Fashion | Nov 9, 2017
In winter, clothes should have sleeves
Sometimes you have to state the absolutely bleeding obvious for quite a long time before you get heard. Women’s suffrage in Switzerland, for instance. And now, nice clothes with sleeves. Not, perhaps, a cause célèbre of quite the same soul-stirring magnitude but progress nonetheless. Most dresses and tops on sale in Britain in winter have short sleeves – a hangover, I suspect, from the days when we would have been doing the laundry with a bucket and mangle. Those days may have long gone, but the short sleeves have stuck, which is why we as a nation are obsessed with cardigans. But a long-sleeve top, or long-sleeve dress – if you can find one – looks much smarter and more elegant than a nice dress with a cardie over it.
Do not wear kitten heels with a pencil skirt
Mad Men fashion has a lot to answer for. The clothes in Mad Men are fabulous; no one’s arguing with that. But there are a lot of women out there channelling Mad Men and getting it wrong. Prime suspect is the woman wearing a pencil skirt to the knee with a pair of kitten heels. It’s very easy to channel the woman-in-an-office aspect of Mad Men but getting the undertones right – lunchtime Martinis, loaded glances, a whiff of Arpège by Lanvin in the air – means attention to detail. You can wear kitten heels with a pencil skirt, but the skirt needs to be a little longer than most, finishing below rather than on the knee. Alternatively, you can wear the kitten heel with a neat waisted, full-skirted shape. Either way, wear a neat top with a good bra and do your hair properly. Otherwise you’re not Joan, you’re a generic office manager.
Buy some flat boots that you really like
If you are a vain idiot like me, this one purchase will change your life. I promise. My flat boots are shearling with a furry lining and they are Jimmy Choo so I’m not even going to tell you how much they cost because I can’t deal with all the haters. But I stand by them. I just don’t really understand how it has taken me two decades of adult life to realise that footwear I can wear outside, in winter weather, without risking either frostbite or a slipped disc is a really good idea. I think possibly there is a part of me that is only just coming to terms with the fact that modelling my shoe collection on Tamara Mellon and Carine Roitfeld is not all that practical when you don’t have a driver. A biker boot, an Ugg, an Emu: just do it. You won’t regret it.
Wear a proper coat, not an anorak
Sorry, but are you 12? No. Right then, take that parka off and get yourself a proper coat. Yes, you are quite right, there was a point last year when Kate Moss and Alexa Chung and suchlike wore parkas instead of proper coats and got heaps of adoring column inches for it. But, firstly, they mostly wore them with Chanel mini-dresses and baby giraffe legs, which not all of us have, and secondly, that was last year, people! This year, get a proper coat. This does not have to mean an expensive coat. It means a grown-up coat that doesn’t make you look like a slobby fourth former on a field trip. The Jil Sander collection at Uniqlo has some beautiful tailored wool coats for around £100; at the time of writing I am still on the waiting list for my Whistles dream number and am wearing an Oasis camel coat.
Leopard is the new denim
How irritating it is when people affect an aloof faux-bafflement in the face of the modern world. The who-is-Gazza/what-is-Twitter brigade. Well, here’s another thing for them to get all prissy about. Leopard, which used to be a kind of vampy slutty brassy landlady look, is now mainstream chic. So much so that I don’t even really see it as a pattern or a colour any more – I think of it as a neutral, like denim, to be worn with absolutely anything. (The new version of double denim, a badge of honour for fashion’s daredevils, is double leopard; you have to have a certain panache not to look cheesy, but that’s the whole point.) If you’re still making “grrr” jokes when faced with a leopard-print dress, get with the programme, grandpa.
Do not let this Black Trouser moment go to waste
Right now, a simple pair of black or charcoal trousers is a hot ticket fashion item. Obviously, if you are a trouser girl you don’t actually need a signed permission slip from the Paris fashion week powers-that-be to wear them, but the fashionability is still relevant. Firstly, because in fashion, trickle-down theory really does work, which means there are currently great trousers to be had on the high street, so you may as well take advantage, or you will kick yourself when your favourite pair falls apart in six months’ time and the shops are full of calf-length skirts. Secondly, because if you can basically wear what you always wear and look like you’re working a catwalk look, that’s an easy win, no?
There, I’ve said it. Because truly, what’s the point? They are silly. Just silly. Either you can’t use your arms at all or your arms stick out of holes at an awkward angle so you look as if you are doing a Punch & Judy show. Plus, anyone who would actually be impressed by the fact that you are wearing a cape is a bit of a prat. Yes, superheroes wear capes, but usually they wear them for flying. Can you fly? Quite. Take it off. Now.
Be careful with sequins
And I don’t just mean about not letting them ping off and fall all over the floor, although that is an issue. I mean, be aware that sequins have gone from unusual to ironic glamour to overkill in the past two or three years. Same goes for fake fur. With so much razzle-dazzle around, you want to avoid looking like the oldest chorus girl in town. Best modernising trick for sequins and fake fur is to dress them down. So take your sequined top out of your Night Out section and layer it under a cardigan for a weekend lunch. “Glamour” fabrics have impact because they stand out, so it makes way more sense to wear your sequins and faux-fur when no one else is.
When tempted by The Military Look, remind yourself You Are Not In A Fashion Shoot
Clothes with a strong narrative are brilliant in magazine shoots, where the whole point is to create a compelling backstory for the bland teenage twiglet who is wearing the clothes. But here’s the thing: you have a backstory already. It’s called your life. Channelling a bossy-but-brave-war-hero thing is distracting and confusing. Military fashion has its uses: soldiers need coats that do up securely and are waterproof, which are useful coat-properties. But don’t get carried away.
To me, the absolute highest compliment one can pay anything during November and December is that it is Christmassy. For those two months, Christmassy trumps Amazing. (Fabulous went out with the ark, darling, didn’t you know?) For this reason I love red in winter. But then, I am a bit of a Christmas-pusher. (Go on, just one snowflake sticker on the window won’t do any harm. It’s Christmassy!) For autumn/winter 2010/11, red has been decreed the new black, so the force is with me this year.