Don’t Underestimate The Classics

Clothes rail

A funny thing is happening in fashion right now. Clothes – wardrobe must-haves such as the trench, a great stripe shirt, the right pair of boyfit jeans, a pair of monk-strap brogues- items that would once upon a time have been written off as boring classics are having a moment. Of course, they’re hardly ever referred to as such because if you see how many of these items are merchandised on designer websites, they are described variously as spliced trench coats, asymmetric/ deconstructed shirting – and all the handiwork of some of the hottest talent in fashion right now.

Classic you see doesn’t need to mean ‘greige’ or ‘ boring’ ,‘ middle aged’ or ‘let’s just dig out the neutrals’ which is often how we think of the word classic in this country (Nb. It took me years to not take that as an insult when people described my style as classic). A pair of black lace shoes (that the co-owner of this website was spied wearing) sounds ‘classic’ until I tell you they are by Dolce & Gabbana, they offer the most tantalisingly glimmer of toe cleavage and their fine, shapely heel is enough to make any flat-wearing trainer aficionado swoon. And yes reader, I couldn’t take my eyes off her feet all night.

What ‘classic’ signals if you get it right is that you have reached a confidence in the way you dress or have found the item of clothing – that one plus ultra piece in your wardrobe – that is the best example of its kind and makes you look the best version of yourself. Often this means looking and feeling comfortable in what you’re wearing – far more chic than hobbling down a cobbled pavement in skyscrapers you can’t walk in or tugging at a too tight dress which is never a good look.

Over in France, classic is often the holy grail. Older women do classic and they still look hot and stylish because there is always some twist or little update; one only has to look at Brigitte Trogneux. Perhaps this is why French women are so admired for the way they dress. Ageing isn’t the same big deal in France so there’s less imperative to cling to a bygone youth by wearing inappropriate, one-season wonder clothes. For a French woman, nothing is quite “lost” (just look at Emmanuelle Alt, Isabel Alt and Caroline Maigret, all uber chic women in their Forties and Fifties); the youthful perks that fade as they get older are replaced by different but equally attractive qualities such as self-confidence, self-awareness and a very comprehensive aka realistic understanding of what suits their body shape.

Brits meanwhile are often caught up with being fashionable and often overlook what actually works on them. French women meanwhile get the point of cut and fit and are wizards at exercising restraint and knowing just how far to push a look. If all this sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish, they’ll lob in a curve ball for good measure. They are also happy to experiment and not remain in the same style/hair/makeup rut, constantly, constantly (seriously this is an art form in France) tweaking, refining, dissecting everything. No detail escapes their gimlet eye. They make mistakes but they move on swiftly and rarely are they repeated again.

So how does classic not end up looking frumpy but fresh? The aforementioned experimenting is key, because details do change. Proportions are important – the right sleeve length, or  how high the neckline is on a sweater or shirt will make a difference as to whether said item looks like a modern classic. It’s also worth looking closely at the items in your wardrobe that people always compliment you on or which you really enjoy wearing. “You want to look out for clothes that transcend trends which is what Prada, Miu Miu and Celine are so clever at doing. They are essentially re-worked classics,” says she stylist, Annabel Hodin.

So what are the modern classics in 2017?

  • The Trench

Still going strong in Blighty where “four seasons in one day” weather is common place even in June. There are hundreds of different styles out there so choose something with an interesting detail: a leather yoke collar or pleating in the skirting or an exaggerated shoulder. Isabel Marant Etoile, MSGM or Osman have done some great versions. Otherwise head to Sandro or Whistles.

  • Shirting

Blue and white stripe shirting is still very much where it’s at but shapes are spliced and asymmetric and generally a lot more fun than your average workaday shirt. Ruffle sleeve detailing is one way of updating staples while strong shoulders are also big for this summer. Designers such as Jacquemus, Ellery and Toga are worth investigating or head to Cos.

  • The Trouser Suit

Big news this summer and even bigger news for Autumn. Either single of double breasted work jackets are fine although you heard it here first, fashion insiders are channelling a Prada-esque inspired silhouette circa the mid 90s. Not acquainted with the real thing? Then visit caramel-shop.co.uk for a similar look burgundy version at a fraction of the price.

  • The Monkstrap Brogue

If I had a pound for every time someone complimented me on a pair of Jimmy Choo monk strap brogues I’ve worn for the past five years….These will add a toughness to this summer’s quintessential go-anywhere ditsy print floral dress and an edge to everything else. Church’s –built to last- are what I would save up for but asos also does a fine looking pair.

  • The Midi-Skirt

Not strictly a classic but I thought it worth mentioning that if you are wondering what the most relevant hem length is this summer, it is one that hits your mid-calf. The chic-est guests at Pippa Middelton’s wedding looked thoroughly modern in dresses and skirts in this length. No excuses: put the minis and knee-length skirts to the back of your wardrobe now.

  • Matchesfashion.com Raey collection

Finally, if you’re confused by the never-ending style diktats, this is a pretty good place to start. Rachael Proud (who needless to say oozes style out of every orifice) has designed perfect wardrobe staples with edge and much, much more and her new standalone store has just opened in Notting Hill. Go check out.

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