The frill is gone
Autumn/winter collections are taking a simpler and more practical approach, write Divia Harilela and Candy Soo
As soon as the twice-yearly runway shows in the US and Europe are over, a group of influential fashion editors sit down and compile a list of trends that will dictate your wardrobe for the next season. This method has worked year after year but now with the credit crunch and a limit on luxury spending, it's time to get real.
For the autumn/winter season, fashion is taking a new approach that is simple yet practical. Global warming is changing the way we dress, and minus a few season-specific items such as coats and tights (preferably Chanel's two-toned ones for the latter), it's about buying wearable essentials that will last. Forget over the top ensembles, and instead opt for pieces that are given new life through cut, fabric or detailing. Like most things, it's about wearing them in a way that suits your personality and style - after all, isn't that what real fashion is about?
That aside, there are several new looks that designers seem to have adopted for this autumn, the first being fashion's favourite new topic - minimalism. This concept is nothing new to a designer such as Tomas Maier who has been championing the luxe minimalist cause at Bottega Veneta for several seasons. The same goes for Raf Simons at Jil Sander, and Francisco Costa at Calvin Klein.
For autumn, however, there is a new feeling of simplicity and modesty with pared-down looks leading the way. Stefano Pilati championed the look at Yves Saint Laurent with some super sharp tailoring. Even at Valentino new creative director Alessandra Facchinetti kept her frills and ruffles to a minimum and instead chose modern separates for the ladies who lunch. The great thing about this look is that you probably already have the items in your wardrobe - be it a shift dress, or a simple long top, which can be worn over skinny trousers.
Part of this new restraint also means putting your cleavage away and raising your neckline. Get out your turtlenecks, preferably in black a la Audrey Hepburn as seen at YSL and Louis Vuitton. To make the look more now, take cues from Prada and wear yours under couture lace, transforming the sexy material into a look that is strong and fierce.
As designers pare their looks down, they have also begun experimenting with a new silhouette, focusing on sleek tailoring and architectural shapes. Look for pieces that create a sculptural shape. At Versace, Donatella has designed dresses and coats that stand away from the body at the back, creating controlled volume. Buy jackets that come with structured necklines as seen at Valentino and Celine, or go for styles that emphasise the shoulders. You can take your pick from sharp at Marc Jacobs and space age at Fendi to folded at Calvin Klein, and a metre-high at Martin Margiela. If there's anything you need to own this season (if you don't have it already) it's a black blazer with strong shoulders.
Designers have also experimented with curves at the waist and peplums (Balenciaga and Chanel) or soft padding at the hips (Lanvin, Louis Vuitton and Miu Miu). This look is season-specific, so unless you want to experiment go for the long and lean silhouette instead, which is also popular. Pair those bias-cut maxi skirts you had from last year with slim knit tunics, or long tailored blazers. For a more youthful feel, look to young downtown designers such as Alexander Wang and Erin Fetherston who feature skirts no shorter than mid-knee in body-grazing cuts.
Skinny trousers are still essential, and come paired with tunic tops. Brands such as D&G, Tommy Hilfiger and Akris have gone for fitted tunics, keeping the look streamlined, while other designers such as Stella McCartney and Burberry Prorsum went for slightly looser tops to further emphasise the slim cut of the trousers.
One thing you won't have in your closet is the new must-have trouser shape for autumn - the '7/8' - a newly coined term for trousers that finish at the ankle - in a slightly pegged shape. Looser shapes look best with tucked in and fitted tops in soft materials, while slimmer cuts are seen paired with long knits such as cardigans or fine cable-knit sweaters.
Once you have your daywear sorted, it's time to turn to the evening, where designers have taken a more decorative turn. The fashion camp has been split aesthetically with everything from the Gothic look - bold prints and couture detailing - to embellishments such as oversized paillettes, sequins and gems. Lace, in particular, is the fabric of choice this season and designers such as Prada, Balmain, Givenchy and Alexander McQueen have all interpreted the material in different ways, ranging from sheer and sexy to stiff and sombre. From Dries Van Noten's sequins to Lanvin's ribbon dresses, Valentino's frills and flounces to Christopher Kane's paillettes, the evening look is all about arts and crafts - albeit a more luxurious feel.
While black has been prevalent on the runway, not all designers have shied away from colour. Valentino, Ralph Lauren and Oscar de la Renta have opted for vivid red hues, while dusty pastels such as pink and blue were seen on the runways of Louis Vuitton and Celine. Mustard is another popular shade for this autumn. Colour was also injected through prints such as paisley at Gucci and Hermes, and winter florals at Chloe.
Of course the biggest change is in the accessories department with the demise of the 'it' bag, and, in its place, fabulous shoes and jewellery. The new trouser length means that shoes are now the focus. Flat shoes have made a comeback - from the jewelled flats at Alexander McQueen and Valentino to the mannish brogues at Armani and Paul Smith. For those who refuse to give up their stilettos, ankle boots (particularly in grey leather) and over-the-knee boots are also a big trend for the autumn (but try not to go down the Pretty Woman route).
Costume jewellery is one thing that you should invest in this season. Givenchy has delivered extravagant, multi-chain and charm necklaces, while labels such as Dries Van Noten feature necklaces made from chunky enamel bangles strung together. Lanvin, Balenciaga and Burberry have unveiled bold necklaces, while Yves Saint Laurent went for dramatic, embellished cuffs and chokers to offset the severity of its collection. The beauty is that you can wear any of these pieces with whatever is in your wardrobe, giving it new life. To finish things off is the perennial winter favourite: a pair of tights. Go for a decorative style with brands such as Chanel, Marni, Rodarte and Anna Sui, where lace, two-tone and semi-sheer styles make legs look fabulous.
The trend for coloured stockings continues with pale shades of ecru and lemon as seen at Christopher Kane, Alexander McQueen, Krizia and Celine. For the unabashed go for a bold shade of red.