When it comes to our wardrobes, as much as we might love a bargain, who wants to sacrifice style on the altar of thrift?
Luckily, right now, many of our favourite stores on the High Street and online have found a way to hit the sweet spot of fashion and affordability with the £39.50 dress.
Championed by Marks & Spencer — and currently helping the chain’s fashion offering take credit for reviving its fortunes — as well as a host of other brands, this latest flock of frocks ranges from feminine tiered designs and smart shirt dresses to florals without the frump.
And why a dress? Since it’s just the one item, it’s the no-brainer outfit solution for late summer — and can make for a pleasingly affordable wardrobe update.
There’s no need for guilt, even if you don’t get months of wear before you pack it away until next year.
Here’s our round-up of the best dresses under £40 on the High Street right now…
M&S tiered wonder
Looking for a late summer buy to see you through the seasons? Tiered dresses tend to be a universally flattering shape and work for almost all occasions.
Whether you’re after something loose and floaty for the Indian summer we’re all hoping for, or want to layer up your frock with knits and boots if we’re not so lucky, this style will work as a wardrobe staple.
This timeless black midi from M&S has a flattering V-neckline and subtle puff sleeves, while Mango’s halterneck has an open back. Both are made from 100 per cent cotton.
Fabulous floral prints
Not just for spring to summer, this print can flourish all year round. Right now, whether your taste runs to bright florals or moody blooms, anything goes — for flowers are having a moment.
Chanel based its AW23 show around the camellia, while Richard Quinn took his inspiration from the novel and film The Secret Garden, sending models down a catwalk lined with bouquets in his signature floral prints.
Want to join in? Try New Look’s gown in red and pink. It comes in at well under the £40 mark and will add a splash of colour on a rainy day, whi;e Reserved’s monochrome style will take you anywhere at any time.
£27, New Look at very.co.uk
£35.99, reserved. com
Smart shirt dresses
Fed up with limp linen and tired sun tops? For the perfect antidote to a late summer fashion malaise, sharpen up your wardrobe with a crisp shirt dress.
This green belted style by Reserved has a Max Mara feel to it for a fraction of the price, at £29.99.
After something that you can wear for many occasions? These super smart styles from Mango and Next put in the work as the perfect desk-to-dinner frocks.
Maxi dresses aren’t just for a day at the beach, they’re an elegant choice for everyday dressing.
Mango’s loose blue design is effortlessly stylish and the perfect length to wear with flats or heels.
To vamp it up, simply add gold jewellery and you’ve got yourself a black-tie look — no one need know your dress was only £32.99.
Not keen to bare arms? Try this M&S maxi with a sweetheart neckline.