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How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Your perfect staycation dress? Think 70s maxis! 

Don’t know what you think, but it seems to me that lockdown has had a peculiarly Seventies feel to it.

Maybe it’s partly that everything has slowed down to a crawl, and anything that does happen takes place in your back garden, with the radio on (very summer of ’76).

Perhaps it’s all the rainbows everywhere, the long unruly hair — men’s and women’s — the relative emptiness of places and the birdsong and the homemade bread? Whatever the reason, it has put me in mind of Indian block prints, Jesus sandals, cheesecloth and . . . maxis.

I know. You would not have expected a maxi dress to be anywhere on your 2020 shopping list. Everyone knows maxi dresses and skirts are devilishly hard to wear; what’s floaty and fresh on a 20-something is blowsy and frumpy on the rest of us, unless maybe (and it’s a big maybe) on holiday, sipping rosé on a hillside in Majorca. And even then.

Shane Watson shared her advice for embracing this season's 70s maxis trend when holidaying in your garden. Pictured: Luisa Beccaria show

I have a pretty maxi dress —short-sleeved and a bit slinky — that I have packed on many hot holidays to glamorous places over the years (sigh), but every time I’ve tried it on, I’ve felt like the older unmarried sister of the bride.

It remains unworn and it’ll stay that way, too — because it’s not the right kind of maxi.

With maxis, post-25, there is a risk of looking bridal party twee or Stepford Wife, unless it’s a relaxed, simple, cotton or viscose, thinks-it’s-a-day-dress sort of maxi.

I’m not suggesting we all get ourselves up in floaty finery and picture hats. I’m saying we all need a pretty, easy dress and the longer the better this summer, in my opinion.

When you’re holidaying in your garden, you’ll thank me that you have something staycation appropriate — unlike the vampy Lurex halterneck — that’s also delightfully unlike your usual summer wear.

You’re wearing this ‘summer in the garden’ maxi with trainers, flat sandals or maybe clogs, day or evening, but it’s not meant to be smartened up and taken to a wedding, whenever that’s allowed.

And it’s not a kaftan. Women can look fabulous in kaftans as Meryl Streep proved in The Post and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor, all the time. But the cocktail kaftan is hard to pull off, and cocktail is not the look we’re concerned with here.

So to summarise. Not any maxi will do, and for that reason it pays to know the good maxi rules. These are: steer clear of anything sheer. The moment you can see where a slip ends under a maxi is the moment to pull out.

Say no to shiny and full, as in gossamer materials in a billowy cut, tiers, ruffled hems or sashes.

Avoid being covered from wrist to collar bone. You don’t want to end up looking like Carrie’s mother. An elbow-length sleeve and a V-front is about right; you definitely want a bit of flesh on show.

Long doesn’t have to mean floor-sweeping; ankle-grazing is OK too.

And pattern is what makes the difference between looking like you’re wearing a tablecloth and looking just right: it should be neither too bold nor too busy, and florals tend to be best when they’re slightly abstract.

Ossie Clark X Primrose Park London’s Jupiter dress (£255, primroseparklondon.com) has a white on red sploshy print that’s floral but not fussy. And H&M’s wrap-top, sleeveless, yellow print dress (£39.99, hm.com), looks easy to wear.

For more pretty, puffed-sleeved styles, check out Love Shack Fancy at revolve.com, though they’re considerably pricier. You’ll find fresher dresses at Pink City Prints. I love their denim blue prairie dress with red rick-rack trim (£170, pinkcityprints.com).

It does have a ruffle hem, but only a plain unobtrusive one, and it has pockets, too.

So, keep your maxi fresh and breezy, not black or white, and here comes summer.

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