How To Pick The Perfect Dress With Isabel Spearman

The woman who helped shape Samantha Cameron's Downing Street image reveals the ins and outs of finding your perfect dress...

Isabel Spearman perfect dress

by Laura Antonia Jordan |
Updated on

Some women are shoe addicts, others change their handbags daily, but Isabel Spearman is mad about dresses. ‘I have to stop buying them!’ she says, with a smile that implies she’s not making any promises. Although she’ll happily embrace the chance to get properly dressed up (‘I’m so antisocial, I get no FOMO whatsoever, but I love an invite purely because I can think about what dress I’ll get to wear to it’), for Isabel, the dress’s real charm is all about daily convenience. ‘They’re easy. I’m always in a rush in the morning, trying to get out the door with two young children. Just putting a dress on cuts 10 minutes off my morning routine,’ she says.

Maximising time and efficiency is something Isabel has down to a fine art. She started her career working with bag designer Anya Hindmarch – ‘I learned everything I know from her’ – where she stayed for eight years, working her way up from intern to PR director, launching the I’m Not A Plastic Bag campaign in the States. After a brief interlude in India, she returned to the UK, where she ran into Samantha Cameron at a wedding, who asked Isabel if she would help her prep for the 2010 election campaign. ‘It was so exciting,’ she says. ‘I could apply the branding and marketing principles I’d learned at Anya to a person.’ When the Camerons made it into Number 10, Samantha told her, ‘Well, you can’t leave now.’ Isabel stayed for nearly six years as a special advisor – including a second general election in 2015 – a role that required meticulous organisation and a sharp eye for sending out the right message.

As what formed part of that message was, of course, wearing the right clothes, Isabel’s remit included helping plan the Sam Cam wardrobe; one which would see her embrace affordable brands, champion British designers and ensure publicity for charity visits by choosing pieces that were enough of a statement to warrant media coverage. During this time, Isabel also helped nurture the green shoots of Samantha’s then top-secret brand, Cefinn, finding the first pattern cutter and acting as a guinea pig for early designs.

Isabel left Downing Street in 2015 when she was pregnant with her second child. Since then, she’s noticed an increased willingness of women to wear dresses to work. ‘In Downing Street, if you put on a dress everyone was like, “Oh, how lovely!” because at that time there were so many women wearing suits and trying to “fit in”. But I think there’s been a massive shift in women in business and they now feel comfortable enough to wear dresses– it’s not seen as frivolous any more,’ she says, citing Nancy Pelosi, Amal Clooney and the City’s Helena Morrissey as great examples of women nailing non-boring workwear.

Last summer, Isabel took her dress dedication one step further, founding a new Instagram account, @DailyDressEdit, alongside her day job, which is consulting for high-profile businesswomen. ‘I was doing a lot of workwear at the time and was missing the frivolity. I was missing dresses,’ she says. Earlier this year, Grosvenor Estate approached her about turning the account into a pop-up store, which opens on Belgravia’s Motcomb Street on 9 May. The Daily Dress Edit pop-up will host a curated edit of dresses from more than 25 of Isabel’s favourite brands, including Kitri, Me+Em, Emilia Wickstead, Borgo De Nor, vintage finds from Laura von Behr and, of course, Samantha Cameron’s Cefinn. Designs will reflect Isabel’s love of colour and print, something she credits to her Spanish mother. ‘You’re not going to find a black/grey dress there,’ she smiles.

With prices starting at around £100, the selection of brands stocked at the pop-up will be a democratic mix that reflects Isabel’s own wardrobe. Hers is a high/low mix that spans the high street (& Other Stories is a favourite, as is Zara), vintage (Laura Ashley finds scored on Etsy) and designer (she has a ‘small, really special collection’ of Emilia Wickstead dresses, including her wedding dress). Isabel, who says she can be counted on to be an ‘honest friend’, will be on hand to help customers find The One – or Ones. ‘there is something emotional about falling in love with a dress that should be relished,’ she laughs.

The Daily Dress Edit Pop-Up is open 9-22 May, 6-7 Motcomb Street, London

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