Spring-summer looks are all about playing it loose
Designers let their hair down with softer, more relaxed looks for both day and night, writes Gemma Soames
If fashion is a barometer for our current state of mind, then the mood on the street right now is rather relaxed. In quite the turnaround, years of body-con dresses, super high heels, the bling, glitz and glamour have given way to a looser, more relaxed silhouette this summer.
Leading the charge are the ladies - Phoebe Philo at Céline, Claire Waight Keller at Chloé and Stella McCartney, who are all avid proponents of the look. Long, loose trousers, along with billowing shifts and voluminous tops are new takes on both daywear and eveningwear in their collections.
Philo, who has been telling women that they don't have to do short and tight to be sexy each season, went a slightly glossier route at Céline. Long, loose and low satin trousers and skirts worn with simple silk camisoles oozed elegance. One look at them and you'll wonder why you would ever want to wear a bandage dress again.
The least surprising, however, is Chloé's take on the trend. It has long been known for a floaty kind of femininity. Keller's silhouettes for the label's spring-summer range featured cleverly designed separates. Bermuda shorts that fell from hip to knee, side-pleated trousers, and voluminous tops and sleeves all gave a slouchy look that was as feminine as it was relaxed.
Critically, they are also shapes that prove easy to wear, coming in pretty colours and light fabrics that float over the contours of the body instead of shrouding the wearer like a tent.
"In a market that is driven by a smaller, more petite customer, we are always careful in how we buy into volumes and looser silhouettes to ensure we choose styles that won't overwhelm," says Sarah Rutson, a fashion director at Lane Crawford.
"Chloé resonated with this silhouette this season, with a strong, looser shape in soft pale colours and beautiful fabrications, while emanating a feminine language. The secret is getting an overall balance."
Get that balance right, and you have a look that works brilliantly for both day and night.
Rag & Bone and DKNY have also espoused long, loose Bermuda shorts as an alternative to skirts for summer days. Pair yours with a slouchy blazer and silk top, as at Rag & Bone, or wear a sharp white blazer and crisp shirt (as seen on model Cara Delevingne at DKNY), and you have your summer wardrobe sorted. Just be sure to wear them with heels to lengthen the leg.
For those keen on a smarter silhouette, those long trousers are the key. Chloé's may come wide-legged and cropped at the ankle, but Gucci's trousers take a longer view. Worn low over high heels, they were paired with tunics for a very Swinging Sixties look.
Meanwhile, at Roberto Cavalli, printed diaphanous trousers with the shirts to match simply oozed summer chic. These will transition seamlessly from the city to the beach. Ralph Lauren's palazzo pants will do very nicely for a dressier version.
Loose shapes seem more revolutionary in eveningwear. Just look at the work of Dior creative director Raf Simons - proponent of the ball gown, designer du jour and the go-to man for your red carpet look. Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore and Marion Cotillard all sported his voluminous skirts at several awards show outings earlier this year.
In one fell swoop, Simons' debut couture collection for Dior and subsequent ready-to-wear show did away with the body-conscious school of black-tie dressing and introduced one that involved romantic, full skirts; high-necked tops; gazar that was light as air; and very little flesh on show.
Another early adopter of the trend is Roksanda Illincic, a British designer known for her long, billowy eveningwear and colour-blocked, long-sleeved shifts.
Hedi Slimane's 1970s-inspired wafty evening tunics at Saint Laurent - all jewel tones and chiffon - offer another way to embody the relaxed vibe.
And for those who are not quite ready for the total cover-up, Céline has those silken camis and skirts - the most modern way to dress up at the moment.
But for all its upshots (comfortable, light fabrics that glide over the body; shapes that are more subtle than revealing; day to night staples that prove easy to dress up or down) the loose, romantic look is not necessarily the easiest to pull off. Go overboard, and you run the risk of looking bulky.
This is why you should stick to light and airy fabrics and avoid anything too stiff, especially on the upper body. Layering is tricky: jackets should be worn cropped and tight if the lower silhouette is billowing, and vice versa.
As Grace Lam, senior fashion style editor for Vogue China advises, "I think it's very important to wear high heels. If the outfit isn't figure-hugging, you need to give yourself more height so you don't look too short. Also, mix it up. If you wear a loose top, then perhaps try pairing it with an uber-miniskirt or shorts to show off your legs. Plus, to give it a sexier, refreshing look, you should have slick hair, keep your make-up simple and fresh, and play with a coloured lip for the summer."
Luckily for us, designers have kept this in mind. Many have proposed cropped tops - cheeky numbers that expose just a touch of your midriff, keeping their voluminous shorts and trousers from appearing too conservative. At McCartney, for example, the shifts and trousers both featured sheer panelling - peek-a-boo elements that livened up otherwise staid shapes.
This look is all about dressing in a relaxed way while keeping it incredibly modern. It's sultry but sophisticated; sexy without showing off.
Cleverly worked fabrications, sporty elements and surprising combinations steer the "loose is lovely" trend away from sombre territory and into punchy spring looks. Take your cue from these designers' modern aesthetic and you'll be enjoying a comfy look that also gives you bang for your buck.