How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Sick of your summer dress? Pull on a palazzo

  • Style expert Shane Watson, shared advice for pulling off the palazzo pants trend
  • She describes palazzos as high-waisted, silky and usually worn at night
  • She advises wearing the style with a neat top that’s either fitted or sleeveless
  • Shane also revealed the best places for finding the trend on any budget
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There are three stages of summer evening dressing. Stage one — you break out the Here Comes Summer dress.

When the heatwave first hit, the Here Comes Summer dress was everywhere you looked: wrappy, pretty, bright and printed, maybe with a ruffle hem or a discreet split.

Half the world went straight on to the Ganni website and ordered its silvery crepe wrap dress in Big Apple red and one in blue, for luck.

You can’t go wrong with the Here Comes Summer dress. But, as July gets into its stride, you realise that long summer nights call for more than a pretty frock.

This is summer evening dressing stage two. Now, you want to wear something that’s cooler, more elegant, a bit less girly — chic, for want of a better word — and the garment that ticks all these boxes is palazzo pants. The smooth answer to summer dress burnout.

Shane Watson says palazzo pants as seen on Victoria Beckham (pictured) are an elegant alternative to wearing cocktail dresses throughout summer

Palazzo pants, as the name suggests, are sophisticated, elegant and ideally suited to sipping cocktails on terraces at sundown.

If you want to know what the difference is between regular wide-leg trousers and palazzos, it’s probably to do with texture and fluidity and the time of day that you wear them.

Palazzos are high-waisted, silky and smooth, and, while you can, of course, wear them in the daytime, they come into their own at night, when they are the laidback alternative to a cocktail dress.

They’re also perfect for any occasion when you might have considered wearing something long: palazzos have all the swish and glamour of a maxi skirt, with a hint more drama.

(And, by the way, they are just the ticket on holiday when you want to dress up a bit without having to douse your legs in mosquito spray.)

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The best sort of palazzos come in an exotic print — perfect for making a big splash without the all-out commitment of a printed dress (£242, the Diane von Furstenberg diffusion line, DVF at matches, or leaf-print palazzo trousers, £38, Love at

You can tone them down with a little black top or a plain T-shirt, or pick out one of the print’s colours in a soft silk shirt.

Aside from botanicals, tile prints work best (£14.99, and, as it gets cooler, they will look good with turtlenecks. Fabrics with a bit of sheen are good, too (cherry-red palazzos, £19.99,, and, every so often a stripe, can work, such as Uterque’s belted style (£99, The key with palazzos is to keep it neat, fitted and simple on top and whatever top you wear should ideally just skim the waistband; tucking in can ruin the sleek effect.

For balance, it’s a good idea to wear a chunky necklace, dramatic earrings, or even both. You don’t want your bottom half stealing all the attention.

Incredibly, we haven’t even yet got to the real draw of palazzo pants.

What are the rules for wearing palazzo pants?

  • Palazzos don’t have to be waisted — they can be high on the hips, if that works better for you.
  • They should be fluid and silky. Don’t attempt them in crisp cotton or linen.
  • Always wear something neat on top. A T-shirt shape, or fitted and sleeveless or with cutaway shoulders, works best.
  • Go for a bold print, though nothing too bright.


Provided you avoid pleats, belts and pockets (with the odd exception), palazzos can be fabulously flattering, especially in a fabric with a bit of stretch, not least because you can wear them extra-long, with high wedges hidden underneath.

(Alternatively, you don’t have to hide them — palazzos also look good finished off with some show-off, on-show blingy heels.)

That said, if you’re wearing palazzos the way the fashion crowd is, that would be slightly too long and floppy with slides or flat sandals, a tight tank top and lots of mascara.

So, can you go wrong with palazzo pants? Well, of course you can.

You don’t want to go too floaty (for example, palazzos with a sheer overlay) and you definitely don’t want to dabble in front leg slits.

Lacy palazzos could be OK, but only on your daughter, and cropped palazzos are really culottes by another name, which I cannot in good conscience recommend.

Also, apart from plain black (£59, or £49, and red, block-coloured palazzos are a wasted opportunity and, oddly, less flattering. A plain pair of baby blue or orange palazzos will not do anyone any favours.

It’s also very important that these trousers fit like a glove.

Some belted styles work, but on the whole, the classic palazzo look — snug on the hips and zipped at the side — is the one that gets the best results. Keep thinking cocktail, Italian Riviera, and all will be well.

If you’re wondering what summer dressing stage three entails — patience, please. We’ll get to that mid-August.

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