Good heavens, its time to write an Autumn/Winter fashion report! Actually, its rather late; friends in the fashion industry wrote their reports for ‘AW 11’ (every industry has to have its own irritating acronyms, it gives them a sense of superiority when dealing with the uninitiated) back in March and are now chatting enthusiastically about the new aesthetic for Spring /Summer 2012, or ‘SS12’. But, for us ordinary Warwickshire folk, musing about forthcoming gloves and coats in lateish October feels about right. After all, we wouldn’t want to be rescued from a snow-stranded car by a handsome policeman wearing last-year’s colours would we!? Golly no.
A note of warning here, being a dedicated follower of fashion takes more than vanity, it takes a kind of thick-skinned determination that only comes with a slightly prattish self-confidence. It is genuinely not something you do to impress the opposite sex; you have to do this to entertain yourself, and yourself alone. Compliments are a nice by-product if you get it right. Far from being about sexual attraction, fashion is often an escape from men; it’s an almost exclusively female domain, about which men usually have no idea or interest. We can shut them out of mind and think about cut, colour and hem length instead. Fashion is for women what sport is for men. My husband has tried for ten years to explain Cricket to me, and I still have no idea which bits the Innings are. But then, he has no idea why I wouldn’t wear high platform heels with an ankle length skirt. Not that I’ve ever tried to explain. It’s one of those things that if you don’t instinctively understand it, then you simply can’t explain.
Early this year I thought I’d give the cheerful trend of ‘colour-blocking’ a go (Interpretation: wearing two or three bold or even clashing colours together). Standing in front of my six year old son wearing a scarlet skirt and a cobalt blue silk top I said: ‘I feel like I’m dressed in someone’s national Flag’. ‘Actually Mummy,’ he replied ‘ I was thinking of Noddy’. Right, I’ll try the blue with green, a flattering combination for redheads, I’m told. Green skirt, same blue top. The chirpy little voice of wisdom giggles: ‘NO Mummy! Now you’ve been made out of Lego’. I give up. Where are my jeans?
Trends. Hmm, yes, well. There are some that are not to be considered. Don’t attempt snake-hipped ‘Androgyny’ if you are : A. Any bigger than a size ‘6’ or, B. Pregnant. It won’t work. You’ll only look like a lumberjack. Similarly, floor-length lace is difficult to carry off unless you are an elegant and slightly bohemian 86 year old artist or appearing in a production of Great Expectations. Location is important too, I’ve learned; if you decided to go for the full-on S&M leather and plastic-with-phallic-hat and handcuffs look seen at the Paris shows this season (yes, really,) no one in Central London would bat a liquid-liner-loaded eyelid. But you’d look pretty odd sitting in Arden’s cafe in Kenilworth.
So what are the trends this season that are worth a look? Personal favourites are the nods to 1970s fitted and flared shapes and the full-on 1940s ladylike glamour. French Connection, Biba, Topshop, H&M, and Day – all on our local high-streets – have plenty of both. Or you could always head to those Warwickshire vintage clothes stores or the many charity shops round and about these parts for a more authentic look. There is a general rule about doing trends from previous decades: if you wore it the first time round, it’s best not to wear it again three decades later. I’m very happy with any trend with ideas stolen from about 1920 to 1970. But I draw the line at 1980s. I wore rah-rah skirts, chunky fluorescent jumpers and bat-wing tops in the 1980s. Re-done 1980s really gives me the horrors, I get flashbacks of all those awful teenage crushes and nightmares about sitting my O levels again. If you’re about to start revising for your GCSEs this year though, it’ll probably feel new and exciting. Second rule; take inspiration from previous decades, but its best to stick to one or two vintage pieces, rather go to Sainsbury’s styled head to toe as something from Boney M. Keep it updated.
When shopping, please don’t forget that you not a coat-hanger. I spend years getting depressed when something looked better on a plastic hanger than it did on me. Skip the body-image depression bit. Only bother with colours or shapes that are going to work for you. If you’ve got great boobs and a lovely curvy arse, a 1950s circle skirts and little fluffy sweaters will look fab, but you should probably leave the 1970s dress with enough material for a festival Yurt for someone less well endowed.
There are some fab colour trends this season too: really lovely autumn rust and chocolate colours, lots of camel and gold as well as deep red berry colours, gorgeous sapphire blues and deep emerald greens. If these are colours that work for you, stock up. They might not be back for a few years. Camel coats are in every autumn/winter, but they fraught with potential disaster if you have ginger-bread coloured hair. Try green instead. And go on, get rid of the black and grey! These colours are easy, I know, but rarely flattering unless you particularly want to just blend in to November. You don’t have to buy an ‘investment coat’ (interpretation: horribly expensive), there are lots of lovely things on the high-street and in vintage stores that will serve you just as well.
Ooh, I do love the autumn and winter. I’m really not a Summer girl at all; I don’t do heat and fake tans. I’m pale and interesting and damn proud of it. I like coats, and boots and I like to tuck my hair into big scarves. Forget kittens noses and parcels in string, my favourite things are autumnal colours and red gloves for snowy days, lots of hot chocolate and sparkly lights on lampposts.
Talking of sparkly lights, there is one little innovation from the world’s fashion houses this season at which my heart leaped with joy. I’ve long been able to by my small and demanding child shoes which light up when he bounces about. Well, one unfortunately far-too-expensive-for-the-likes-of-me designer has produced women’s shoes with a hollow heel that lights up the same way. Yahoo! Ahh, how long have I waited for this?! Come on high street, catch up. We want nice little kitten heels that light up please. That’ll brighten up Leamington. Green please. Or blue. While I’m about it, why don’t they make Darth Vader pants in my size? Or those zip-up fluffy sleep suits with Dalmatian spots all over?