Fashion is growing up. Gone are the parades of bare legs, arms and front/side/under boob that ordinarily populate the runway. Demure is back, and with it the demise of ‘teens only’ style; hemlines are longer, sleeves are back and high necks take the place of cleavage. In other words, proper clothes for real women who want their wardrobe to be suitable in scenarios that don’t involve clubbing. What a relief.
It’s a street style trend that has been bubbling under for some time. Russian fashion doyenne and designer Ulyana Sergeenko was once a curious sight at fashion week; in her ballet length skirts and dresses, teetering stilettoes and nipped-in jackets, she looked like a model thought up during the creation of Christian Dior’s New Look collection. No one else was wearing what she was – most show-goers were favouring the Stan Smith and jeans look – but she struck a chord. Increasingly, the style set have been gravitating towards ladylike dressing; think Giovanna Battaglia in feminine full skirts, Mira Duma in elegant buttoned-up coats and the Attico girls in languid robes layered over jeans or long dresses. The mood has even infected Kendall Jenner; she was recently spotted in Lauren Bacall-esque khaki trousers, toe-cap shoes and a retro fur jacket – a far cry from a barely-there, crystal-adorned mini dress modelled on Paris Hilton’s. Covering up is, slowly but surely, becoming the new cool.
" think Giovanna Battaglia in feminine full skirts, Mira Duma in elegant buttoned-up coats and the Attico girls in languid robes layered over jeans or long dresses"
And it’s on the runways. Valentino has been capitalising on its elegantly austere aesthetic in recent seasons, with ankle-length dresses, long coats and turtle neck collars. So too has Erdem. For AW17, their prairie-meets-Edwardian look took on an Eastern guise; models covered up in Ottoman-inspired damask velvet or embroidered skirts, dresses and coats while voile and guipure lace dresses provided some familiarity – all, naturally, in neck to ankle silhouettes. Emilia Wickstead, Rochas and Nina Ricci dressed their models in billowy-sleeved frocks and tailored ankle-skimming coats and dresses – some in block colour, some in graphic print – while Loewe opted for high neck midi dresses with bishop sleeves and contrasting cut-out panels. Victoria Beckham showed long-sleeved, swishy skirted styles teamed with long boots, blazers and leather gloves for a modern take on ladylike style.
It’s not all about dresses though – for AW17, Max Mara, Fendi, Ryan Roche and Brock Collection all teamed theirs with long, elegant coats – many belted and in plush fabrics like velvet and fur. Ellery, inspired by the upscale neighbourhoods in Paris, created a collection of ultra-modern midi dresses – think latex-coated floral styles, ones with witchy fringed sleeves or dramatic shoulder puffs. But it was the coats that stuck with us – part psychedelic hippie, part Anna Karenina, the belted cover-ups with dramatic fur collars and cuffs were pure, distilled femininity.
Other than looking incredibly elegant, the good thing about this trend is that it’s easy to adopt. If you’re a denim devotee, the addition of a ‘proper’ coat (one that swishes around corners) instantly gives more polish than a puffer ever can. No great love affairs ever happened in a down-filled waterproof. Like a dress but less keen on the ‘strategic’ cut-outs? Layering is your friend. Slip on a shirt or roll neck underneath to channel this season’s silhouette. Oh, and stop wearing trainers – just for a bit – and try on some heels for size.Dresses that hit both the neck and the ankle just look better with leg-lengthening shoes. Yes, we know, they’re not as comfy, but that’s what Uber is there for. Right?
The look is about real femininity – the elegance that women exude when they’re confident in their own skin, not just bravado derived from a thigh slit and a Wonderbra. This season, we insist: ladies first.