The great cover up
The name Gisele Bündchen conjures up some distinct images.
It’s only March, but already the fashion world is getting ready to wrap up warm. We might be feeling footloose and fancy-free in circle skirts and ballet pumps this summer, but don’t forget that high-necked cardigan if you want to capture the real spirit of Sandra Dee. Prim and proper has begun to make its presence felt in the style stakes, and 1950s housewife chic is just the beginning. Waspish waists, neck scarves, Mary-Jane shoes and the sort of handbag that could floor a mugger help create a silhouette which hasn’t been popular since prefeminist times.
The ladylike look has come as a relief to many. Hipsters had stayed just a little too low and the booty-shaking, belly-baring antics of Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Beyonc Knowles looked great on MTV but unsavoury on the average British female.
Even Kylie Minogue seems to be hanging up her hotpants, telling Vogue "I look at all the girls on MTV and everything is so graphic - all tits and arse - and I think I might have started all that with the gold hot pants and by presenting myself in such a sexual way." While Jordan rumbles in the jungle and Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction, all that flash and trash is about to be elegantly swiped to one side by the return of Ms Modest.
The idea of covering up untoned flesh, paring down bright colour and brash jewellery and giving up on failed boho impersonations of Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw means that women have a simpler set of rules to follow. "Every season has to have a story," says Kirsty Knust, fashion adviser at John Lewis Edinburgh. "We’ve done 1980s, raunchy and disco style but fashion goes in cycles. The current look isn’t urban; it’s cute and feminine rather than sexy."
Prada started the craze on the catwalk for the circle skirt teamed with modest blouse and it’s a look which has filtered down to the high street. Tailored clothing is certainly more flattering than the clinging silks and chiffons seen on Oscars night, but the danger is that you end up looking oldfashioned and lacking in imagination. Since she moved to England, Madonna has tried the look intermittently, wearing floral shift dresses or tailored trench coats. But even the material girl comes off looking worryingly close to frumpy.
But you can’t halt the tide of fashion. Along with Gisele’s secretarial chic, Marc Jacobs presented long, wide-legged trousers which looked flattering teamed with a cropped, fitted cardigan - very Amelia Earheart. Almost everything was belted at the waist and while this worked on some occasions, some printed dresses were scarily reminiscent of the nylon uniforms M&S staff used to wear back in the 1980s. Jacobs said that the look was "about finding Mrs Thatcher sexy." Whether you actually want to model yourself on the Iron Lady is another matter.
At Calvin Klein the long-legged silhouette was far more sensual, with materials such as mohair, cashmere and silk softening the edges. Even Alexander McQueen dropped the bad-boy theatrics in favour of sombre nude shades, including a camel tweed skirt suit featuring a jacket with built-in neck tie. His ankle-length skirts teamed with polo necks ensured every inch of flesh was covered. Pringle continued its demure but sweet summer styling into the autumn collection with luxurious cardigans and for real outdoor girls, pink and vanilla tweed plus-fours.
The social implication of going for the demure look is that you have several hours a day available for grooming. Whether your icon is Jackie Onassis, Lady Thatcher or Audrey Hepburn, this sort of classic style requires manicured talons, stay-in-place hair and polished shoes. In the past we might have teamed a faux Chanel boucle jacket with jeans and heels, but real ladies wouldn’t dream of this sort of mix-and-match approach. For this reason, the lady-like vibe is a winner for the working environment, but perhaps less easy to maintain 24/7.
Get the look
From the past, look to Jackie Onassis, Audrey Hepburn and Lady Thatcher for that subdued and stately look.
Marc Jacobs is leading the Thatcher chic revolution, with pussy-bow blouses, tapered knee-length skirts and belted waists. Choose Julien Macdonald at Givenchy for a reworking of Audrey Hepburn style, especially the modest black dress and ballet pumps. Chanel has the classic boucle suits, while Pringle remains the choice for those classic Argyle cardigans and Alexander McQueen has gone all neutral good taste with tweed skirt suits and simple shift dresses.
To pull this look off you’ll need a knee-length skirt - pencil or slightly flared; long, wide-legged trousers; a printed blouse; a trench coat; a sturdy handbag; a slender leather belt; round-toed shoes and a whole cupboard full of scarves. Don’t forget the disapproving expression.
Hobbs is the perfect purveyor of the chic-but-demure look and, in terms of the trench coat, almost every high-street store has one in stock. French Connection are a good source of pencil skirts and sharp shirts and Coast has pretty skirts and cardigans which err on the girly side of ladylike. For that Chanel-inspired jacket, try brands such as Planet, Mexx and Paul Costelloe. You’ll find appropriate printed neckerchiefs costing 8 at TopShop or 69 for the silk version at Liberty. Oasis, H&M and Gap are all good sources of individual items that will combine to help you get this look and, in your preferred department store, don’t be afraid to investigate those labels you might normally consider a little too sensible.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North