Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fashion Trends: Taking it to the streets

    How do you navigate the minefield of this winter's key style trends without treading on a fashion bomb? Melissa Kent guides the way.

    If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so, too, is fashion - an adage to bear in mind when contemplating its offerings this winter. Take the penchant for clashing prints, a retina-searing look that throws together florals, stripes and polka dots in a riot of colour that is one part crazy, two parts fabulous. Some will find it a refreshing rejection of the fashion rule book; others will take one peek and retire to a darkened room with a migraine.

    And what about the latest catwalk craze, the pyjama suit? Yes, that's right. PJs. Jim jams. Jarmies. Pyjamas - or matching shirt and trouser suits, to be technical about it - are having a fashion moment outside the bedroom, a look that is undoubtedly one of this season's wackiest, but welcomed nonetheless, by those too lazy to get dressed in the morning. So, let's get this winter's key looks off the catwalk and into the real world.

    How, indeed, does one wear an outfit that looks like it belongs under a doona or teamed with uggs for an emergency dash to the shops? Unlikely as it may seem, the pyjamas-as-leisurewear trend is shaping up as a bona-fide look this winter, featuring in collections from Stella McCartney and Dolce&Gabbana to Gorman, Limedrop and Bianca Spender. While those in the know may realise you're wearing a Stella McCartney paisley-print shirt and trousers - worth the price of a small car - to everyone else it looks like you've forgotten to get dressed.

    White Suede peplum dress, $360.

    So how do you wear a pyjama suit without feeling like Hugh Hefner? According to Kristy Lawrence, whose label Flannel includes a floral version in creamy silk, a certain swagger is required.

    "There is a danger of looking like you're wearing pyjamas, and you do need to carry it with confidence," she says. "I would keep my hair and accessories very clean and neutral so the outfit spoke for itself. Simple but glamorous." Designer Amanda McCarthy, who included three shirt-and-pants suits in her Leonard St. range this season, says a pair of killer heels or ankle boots can take the look out of the bedroom.

    Stylist Franco Schifilliti, however, is worried. "Look, Sofia Coppola looked really chic in Dolce&Gabbana's pyjama suit in Vogue but unless you have her pedigree, it's something that should stay in the bedroom," he says. "I don't think we will be seeing this on the streets too often. It's for your diehards. I could be wrong, but it does look like you've just woken up."

    Arthur Galan Mongolian fur vest, $449; tie-side slouch blouse, $279; stretch leather pant, $698.

    Stylizit.com.au's Caaren Hulme concurs. "It looks great on models on the catwalks but it requires real attitude for everyone else," she says.

    If you're not brave enough to carry off the top-to-toe matching shirt-and-pant suit, you may like to dilute the look by pairing statement-making pants with neutral accents or a block-colour blazer for a more wearable, everyday approach.

    What, you ask? Good question. A peplum, for the sartorially ignorant, is an extra swathe of material around the waist in the form of a structured frill or flounce, usually attached to the bottom of a bodice or jacket.

    Jigsaw orange sleeveless dress, $299; Harley leather bag.

    When they began popping up on the European catwalks last year, few would have guessed they'd be taking the high street by storm this winter. After all, a trend that makes your hips look big is hardly every woman's dream wardrobe addition. But that's fashion for you and thanks to directional designers such as Louis Vuitton's Marc Jacobs and Balmain's Christophe Decarnin, this 1940s silhouette is back in the spotlight and destined to be a big trend. While high-street chain stores and designers have embraced the peplum, Schifilliti says it should be approached with caution.

    "I'd call this a tread-carefully trend," he says. "This is not a look for pear-shaped figures or anyone with heavy hips. It works best on slim shapes and gives a defined waist to a rectangular body shape."

    Yeojin Bae, whose winter collection features elegant cocktail frocks with streamlined peplums, says it works best for most figures teamed with a pencil skirt. "I think they're a really flattering way to give women shape, especially the waistline," she says. "I've done peplums before and one of the reasons I've come back to it is it's really beautiful on the female body. And there is a level of comfort when you have a peplum on your waistline, especially when you're sitting down. I'm always looking for ways to create a really beautiful feminine silhouette, while at the same time, making women feel comfortable."

    Leonard St. Rock It leather jacket in sea green, $580.

    A trend that does not require us to suck our tummy in has our vote.

