With spring’s mercurial nature, we’re after hard-working garments to see us through to warmer days – and a long dress is the epitome of minimal effort, maximum reward. You can layer one over tights, thermals and a long-sleeved shirt, under jackets, vests, jumpers and coats – switching up its look and feel as you do so. Whether you’re a fan of statement prints or you like your dresses pretty and pared-back, we’ve found the styles that’ll keep you feeling polished.

Prints charming
The good news is that slipping a vibrantly printed dress over your head means you can call it a day on any other real styling effort. Florals for spring might not be groundbreaking, but they’re a classic – and there’s enough variety out there to keep it feeling fresh. La Double J’s long-sleeved swing dress certainly speaks for itself, with its almost retro-style floral print and bright sunset tones. Veronica Beard’s silk Anuli dress (also from Muse Boutique) marries the structure of shoulder pads with a flowing asymmetrical hem and sweet daisy print, and Juliette Hogan’s graphic black and white silk Mei dress would look just as good over a black turtleneck as it would on its own later in the year. If you’re into the eye-catching black and white vibe, Sir the Label’s Realisme twist maxidress channels the look with abstract aplomb. Ruby has practically a whole wardrobe’s worth of ankle-skimming dresses in-store, and there are more to come in the brand’s spring 2023 collection, Spaces. For now, we’d wear the Gen mididress layered over knee-high boots with its gingham print, puff sleeves and on-or-off-shoulder silhouette. The Love is All Around dress from Twenty-Seven Names is the ultimate throw-on-and-go, with long sleeves, a high neck and custom red print – pair with ballet flats, your favourite sneakers or high-heeled sandals for (literal) elevation.

From nine to five
What constitutes workwear varies across the board – but you almost can’t go wrong with a sophisticated dress in a hard-working fabric. Harris Tapper’s Andree dress comes in a beautiful herringbone tweed, while Wynn Hamlyn’s grey pinstripe woollen Tandi dress could be styled over a white button-down for bodiced office realness – and worn on its own for after-work antics. Shirt dresses are a fail-safe for ease and comfort; Ruby’s Comet shirt dress buttons all the way down so you can adjust how much skin you show, while Kate Sylvester’s Nina dress is a sophisticated take on the style in a more flowy fabric with a belt attached.

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Daytime darling
Sometimes, you just want to throw on a dress for errands or a lunch date and feel put together but not too “done”. Ganni’s Broderie Anglaise maxidress adds just the right amount of drama with a smocked bodice and short puff sleeves, while Marle’s linen Sage dress would be perfect worn over a long-sleeve with platforms or sneakers. Kowtow’s tangerine cotton racerback dress adds a cheery bolt of colour, and Rachel Mills’s mini tee maxidress is a blank canvas that you can accessorise up or down as you wish (she also has a bias-cut maxidress coming out on October 4 that's another versatile staple).

Gimme the night
If springtime event-dressing has you sweating or freezing, an elegant long dress is your new best friend. Pastels are coming to play from several Kiwi and Aussie designers; sidestep Barbie pink for Maggie Marilyn’s soft candyfloss Challenge Accepted dress, get icy (visually) with Camilla and Marc’s pale blue Karsten knot dress, and float about in Zambesi’s minty silk Tunique dress – all would be chic with an oversized blazer for warmth. Proving black is anything but boring, Harris Tapper’s beaded Andree dress is made from bonded satin and dotted with amber resin beads, while Verner’s T-shirt gown dress manages to combine a creative shape and interesting cut-outs with warmth and an effortless feel thanks to its Tencel-jersey fabrication. The long-sleeved theme continues with Caitlin Crisp’s open-backed Diana dress bringing the glamour, and Paris Georgia’s black and cream Talulah dress in a slinky ruched finish.

Knit it good
Let’s face it – summer’s a way off, so a knitted dress is the MVP for staving off any unwelcome chills. Wynn Hamlyn’s pale blue Derry dress is made from a heavyweight yarn, with the label’s signature cut-outs adding interest to the decolletage. You could go bold with a visible underwear moment in the Tanzania dress by The Garment – or layer over tights and under a gilet for cooler days. Kate Sylvester’s knitted Birdie dress is another cut-out cutie, while Paris Georgia’s Bobbie dress feels snuggly as it sculpts all the way down. Most comfortable in black? Anna Quan’s Larissa dress is the type of knitted frock you could live in daily, and Wixii’s Sphera cashmere silk dress is a party in the back – sleek sophistication at the front.