Timeless and simple, white can make a powerful statement

Deirdre McQuillan: At the Oscars, actors in white dresses made an impact - Kirsten Dunst in Gucci, Emily Blunt in Schiaparelli and Florence Pugh in Simone Rocha

Timeless and simple, white can make a powerful statement. What appeared on the catwalks for spring/summer 2024 were scores of white ensembles, from the broderie anglaise separates and stucco-style lace (already on the high street) at Balenciaga and Valentino to the pristine purity of Prada’s white dresses, worn with yellow mules.

At the recent Democratic Congress in the US, a sea of white outfits stood out as the Democratic Women’s Caucus announced that they would pair the colour with pins that read “Fighting for Women’s Reproductive Freedom”. The group has long worn head-to-toe white as a nod to the suffragette movement to raise awareness of women’s issues.

White has various tones to suit any complexion and, as Dublin designer Roisin Pierce once explained, “optic white is almost blue and milk white changes in the sunlight and you never mix both. Optic is easier to colour match.” The variety is wide and powerful: think of cream, ivory, eggshell, alabaster, vanilla, ecru or chalk.

In the famous all-white Valentino collection of 1968 called Collezione Bianca, one of the dresses from the collection was chosen by Jackie Kennedy for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis. This season, Valentino’s collection, which was intensely feminine but grounded in everyday wear, was another tour de force of white, with T-shirt dresses, lace duster coats and lace tops worn with jeans.


“I’d wear midi-length white dresses with cropped jeans or denim jackets and since they are usually in cotton or linen, matching them with leather sandals is in keeping with natural fabrics. White can be difficult for Irish complexions, but nothing beats a crisp white shirt or T-shirt for a fresh look,” says stylist Sinéad Keenan.

Nikki Creedon of Havana boutique in Dublin agrees that tan accessories – bags, belts, shoes – make white dresses look chic. “And white with black accessories also looks great,” she adds. “But white dresses are definitely not worn to weddings – one customer’s whole wedding party – bridesmaids, bride and mother of the bride – were dressed in white. Expensive white dresses tend to be for occasion wear – to an event, to a festival or a party.”

At the recent Oscars, the actors in white dresses who made an impact were Kirsten Dunst in Gucci, Emily Blunt in sequins from Schiaparelli, Florence Pugh in Simone Rocha’s ivory silk organza at an after-party, and Rashida Jones in a silk crepe dress with a deep plunging neckline from Dior Haute Couture. The most gorgeous, however, had to be Jennifer Lawrence in a dress originally worn by Kate Moss in Galliano’s final couture collection for Givenchy in 1996.

As a calm and neutral colour, white fits neatly into the current trend for a restrained palette of quiet tones. Retire the black and florals, it’s time to think instead about brightening up the wardrobe for summer 2024.