x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Long and short of it: maxi dress in the spotlight

Suddenly, after the Costume Institute Gala at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art last week, long skirts are in.

You can always rely on a glittering, star-studded red carpet event to reset the jolly old fashion compass. If you'd have said this time last week that the maxi length was inevitable, there might have been altercations. And rightly so, given the fact that hemlines are all over the place: short, knee-length, mid-calf, floor skimming and asymmetric.

In her new video, Diana Vickers, the 17-year-old singing sensation scored a UK No 1 hit, wears two dresses: a punk rock-style "hairy" teal sweater that barely covers her upper thighs and a very (very) long, silver glittering gown. Despite being polar opposites, both were considered equally and acceptably "cool" until the social event of the year in Manhattan. Before the Costume Institute Gala at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art last week, none of fashion's key players had made a stab at an ideal length.

It was as if American Vogue's Anna Wintour, who co-hosted the gala, had hand-picked frocks for her army of globally A-list actresses with near-perfect figures and varying ages to make a point. Given the theme of the night and the exhibition title (American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity), it could have gone either way, as The New York Times pointed out ("Playboy bunnies or Hollywood sirens"). Happily, we got the latter: elegant full-length gowns in the style of Scarlett O'Hara and Katharine Hepburn or Grace Kelly's Tracy Lord. In short: long won.

What perhaps was even more incredible than seeing glamorous actresses such as Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker and Anne Hathaway ticking all the boxes of summer 2010 trends (putty shades, sparkling sequins, fairy tulle) was noting who got it wrong. Certainly not Wintour, a previously outspoken champion of short-as-possible hemlines (which are proved to boost fashion sales). Even she could not hold back a fashion trend threatening to eclipse all others.

Others who got it right were Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Kate Hudson and "the Jessicas" (Alba and Biel) . Those who chose short would no doubt regret it: Carey Mulligan, Stella McCartney, Blake Lively and Chloë Sevigny, possibly, or Alexa Chung, who shunned a dress full stop in return for a mannish tux. This was a super dressy occasion, but if you were to ask any department store buyer or fashionista what summer's best-seller is, they will tell you the maxi, albeit in various hugely wearable guises from jersey tubes to hippy florals.

Perhaps it's no surprise that designers who have championed longer lengths for ages are particularly in demand, including the Omani-born Amir Ali, the man behind BodyAmr. His maxis are some of the most sought-after pieces right now at Dubai's Boutique 1. "Maxi dresses are always a top seller in the Middle East," says Innika Chamberlin, the personal stylist for Boutique 1. "Women love to feel free and feminine. That is exactly what a maxi does for you.

"Signature Grecian goddess styles by BodyAmr drape and fall from the shoulder and hips and subtly accentuate the female form," Chamberlin says. They're perfect for anyone who isn't blessed with perfect legs and the figure of Cheryl Cole. "It's because they are so easy to wear and have a lot of coverage but still maintain a louche sexiness to them," says the Ali (who rates Madonna, Juliette Lewis and Tom Ford among fans). "The maxi is a style that works for everyone." I believe him.

Chamberlin reels off a list of other maxi must-have labels, including Missoni, Elie Saab, Yrusha, Reem Acra, Issa, Diane von Furstenberg and Halston Heritage ("amazingly head-turning and versatile enough to go from brunch to party"). If you haven't tried the new long, do. By September there won't be any other option. For now team it with heavy earrings and clumpy platforms or the only flat shoe style that will convert heel aficionados: the Jimmy Choo snakeskin trainer. Despite not yet being available, it already has a waiting list that is fashionably long. Just like the new dress length.