If I say “tea dress” what do you say? Bourton-on-the-Water? Acorn Antiques? Barbara Pym? Never in a million years? Floral dresses were so over, over, over for such a long time, it can be hard to get one’s head around the fact that they are now straight-down-the-line zeitgeist. That’s right, sprig-print dresses, which used to be seen on little girls and very old ones and nobody in between, usually accessorised with a plate of scones, are being worn by fashion women in their thirties, forties and fifties.
The new-gen tea dress takes its inspiration more from the moody versions of the Seventies, in which the girliness of the blooms is set against a dark background. Plus, its all-enveloping lines – long sleeves and skirts, a high neck – aren’t just vicarage tea appropriate, but spot-on for life in a religious order. Get thee to a nunnery, albeit it a preternaturally groovy one.
Forgive me if I have been sounding like a stuck record but I am afraid this is yet another instance of the power of Demna. One of the ways fashion’s hottest property, Demna Gvasalia, launched himself onto the collective fashion consciousness with his label Vetements a couple of years ago was via floral frocks of a modesty that would have delighted Mary Whitehouse, yet which felt strangely edgy, verging on punk (£1,190; net-a-porter.com).
It’s become one of the most copied looks around. Why? Because a floral dress is feminine and flattering and if it can be tweaked to look contemporary, what’s not to like? The Dorothee Schumacher chiffon number I am wearing in this picture is a case in point. The translucency means it scores low on the nunnery side of things, but otherwise it’s a multiple box ticker: there’s even a nod to that other mega trend, athleisure, thanks to strapping at the waist.
Try Debenhams’ bell-sleeved number (£45; debenhams.com), or Hobbs’s roses and peonies on navy silk (£299; hobbs.co.uk), or Dorothy Perkins’ version, which throws in flamingos with the roses (£45; dorothyperkins.com). Marks & Spencer has its Autograph dark green roses on navy, and Per Una poppies on burgundy (£65 and £49.50; marksandspencer.com). I am in love with Leur Logette’s contemporised lady styles, especially the navy jersey with chrysanth-covered panel (£520; avenue32.com).
It feels like a day out at Great Dixter just writing about this stuff, never mind wearing it. Which is what makes the floral dress a blooming fabulous approach to dressing in winter. Add opaque tights, boots and – should you be a bit wet, like me – underlay with a black silk long-sleeved top (£86.50; hanro.co.uk).