Confession of an Asian StyleHolic

British Fashion Council new IT Girl

Sarah bowers

Congratulations to Sarah Mower for her appointment as the British Fashion Council’s first Ambassador for Emerging Talent. Her job scope including chairing the BFC’s NewGen committee which sponsors the countries most talented young fashion graduates and designers. Her appointment as part of the BFC’s re-structure in the 25th anniversary year of London Fashion Week.

Personally I think she deserved the position. Having been writing for Vogue, and Daily Telegraph, she’s gifted like the way Marc Jacobs in designing dress and bags, Donald Trump in erected buildings, Colonel Sanders in fried chicken and Genghis Khan in conquering the world (maybe Genghis and Sarah is a bit too much; Genghis modern fashion version is Anna Wintour)

This is my favourite article from Sarah Bower circa 2007 in

Don’t fall for this maternity-style craze says Sarah Mower, there are plenty of grown-up and feminine alternatives

Hauling myself and four over-stuffed bags back from Paris on the Eurostar on Monday, I was in a pitiful state. After four weeks’ non-stop exposure to fashion shows and fashion people, my feet were caught in a symphony of throbbing (they haven’t stopped yet), and my head was in a horrible mess. Reduced to trainers, jeans and my oldest comfort-coat, I was, for all I know, whimpering out loud from trend-overload while praying no one would see me without my platforms and hobble-skirt.

I needn’t have worried. The train was packed with demobbed fashion casualties in a similar state of wreckage. An iron rule of fashion etiquette was in force: you do not recognise me, I do not recognise you (even though we had that animated chat yesterday at Louis Vuitton). Eyes left, stare out of the window.

It’s time to be out with it, then: this is the year of the return of the fashion victim. After 28 days in which one’s colleagues’ mode of dressing was almost as fascinating as what was on the catwalk (and often more), I think it’s time to acknowledge this properly. For some reason, we’ve hit a time of fashion extremes every bit as hilarious as gigantic 1980s shoulders, Elton John-ish 1970s platforms and minis-for-the-middle-aged, circa 1966.

Only now it’s an outbreak of multiple afflictions rather than just the one at a time, and there are grown women out there who should know better.

Coming up for air in London, it feels almost peculiar not to be in the company of hordes of style arbiters trudging along with six pounds of Balenciaga trophy-boot strapped to each foot.

Since I’ve been back I haven’t had a conversation with anyone wearing the Sienna Miller/Edie Sedgwick tunic and tights “I forgot my skirt” look or run into anyone wearing full strapless evening wear mid-morning, like Kylie Minogue and Mischa Barton when they wandered into the Chanel and Dior shows last week.

As far as I can see, leather bustiers and thigh-high Pigalle streetwalker boots haven’t caught on among fifty-something women in my absence, either – although I have to report that these are the latest suggestions for daywear sported at the weekend by some of the highest authorities in Parisian fashion.

But before we laugh too loudly, it should be pointed out that the British are in the grips of their own special fashion delusion: the smock. Sometimes it takes people from other cultures – such as men and foreign visitors – to point out that there’s something absurd going on.

The first warning came from my husband, who jovially exclaimed in the pub: “Oh look, have you seen? That girl from EMI’s pregnant.”

“No,” I hissed. “It’s a smock. Fashion.”

The second came from a Los Angeles Times journalist whom I sent to Topshop during London Fashion Week. The next time I sat next to her she said: “When did they turn it over to maternity wear?”

I hate the smock. Only babies should wear them; grown women, never. Last time they were in fashion – about 1970, I seem to remember – only teenagers (and pregnant women) wore them, and then with long skirts or flares. Teenagers in those days were flat-chested. Women now are not, and the ubiquitous wearing of under-wired double D-cup bras renders the 2007 smock look, well, pregnant, or at least sleazy in a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? sort of way.

Britons in their thirties and forties happily go around wearing them short, without skirts, apparently without fear of being wrongly congratulated. I even had a surreal chat with a woman in her fifties who said she felt fine to wear her smock because, at her age, no one could suspect her of expecting.

Whatever happened to the notion of “age appropriateness” in fashion? As slim and toned as one’s body is, it’s still true that your face has to fit your clothes, too (and plastic surgery only makes the discrepancy between old gal and tiny shift all the more horrifying).

But no one should be told she’s too old to wear fashion – because that’s not true either. All you have to do is look around a bit harder to find a couple of things that actually work.

On that front, I have some observations from a surprising quarter. You remember Prada’s summer collection? That was the one widely lampooned for its turbans, the one that made headlines for its skirtless pant-baring tunics. The absolute pinnacle of fashion victimhood, you’d think – nothing there a sane woman would consider wearing in a million years.

Well, study that collection again. Quietly concealed within it are a few antidotes to everything that is horrible in fashion. One: a plain brown belt. Two: a flattering skirt that reaches below the knee. Three: a normal, pointed court shoe. While coming from the drawing board of one of the most advanced forces in fashion, these ideas have the virtue of being simple, calmly generic tips that elegantly circumvent the current ugliness of jumbo wedges, voluminous shapes and ridiculous shortness.

The best thing is the belt. It’s low-key, but it works to update almost everything: coats, jackets, sweaters, even semi-formal evening dresses.

Even a girly smock can be redeemed by it. No exaggeration, everyone should own a brown belt this spring, I think. It’s a small start, but let there be hope: there is something out there that separates the women from the girls.


May 21, 2009 - Posted by | Current issue |

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