    Just when we thought fashion had finally cleaned up its act and ditched fur, here it is again, making a comeback on international catwalks. Last season Louis Vuitton had kangaroo, Marni had hamster and Wooyoungmi had beaver. When Gucci showcased a luxuriant collection of furs in burgundy, mustard, camel and teal, it was only a matter of time before local designers followed suit and trotted out their own ranges. Fortunately for all involved, it's mostly of the faux variety. At the L'Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival last month, coloured faux fur was everywhere from Arthur Galan and Manning Cartell to Joveeba and Arabella Ramsay. You can embrace this trend wholeheartedly with a fur coat or gilet, or just give it a small nod with a scarf, collar or fur trimmed-coat. While it can add warmth and a touch of luxury to an outfit, Hulme says petite women should be wary. "It's very theatrical and adds real depth but small women can be overwhelmed," she says.

    "They're fun," Schifilliti says. "They're obviously fake but it proves that shaggy faux fur lives on long after the hippie look has faded from the spotlight."

    Tony Bianco Kavana Magenta kid boot, $199.95.

    And here's another fun faux fur fad to watch out for: ear muffs are tipped to be big this season. You have been warned.

    As with most trends, less is more and you can get the leather look this season without committing to a black leather jumpsuit (although Ellery is doing a particularly sophisticated version, should it take your fancy). If you'd prefer to mix a smaller leather element into your outfit, look for a skirt, jacket or even a dress. Some of the best this season include Flannel's patchwork mod-style tunic dress, Gorman's soft pencil skirt and Joveeba's canary-yellow mini with suede geometric details.

    Flannel's Lawrence is renowned for her use of neutral leathers in simple, flattering cuts. "Flannel really is about using a variety of textures each season and one is leather," she says. "I love leather because it ages beautifully, it smells and feels wonderful. It's a lovely, clean fabric that goes with just about everything."

    Schifilliti says leather should be treated as an investment. "Quality leather is not cheap, so forget that it's going to cost $800 and think of how many times you'll wear it over the years," he says. "Go for a beautiful classic leather blazer because there are so many ways you can wear it. I really have a reservation about leather pants.

    Unless you have a figure like Jennifer Hawkins or are a faded rock star, then don't go for leather pants." Hulme suggests layering your leather with winter woolies such as a knitted scarf or textured opaque tights for a softer, cosier look. "Or if you want to be really dramatic, team it with leather boots," she says. "It depends on your mood."

    Best don your darkest sunglasses: last season's dalliance with colour blocking has given way to its crazier cousin: clashing prints. And the wackier, the better. This winter you can get away with a floral jacket over a spotted blouse over striped pants and no one will laugh in your face (although they may snigger behind your back).

    Printed blazers are the key to this look and there are plenty to choose from. Lisa Ho blazers are festooned with elegant floral patterns and tiger prints; Zara has polka dots, animal prints and zebra stripes; Moss and Spy's 1960s-inspired floral-print coat dress could be direct from the Mad Men wardrobe department. While it can instantly add a dash of sophistication to a cold-weather ensemble, if you do choose to team your printed blazer with clashing prints, stick to one colour scheme, Schifilliti warns.

    If ever a colour was going to divide a nation, it would be orange. Some love it, some hate it. Sadly for those who believe it belongs in a vegetable patch, it's everywhere this season. Pumpkin hues preside at Cue, Veronika Maine and Country Road, carrot-coloured dresses adorn the racks at Jigsaw and Sportsgirl, while designer labels from Manning Cartell to Bianca Spender are aglow in every shade from mandarin to neon tangerine. The problem with orange, according to Hulme, is that only 17 per cent of the population can wear it: redheads. It's all to do with skin tone.

    "They're the only ones with enough vibrancy in their palette to carry it off," she says. "Tangerine is a really warm vibrant colour and if you don't have vibrancy in your own palette - in your hair colour, your eye colour and your skin colour - you really struggle with all these strong, vibrant fashions."

    Rather than follow the perennial "just buy an orange scarf" rule, try calming down the effect with some accessories such as gloves, tights or a leather bag. Or even a coral lipstick, says The Circlefashion presenter Anthea O'Connor. "If the idea of orange is just too frightening, that's a great way to try the trend without overinvesting," she says. Schifilliti adds: "Many people may not want to fork out for an orange coat or jacket, but just add it in a scarf to make the whole outfit zing."

    Ugly shoes are having a moment and it's best we step aside, lest we get our toes squashed. Aside from Prada's snigger-inducing "flatforms" and Acne's clumsy-clown high-heeled brogues, on a local level the footpaths are being abused by myriad coloured wedge-heeled boots.

    With an aesthetic displaying all the grace of a Lego brick, these clumsy-looking shoes seem deliberately designed to cut off the ankle at the least flattering point. Hulme agrees: "You're putting yourself all out of proportion because the eye is drawn down to your shoes," she says.

    "If you must wear them, it's better to go with a nude- or caramel-coloured one that doesn't cut the leg off at the ankle."

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