Remember The Zara Dress of 2019? This is her now…
What springs to mind when you read the words ‘The Zara Dress’?
Is it black and white polka dots? Three-quarter sleeves? A flowing calf-length hemline? Of course it is.
This dress had such a moment in the summer of 2019.
This was more than just a trend, more than just an it-item – this was well and truly viral. Personally, I couldn’t walk down the street for five minutes without seeing at least one of these dresses on somebody.
Corinna Ingram tells me that her sister and her friend – both called Sarah – accidentally showed up to a music festival both wearing the dress.
‘We still laugh about it now,’ she says, ‘as it made it so easy when the rest of us went to the toilet to find them in the crowd again.
‘I also had the dress but didn’t wear it that day, thankfully.’
Stylist Alice Nichol knew exactly what garment I was talking about when I asked for her thoughts on ‘The Zara Dress’.
‘I mean,’ she says, ‘it even had its own Instagram account!
‘To be honest, I think it really kick-started the trend of wearing dresses with trainers, or the trend of wearing dresses with pretty much anything. This dress allowed people to interpret it in any way they wanted to suit their style but also show individuality, make it their own, which you kind of needed to do, as you never knew if you would be stood next to someone in the bar or train station wearing one.
‘Polka dots were a trend for S/S 2019 Carolina Herrera, Celine and Prada all showed them on their catwalks – but it was this dress that really took the trend off.’
It also happened to suit a wide range of shapes and sizes really well.
Alice explains: ‘For starters, the tiered trapeze shape is super flattering. The waistband was between empire and high-waisted so suited anyone from a small to large bust, plus the frill at the bottom balanced out shoulders. The fabric was lightweight and could be worn alone or layered, so literally everyone felt good in it.
‘It seems that dress hit the sweet spot of fit to suit all, a print that is pretty universally liked and is a classic plus price point of £39.99.
‘Coinciding with outfit selfies, style influencers really gaining momentum on social media at that time, particularly Instagram, it just all came together as a perfect high street, micro trend storm.’
Corinna, who works in PR, tells me she got the dress after she saw her sister wearing it, and loved it so much she got it in two more colours.
‘Then I also got it in red and blue as well – do you remember they brought it out in two more colours? I just loved how wearable it was, it was flattering, not too tight, and I even wore it again last year when I was pregnant – due to its loose style it’s great for hiding any lumps and bumps.
‘I also liked how it could be dressed up for interviews or more formal occasions or dressed down as a nice summery, relaxed look.’
Corinna isn’t the only one to tell me she loved to wear the dress when she was pregnant.
‘Blows my mind to think I wore it to a wedding in the early days,’ says Hannah Griffith. ‘It’s since seen me through two pregnancies and I dyed it pink.’
For Hannah, its popularity was part of its charm.
‘It’s just so wearable,’ she adds. ‘I got it in early 2019 so was among the early wave – saw it in Zara Covent Garden if I remember, and liked the cut, pattern and price initially.
‘Its popularity was pretty funny to me. You’d exchange a knowing glance with other people wearing it. My partner and I kept count some days – I think four was a record, and I’d keep an eye on Hot 4 The Spot’s Insta. It was just quite an enjoyable light cultural moment.’
Esther, who had one of the dresses herself too, also enjoyed counting how many times she could see them in the wild that summer.
‘A few of my friends and colleagues bought it too,’ she tells me, ‘and living in London it became a fun game of spot the spotty dress on my bus journey to work.’
But then as quickly as they arrived, the dresses all but vanished, becoming, for some, a victim of its own popularity.
Journalist Suzanne Baum had the dress in its heyday just like everybody else, but now she says: ‘I’m not joking looking at it now, it makes me want to puke.’
She adds that she liked how comfortable and lightweight it was when she first saw it, and used to wear it for work.
‘I bought it long before it became popular,’ the mum-of-three goes on. ‘Looking back I have zero clue why it was so popular and as soon as I saw it everywhere. I stopped wearing it as it made me cringe.
‘I got photographed in it interviewing Charlotte Tilbury and another time with Fern Cotton and I recall thinking I looked like a sack of potatoes in it next to these two glamorous women!
‘Thinking about the dress now it makes me feel sick. There was no shape to it and I can’t believe it became a trend as there’s nothing special about it.’
‘It became so commonplace I started only wearing it away from London,’ says Esther, ‘when I visited friends or family in Suffolk or when I was abroad.
‘I definitely wore it less as I noticed the phenomenon of its popularity and all the social media attention it was getting.
‘I almost felt a bit embarrassed to own it like I was some kind of white millennial stereotype, but I can remember thinking I’d just hang onto it for a couple of years until the fuss had died down and the fast fashion cycle had moved on.’
In the end, Hannah dyed hers too, to try and breathe a bit more life into it after having seen it everywhere for a season.
‘Pink felt low risk, and I was happy with the result – am still wearing it today during pregnancy number two, in summer number five.’
Even if this dress has fallen from grace now compared to 2019, its mark on that summer won’t easily be forgotten.
‘The dress is still available to get on pre-loved sites and last year Marks and Spencer released a similar one hoping to recreate the success, Zara launched polka dots dresses since too but nothing has taken off like that one,’ says Alice.
‘To be honest I am not sure if one will, there is always the “it” item of the season. The Birkenstock Boston clogs this season for example, or the Gucci crossover bag or the Loewe bag for summer, with designer items you kind of expect it – the aspirational aspect of it, the lifestyle and status that comes with having that item.
‘Which is why the Zara dress was such a surprise – the price point and brand were nothing particularly aspirational. It was its accessibility that was the appeal instead.
‘It was in my opinion, the start of a time when you could easily buy into a look/item the influencer was wearing.’
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