a vintage year for the stars

The year started the way it meant to go on. The fascination with celebrity fashion reached fever pitch in 2001. The tabloids had Madonna’s wedding to keep them occupied over the quiet festive period. But by mid-January there were more pressing matters - the entire contents of Victoria Beckham’s wardrobe were unveiled when she gave evidence in a court case concerning the theft of eight Louis Vuitton suitcases from Heathrow airport.

In LA new purchases became pass when Julia Roberts became the first woman in Hollywood history to wear a nine-year-old frock to collect her Oscar. The black and white 1992 Valentino couture dress - acquired from the designer’s own Italian vaults - stole the show and marked a seismic shift in fashion. Suddenly, vintage was hip.

Back in Britain, a General Election was on the cards and Tony Blair was projecting the image of a surefire Premier. Since March he had been wearing his lucky red tie made from subtly striped Italian silk - "20 from M&S and a firm favourite for any public appearance", said the Mirror. On-duty Blair turned elder statesman when he wore his steel rimmed glasses in public for the first time whilst Off-duty Blair wore jeans accessorised with a guitar case. Despite a second Labour landslide, Cool Britannia became lukewarm with fashion designers. "I don’t trust Tony Blair," declared celebrity shoe-maker Patrick Cox. "I think he’ll say anything to win votes."

In May, Mary Archer committed the ultimate fashion faux pas when she wore white court shoes to accompany her husband to the Old Bailey, while David Beckham’s controversial Mohican haircut dominated the front pages of the tabloids. "I have had a lot of stick in the dressing room at United - we’ve all laughed about it," he said at a press conference with a wry smile on his face. Pringle - which had terminated its long-standing contract with Nick Faldo - scored a triple whammy when its Argyle intarsia sweater was spotted on Jamie Oliver, David Beckham, and Robbie Williams, who was taking a few swings at the Mill Ride Golf Club, in Ascot.

Elton John’s third annual White Tie and Tiara Ball - held in the 36-acre grounds of his Windsor home in July - brought the celebrities out in force. Posh Spice wore 2 million worth of diamonds, Naomi Campbell wore Azzedine Alaa, Elle Macpherson donned leopardskin Valentino, Kate Winslet squeezed herself into a corset dress by Dolce & Gabbana. Mick Jagger - accompanied by his daughter, Elizabeth, and a documentary camera crew - looked typically urbane in a gold suit by John Pearse. Among the lots auctioned for Elton’s AIDS charity were a pair of diamond-encrusted Salvatore Ferragamo shoes worth 20,000.

Paris Couture was pale by comparison. Julien Macdonald made his debut at Givenchy and Versace’s catwalk was suitably opulent, with 15,000 pink roses encased under the catwalk. At the post-show party P Diddy turned DJ and played Versace-friendly messages over the sound system. There was a flurry of fashion activity: Phoebe Philo took over at Chlo, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney both decided to concentrate on their own labels and Hussein Chalayan, who closed down earlier in the year with debts of around 250,000, was hired to design a collection for Asprey and Garrard. By autumn the Big Brother obsession peaked, with Helen - a blonde hairdresser from Wales - wearing spangly jeans and releasing a fitness video. She was later given the Sadly Deluded Award by the Sunday Mirror. Kate Winslet told Hello how, post pregnancy, she had shed four stone. "After delivering Mia I thought: ‘Great, now I can wear my leather trousers’. I cried when they wouldn’t go past my calves."

Winslet didn’t just change her wardrobe - she swapped her husband Jim Threapleton for Oscar-winning film director Sam Mendes a few weeks later. Meanwhile, American Vogue heralded "Linda Evangelista’s Stunning Return". The original supermodel, now 36 years old, who once famously said she wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $10,000 per day, returned from a three-year sabbatical in St Tropez and a short stint in Manchester with footballer Fabien Barthez.

When the Twin Towers collapsed on 11 September, New York Fashion week was in full swing. Ironically, it was the fashion editors - more used to commenting on the minutiae of hemlines than the possibility of World War Three - who became responsible for reporting on the tragedy. By the time London Fashion Week was underway the Americans had, understandably, decided to stay at home and the first show was greeted with a minute’s silence.

Stella McCartney’s debut own label collection in Paris had a similar effect. Her T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Bristols" and bikini knickers with "Wet" printed across them left the fashion press speechless. The Independent summed up the collective sentiments by remarking: "Stella couldn’t cut an apple pie." A few weeks later, in Milan, the world press were summoned to witness the honeymoon of Jennifer Lopez and Cris Judd. The wedding reception, hosted by Donatella Versace at her house in Villa Fontanelle on Lake Como, was a PR dream, precisely timed to coincide with the Milan collections.

The fascination with Posh and Becks continued, as Brooklyn Beckham - barely out of romper suits - became a miniature fashion plate photographed at premieres, on football terraces and at his mother’s concerts wearing Burberry, Kickers and graffiti T-shirts by Wale Adeyemi. Kylie Minogue appeared riding a velvet-covered bronco in a suitably risque Agent Provocateur advertisement - regarded as too raunchy for TV and relegated to over-18 certificate films. As the year drew to a close, Elizabeth Hurley - who built her career on an ability to wear a sensational safety pin dress - announced her pregnancy and immediately left the tabloids wondering how long she could go on wearing skintight trousers. During 2001 Madonna’s wardrobe ranged from a white suit with Mrs Ritchie embroidered on the back to a geisha dress with trainers. In December she hit the headlines for wearing a Philip Treacy fox fur hat - a curious occurrence, since her close friend Stella McCartney is a fervent anti-fur activist. While observers wondered about the state of their friendship, Madonna, wearing a tailored trousersuit, squashed all speculation while presenting the Turner Prize Award a week later. "Do you like my outfit," she asked the assembled throng, adding emphatically, "It’s by Stella McCartney."