Nothing riles a reader quite so effectively as the fashion editor who announces: “This season you can’t survive without a diamante breastplate/striped leg-warmers/hob-nailed boots.” So I’ll phrase it this way: This spring you are going to want an elegant frock.
I don’t mean one of those I – lost – my – innocence – in – a munitions – factory numbers in the harshest of bright colours. Their spots, stripes and garish prints will be jostling one another on the rails, padded shoulders to the fore. Starved of sunshine, warmth and colour after the drearily prolonged winter, you may be tempted to succumb to their superficial allure. My advice is to resist if you can, and to invest some time in tracking down something a little more subtle, a little ladylike, a little less throwaway.
The shape is certainly lean and belted with emphasis on the shoulders and neckline, but that doesn’t necessarily mean oversized shoulder pads. Not only do shoulder pads even half a centimetre too long produce an unbalanced look, they can also produce a deformed look if the sleeves are not cut generously. Check what they look like from the back, too.
Shiny, silky synthetic fabrics have been used in many of the dresses for this summer and, pretty as they are, they are not really sensible for hot weather, or if you are rushing around earning your crust: Fine for cool summer evenings, however.
Silk crepes and cotton voiles are more comfortable and lend themselves to gatherings, draping and runching in a way that gives emphasis to the top half. They also, when well cut, skim the hips and fall easily to the (shorter) hem, creating an illusion of narrowness while in fact containing enough material not to impede your stride.
The natural fibres seem to take this summer’s vivid colours more successfully, too, softening their potential harshness and making them easier to wear with pallid early-spring face.
A return to elegance always brings a return to sophisticated black, a colour which flatters most British complexions and can look quite stunning on black ones. It’s a colour which always needs dressing up, though, with a scarlet scarf or a shiny gold junk jewellery necklace. Biba, now in Conduit Street, London W1, has some splendid silk scarves/sashes in plain, strong colours at about £10.
For top and toes you need a smooth, sleek head, tidy and very grown-up and slim high-heeled sandals or court shoes. We’re all going to have to learn how to teeter again.