A former editor of mine once commented about how much red I wear. Before then, I’d not noticed that the volume of scarlet pieces I wore was noticeably more than anyone else. At the time of her comment, it was Christmas. Of course, I was wearing red. A Molly Goddard smock dress with a matching Prada satin hairband ready for our team seasonal lunch.
My love of red can be owing to several contributing factors. The most obvious is that I’m Welsh. Red is our national colour, the shade of the dragon on our flag and so it is quite literally a part of my sartorial DNA. Add to that that my (also Welsh) grandad played for Arsenal and it’s really no wonder that I find myself turning to a red ‘strip’ often. It was also the shade of my prom dress and a bridesmaid dress I wore aged six.
Yet, for as much as it’s something I wear often, I can appreciate it’s a hue that doesn’t speak of the ease most of us look for in our day-to-day wardrobe. Red is pretty fabulous. It’s extra, festive and celebratory. It’s Christmas parties and summers on the Riviera. It’s Anne Hathaway in vintage Valentino at the 2011 Oscars and Rihanna in Giambattista Valli in 2017. It’s Clueless‘ Cher Horowitz in Alaïa and Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
It also happens to be this season’s must-have shade. Reddish hues flooded the catwalk at the autumn/winter 2023 shows. There was Ashley Graham in seductive satin at Dolce & Gabbana, metallic iterations at Ferragamo (where Maximilian Davis is making red his signature shade) and wipe-clean at Christopher Kane. What most of these examples had in common was the fact that the dresses came largely solo. There was no fussy earrings, hat or headpiece. Instead, the red dress was left to command full attention, which is how a slew of celebrities are following suit, too.
Adwoa Aboah lifted a red 16Arlington dress straight from the spring/summer 2024 catwalk during London Fashion Week and wore it with little fuss and just a simple pair of mules. Dua Lipa, as fresh-faced as red-carpet beauty comes, recently wore a Vivienne Westwood gown that coordinated with her newly dyed red hair. Both proved you can allow a great red dress to take centre stage and not worry too much about what it is coming with.
I’ve come to understand that wearing a red dress is simple. Perhaps even simpler than a Little Black Dress when it comes to party season. Its bold colour is less scary than you think and does all of the heavy lifting for you. With red, you can think less about what you wear with it and allow them to scene-steal alone.
But red pieces in themselves don’t have to be simple. The best red dresses are those that come with incredible ruffles or boast a clever hemline that speaks of remarkable craftsmanship. I for one can’t wait to see much more of them out there this Christmas and beyond.
Looking for a great red dress this Christmas? Shop ELLE‘s favourites here: