How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson

How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Time for the new tiers – no, not THAT kind!

  • Tiers of fabric are the detail that makes a dress or skirt spot on for Spring 2021
  • It could be one tier on a dress (flaring from high on the thigh to knee) or two  
  • The British style expert offers her tips on creating a virtually effortless outfit 

Tiers is not exactly a word we associate with fun. The more tiers imposed, the less likely you are to get out of your lockdown uniform and into a dress.

Still, tiers are about to become very cheering indeed. Because when tiers are horizontal bands of slightly gathered fabric, then they are the detail that makes a dress or skirt spot on for Spring 2021.

It could be one tier on a dress (flaring from high on the thigh to the knee) or two on a longer dress (the first starting under the ribs, the next mid-thigh), or it might be a midaxi skirt, with a softly gathered ruffle starting mid-thigh.

This last one, I predict, will be the gateway style for women, myself included, who haven’t worn a tiered anything for at least 20 years.

Just you wait. Come spring, Me+Em’s long tiered track skirt (£175, meandem.com) —’track’ because it’s as soft, sporty and easy as track pants, with a drawstring waist — could be what we end up living in. You can wear it with plimsolls and a sweater now.

Tiers of fabric are the detail that makes a dress or skirt spot on for Spring 2021. Pictured is Rose Byrne

I know. The idea takes some getting used to. The last time you wore tiers was probably on a flouncy Laura Ashley dress in the Seventies, or maybe you had a gypsyish skirt in the early Nineties.

If you had to write a list of things you want to avoid in a dress or skirt now, tiers would be up there, along with sheer fabric and ruching.

Most of us think of tiers as girlish and cute (not good) or a bit maternity-ish (ditto). A ruffle skirt on a swimsuit hits the same spot.

However, there are fashion-conscious women I know embracing tiers to add texture and structure to loose shapes.

In a long-sleeved, round-necked midi dress, the tiers break it up and make it more feminine. Likewise, a deep tier on the bottom of a simple A-line dress adds movement.

Flouncy skirts: The rules

A deep tier on the bottom of a longish skirt is your entry level.

Longer is better and never wear tiers in an above-the-knee skirt.

Choose soft, light fabrics — not cotton or denim. 

Looked at this way, tiers aren’t a fussy, flouncy extra but part of a new looser silhouette — the consequence of fuller skirts, floppier belted dresses, voluminous sleeves.

Providing you don’t mix them up with little puff sleeves, or boho ethnic prints, there is nothing to fear.

A good place to start looking at tiers in action is Me+Em, since the label is in the business of cherry-picking the trends we should pay attention to, and then making them wearable for busy grown-ups.

Apart from the track skirt, its dark blue tiered shirt dress is one of those pull-on-and-go items that will see you through into the summer (£225, meandem.com).

Also worth a look is its flared, easy midaxi dress in a clean floral print on navy. It isn’t officially ‘tiered’, but two lace insert bands around the skirt create a tiered effect and add character. All of the above you’re wearing dressed down with plimsolls — boots with tiered skirts take you into prairie girl territory, and that’s not for us.

The fabric is all-important: it should be fluid and light, not starchy (give denim and heavy cotton a wide berth) and plain colours or simple, unobtrusive prints work best.

Long sleeves counteract any hint of Bo Peep.

For a less sporty take, Zara does an animal-print, balloon-sleeved belted midi dress with a ruffle hem that’s a little bit last-days-of-disco, but also elegant (£49.99, zara.com).

La Redoute has a white-on-black printed midi dress with a high neck and long sleeves (£48, laredoute.co.uk).

And, for later in the year, its midaxi blue floral-print, tie-waisted dress with a slight ruffle at the collar and shoulders (£58, laredoute.co.uk) shows tiers can be floral and pretty and still not Daughter’s Only.

If a dress seems too much, go for a tiered ankle-grazing skirt like Hush’s in a lightning-bolt print (£65, hush-uk.com). You can wear this any day now with a sweatshirt and trainers, and maybe a leather jacket. Go with the flow.

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