The fashion trend cycle is a fickle beast. Over-saturated at best, pernicious at worst—the speed at which pieces and aesthetics flit in and out of style makes it challenging to hone in on your own preferences (and that's without mentioning the formidable influence of TikTok). However, stylist and creative consultant Allison Bornstein says the tides are changing. "In 2023, we're redefining the idea of a capsule wardrobe and instead focusing on building a closet of elevated essentials that reflect our personal styles, called the 'Intentional Wardrobe,'" she tells Marie Claire. But where's one to start? By building a solid foundation of dresses, says Bornstein. "It's important to look for the best dresses that you can see yourself wearing in multiple situations for seasons to come," she details on creating a concise edit of clothing.
As Bornstein elaborates below, the proper frock—whether that be an effortless slip, easy-breezy summer dress, or formal cocktail-ready number—is essential when curating a thoughtful capsule closet. Ahead, discover the stylist's advice when shopping for the best types of dresses, the five key silhouettes she recommends, and a shoppable edit of Marie Claire-approved pieces.
What to Look For in a Dress
- Personal Style
"When choosing the perfect dress, it's important to ask yourself how you would define your style and what pieces will help you achieve that look," advises Bornstein. "You do not need to pick something super basic or simple if that is not your style—you want to choose a dress (and any article of clothing) that aligns with your unique sense of style and allows you to express your best self."
"We often shop with an event or location in mind but it is important to shop for pieces with the intention of wearing them again," shares the stylist. "While it is different for everyone, I personally like to have dresses in my wardrobe that feel easy and can be styled for multiple settings." A versatile little black dress that can be worn out for romantic date nights as well as office happy hours, a slinky slip dress you can wear for nights out or on a sunny spring day, for instance.
"Shoppers are opting for high-quality and versatile pieces," Bornstein details, citing Stitch Fix's 2023 Style Trend Report. "You want to invest in dresses that you will want to wear over and over again," she explains, as opposed to the trending-right-now style you saw on Fashion-Tok that won't be popular in, say, a month from now. (No judgment—we're all guilty of making a poorly thought-out impulse buy every now and then).
The Best Dresses for Women
A Slip Dress
"My first pick is a slip dress because it offers a sleek silhouette that can be dressed up and down year-round and is perfect for 24/7 dressing (another one of Stitch Fix’s 2023 trend predictions)," offers Bornstein. As for her favorite way of styling the slinky, lingerie-inspired number? "Dressed up for a party with some heels and a leather blazer."
A Little Black Dress
"No matter what words you use to define your style, a little black dress can be a really useful base to have in your wardrobe," the stylist shares. "While there are many options out there, I recommend shoppers lean into the Intentional Wardrobe trend by finding a silhouette that they feel most confident in. Some of my favorites include Michael Stars' Wren Knit Midi Dress or All Saints' Mika Mini Dress," for instance.
A White Cotton Dress
"I like a simple dress because it is a canvas that allows you to project your own style," she says, particularly shouting out "a white cotton dress being ideal for warmer weather." Styling-wise, Bornstein would team a dress in the snow-colored hue "with flat sandals in the spring and summer, or a high boot for fall," emphasizing once again the importance of investing in dresses that work for multiple seasons.
A Printed Dress
"I personally wear dark and neutral colors so I typically opt for black, but I also love the idea of adding some color [to your wardrobe] via a print," the stylist shares. If you're traditionally a minimal dresser, opt for tonal polka dots or gingham done in soft neutrals. But if you find yourself on the opposite end of the style spectrum, go full tilt-maximalist with a colorful geometric print or mood-boosting florals this season.
A Party Dress
"I always want to feel like myself and be dressed in a way that feels comfortable and expresses my style—and the same goes for my occasion dressing," explains the fashion expert. "That is why I like the idea of a simple black dress that can be styled in multiple ways as a party dress," she offers, adding that she then turns to "accessories to spice up the look." Alternatively, you can opt for a statement dress—one embellished with high-shine detailing, adorned with sultry cutouts, or trimmed with feathers—if you'd like to create a head-turning, anti-minimal scene instead.
Meet the Expert
Allison is a stylist and creative consultant who effectively uses social media to teach and guide her followers on how to integrate today's trends with classic pieces for chic elegant results. Her popular virtual styling sessions show how to work with pieces already in your wardrobe to emphasize that sometimes it just takes a discerning outside eye to help you look your best.