designer, a lot of thought goes into each and every purchase. That's why, should you ever be on the lookout for a top-notch frock, it's always worth coming back for my monthly column, where I edit the best new-in dresses for your ease.

So, I'm fussy about the fit, fabric and quality of dresses. I'm also strict about their rewear potential—any new contenders for my wardrobe cannot just work for one occasion and be rendered useless after that. I'm pretty militant about not buying into fleeting trends because I like my purchases, big or small, to be worthwhile. That doesn't mean all of my dresses are boring and classics but just that I try to look out for details—prints, colours, cuts—that tend to come into fashion time and again. So even if there's one style that has a little hiatus, I know it'll get its chance to shine once more. 

In essence, tracking down the best investment dresses is a skillset I've developed over time and I'd like to share my findings with you. Below is my edit of the summer-friendly investment dresses that are worth your time, money and closet space. 


1. Dôen
(Image credit: @francescasaffari)

When it comes to romantic, folksy, #cottagecore-ready dresses then it doesn't get more authentic than Dôen. These timeless, effortless pieces are designed in California, but they suit bohemians across the globe. They're comfy and have plenty of fabric in them which sets them apart from lesser imitators.


2. Taller Marmo
(Image credit: @slipintostyle)

If it's drama and modest shapes you're after, then Taller Marmo has it all. I haven't met an editor or influencer yet who doesn't feel incredible in the brand's "extra" gowns.


3. Rixo
(Image credit: @styleidealist)

There's a reason (well, actually lots of reasons) why everyone I know owns, has rented or borrowed at least one Rixo dress: they fit like a glove and always feel unique. The girls' attention to detail when it comes to prints, cuts, colours, and the finishing touches never fails to wow me. This season is looking particularly strong with very vibrant florals.


4. Zimmermann
(Image credit: @chrissyford)

When it comes to dresses that are made for long, hot, very luxe summers, then it's Zimmermann that steps up to the bar. Being an Australian brand, it knows its way around a perfect sundress but it's the amount of detail and thought that goes into an easy beautiful piece that really wows me. For example, up close on this style you'll see the amazing whipstitched belt feels really premium and sturdy, that the swishy skirt has plenty of fabric in it for movement and the shoulder straps have cute ruched seams featuring drawstrings with little decorative shells on the end. Adorable.


5. Tove
(Image credit: @hannamw)

Tove's Ceres dress is the style that put them on the map a few years ago and it still looks just as striking and beautiful today. You can now find it in different colours and fabrics (as well as so many other lovely options), and it makes for the perfect do-everything summer dress, working just as well on holiday as it does for a city wedding. 


6. Rhode
(Image credit: @chainkyr)

I didn't think I was a short-hem kinda gal until I tried on what has now become a signature piece for U.S. brand Rhode. The Ella dress has such a flattering waist tie and full-skirted cut that even my shy thighs were happy to take part. The full sleeves and high neck balance out the shorter hemline too. This style now comes in many fabrics and colours, each one as tempting as the next…


7. Christopher Esber
(Image credit: @bellathomas)

Christopher Esber is the king of the cut-out dress. Even with the amount of skin on show, the Australian designer manages to create pieces that still feel understated and surprisingly casual to wear. Maybe it's the laid-back, looser silhouettes, longer hemlines and neutral colours. Either way, long after the current trend for this look has faded, these will still look chic and hold their value.


10. Emilia Wickstead
(Image credit: @michelleamo_)

When it comes to beautifully crafted, really substantial dresses that will stand the test of time, I have tried on enough Emilia Wickstead frocks to know hers fit the bill. There's a reason why Kate Middleton relies upon the designer's impeccable tailoring and the price tag is a true reflection of the work that goes into these luxe pieces. There's no one particular style I'd recommend, there are options depending on your personal style, but Wickstead is particularly adept at vibrant colours, romantic florals and midi styles.


9. Proenza Schouler
(Image credit: @meccajw)

My wedding dress was from Proenza Schouler, so I have a particular affinity for the NYC duo's fancy dresses. But outside of my big splurge and the brand's many other cult-adored pieces (shoes, bags, tie-dye tees all have a following), it's the throw-on knit and jersey dresses that have been garnering interest over the past few seasons. They are top-quality and manage to walk that line between minimal and impactful.


10. Ganni
(Image credit: @abimarvel)

I bought one of Ganni's earliest It dresses (a brown checked and ruffled midi) and it still looks current today. That's the thing with Ganni—the Scandi label manages to create cult pieces that live outside of the trend cycle. The more recent ruched stretch styles have been particularly popular.


11. Aje
(Image credit: @bettinaloney)

I'm wearing an Aje dress as I type! I know—I'm very lucky. These dreamy dresses have taken the fashion world by storm, but while they are a hot ticket, I think the fact they've been designed with classic codes and longevity in mind means they'll go the distance in your wardrobe. Nipped-in waists, blouson sleeves and beautiful colours. 


12. Sleeper
(Image credit: @emmanuellek_)

Sleeper's ultra-comfy sleepwear-inspired dresses really took off during the first year of the pandemic but they are so delightful to wear there's no chance we'll be giving up on them any time soon. This bodice-fronted style is one that I own (in navy linen), and I always feel fabulous and yet very low-key wearing it. Also, it's a great Ukrainian brand to support right now and many styles are on sale via its own website.


13. Mara Hoffman
(Image credit: @ali_tate_cutler)

Mara Hoffman has been flying the flag for sustainable designs that are genuinely cool for longer than most other brands. Her creations are inherently summery and joyful, and she experiments with prints, colours and cuts to great effect—this ultra-popular Amy dress is a perfect example of a recent runaway success. And what's more, it comes in sizes up to 3XL and as it's stretchy this has the scope to fit even more people.

Hannah Almassi
Editor in Chief

Hannah Almassi is the Editor in Chief of Who What Wear UK. Hannah has been part of the the Who What Wear brand since 2015, when she was headhunted to launch the UK sister site and social channels, implement a localised content strategy and build out the editorial team. She joined following a seven-year tenure at Grazia magazine, where she led front-of-book news, fashion features and shopping specials as fashion news and features editor. With experience in both print and digital across fashion and beauty, Hannah has over 16 years in the field as a journalist, editor, content strategist and brand consultant. Hannah has interviewed industry heavyweights such as designers including Marc Jacobs and Jonathan Anderson through to arbiters of taste including Katie Grand and Anna Dello Russo. A skilled moderator and lecturer specialising in the shift to digital media and e-commerce, Hannah’s opinion and work has been sought by the likes of CNBC, BBC, The Sunday Times Style, The Times, The Telegraph and MatchesFashion.com, among many others. Hannah is often called upon for her take on trends, becoming known as a person with their finger of the pulse of what’s happening in the fashion space for stylish Brits. Hannah currently resides in Eastbourne with her photographer husband, incredibly busy son and highly Instagrammable cat.