10 autumn/winter essentials
While last season was all about the girl, A/W is most definitely about the woman. Here are some key pieces to get you started, writes ROSEMARY Mac CABE
I’VE MENTIONED this before and I have no qualms saying it again: A/W (that’s autumn/winter for those of you who don’t speak “fashion”) is by far my favourite of the sartorial calendar’s two seasons. Although S/S (I’m sure you can guess) speaks of bare legs, light breathable fabrics and a feminine palette, A/W offers an opportunity to experiment with fabrics and silhouettes, layering denim and leather and knits and lace in a cacaphony of colour and texture.
The catwalk shows of A/W (confusingly, staged in February 2012) showed a variety of trends that have by now filtered down to the high street. Baroque influences – velvets, embroidery and embellishment – stand alongside SM-style erotica, military detailing, gothica and a new heritage characterised by heavy textures and feminine shapes.
While last season was all about the girl, A/W is most definitely about the woman. We’re talking curves, either natural or faked with a peplum; cinched waists and exaggerated shoulders and hips; strength in the form of military buttons, double-breasted coats and structured dresses; and power in luxe leathers, pointy toes (they’re back) and boxy bags. The icon of last season was a vision of cute girliness who spent her time picking flowers and running through cornfields, while this new woman is a force to be reckoned with – and, if the Céline and Lanvin catwalks were anything to go by (all mannish shapes, oversized outerwear, and tailoring), she’s a working woman, to boot. By all accounts, this is a season worth buying into, in more ways than one.
All wardrobes can be easily updated if you own the basics: three decent pairs of jeans, one skinny, one bootcut and one black; a fitted white shirt (to be worn with a nude bra); a black blazer, cropped below the hip if you’re pear shaped, otherwise always above; a wrap dress in a neutral colour (leopard print counts as neutral, by the way); an A-line skirt in a light, breathable fabric such as silk; and, of course, good underwear. Marks Spencer is a tough one to beat for shapewear, and its latest collaboration, with model Rosie Huntington Whiteley, is rather good.
Once you have the foundations laid, all it takes is a few smart buys to bring your wardrobe firmly into the new season.
1 Sparkly topA|Wear’s 1920s-inspired number is perfect for a night out, taking its cues from Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming The Great Gatsby. Embellished top (€60), and black skinnies (€35), at A|Wear
2 Leather trousersPair yours with an oversized coat and a pair of chunky heels to stay on the right side of sexy.
Pictured, faux leather skinnies (€50) at Oasis. Leather high-waisted skinnies (€1,115), by Acne at Brown Thomas.
3 Day-to-night bagThis Ralph Lauren number does exactly what it says on the tin, and is roomy enough to carry your Filofax and your heels. Structured black bag (€450), by Ralph Lauren at Arnotts
4 Statement neckpieceJoanne Hynes’s butterfly collar will dress up even the plainest black tee. Wear with attitude. Embellished collar (€395), by Joanne Hynes at BT2 and Harvey Nichols
5 Black court shoesThe flash of purple on these Zara heels is a new spin on a classic. Black shoes with purple heels (€69.95), at Zara
6 Neon-flash broguesSimone Rocha’s A/W collection gave us all a taste for mixing our traditional brogues with a flash of bright colour. Tan brogues with neon soles (€60), at Clarks
7 Embellished jacketFor throwing on over a T-shirt and jeans, or with your white shirt, buttoned up to the neck. Embellished jacket (€108), at Monsoon
8 Bodycon dressThis burgundy pencil dress takes a leaf out of Victoria Beckham’s A/W book, at a fraction of the price. Panelled dress, €199, at Fran & Jane
9 Sporty dressStella McCartney has a lot to answer for, if this panelled dress from Warehouse is anything to go by. Jacquard panel dress (€63), at Warehouse
10 Burgundy, burgundy, burgundy It’s the A/W colour and it looks great with monochrome or anything denim. Burgundy high-rise jeans (€289.06), by J Brand at My-Wardrobe.com
Not quite a technicolor dream coat . . . but something different
I know it’s just coming into autumn, but I want to invest in a winter coat before they all sell out. Have you any recommendations? And not just the usual pea coat/ parka/mac selection, thanks. I’d like something a little bit different but that I’ll have for a few years.
Elaine, by email
Elaine, you’re right in wanting to veer away from the staples of yore – classics they may be, but tired classics at that, and although I wouldn’t recommend binning them entirely (see panel, left), they’re hardly going to give the impression that you’ve got your finger on the fashion pulse. This season is about deconstruction: taking a classic shape and reworking it slightly so that it’s fresh and ever-so-slightly different, while maintaining a certain longevity. (Even fashion designers know that most of us don’t want to replace our coats each year.)
At Burberry, the old reliable mac was reinvented with a distinctly Downton Abbey twist, in softer silks with puffed-up pockets that served as a form of peplum, and delicate bow belts. One of those will set you back more than a grand, but Zara has come up trumps with this lace version (left, €129). It’s double-breasted and fitted, with a gorgeous, feminine shape, and the lace and wool mix fabric is just distinctive enough to draw some envious glares. I’d swap out the belt for something a little different – HM is currently selling bow belts at less than a tenner.
Military is always going to be big for A/W, and it’s never going to quite fizzle out during S/S. Marks Spencer took a leaf out of Victoria Beckham’s A/W book with this olive-green military-inspired number (right, €175), even down to the double-wrap belt (which VB has been wearing with various dresses from her latest collection). It would look great with Fran Jane’s burgundy number (left). Team it with leather gloves for the ultimate ladylike statement.
Burgundy is big this season and this leather-trimmed boyfriend-style jacket by Label Lab (left, €169) at House of Fraser is a great way of buying into the trend. It’s subtle enough to go with most of your wardrobe (unless everything you own is pink), but won’t be old news by next September. Bonus points for riffing off the leather detailing by pairing it with leather-look trousers from Oasis (far left).
Lastly, this wool and biker combination coat by Asos.com(right, €213.26) is a great option. It ticks all of the boxes in terms of lasting quality and colour (black will never date) while it’s got a really modern, deconstructed edge in terms of the combination of fabrics and textures. It would look just as good over a dress and tights as over jeans and a jumper, too.
Beat a bulging belly by concealing and distracting
I’m a man in my late 20s. All my life I have been overweight, although recently I managed to lose a lot of it and I feel much better about myself. I have dropped several sizes at the waist, and am able to wear clothes that would have been impossible a few years ago. The only problem is that I still have a bit of weight on my belly that makes me feel uncomfortable when I look in the mirror because it sticks out noticeably over my pants. My pants are not too tight, they fit comfortably, but my stomach simply hasn’t shrunk at the same rate as the rest of me. I would appreciate a few tips about how to dress in a manner that deceives people into not noticing this.
Tom, by email
Congratulations on losing the weight. I know it’s not easy and you should be feeling pretty smug right about now, so it’s unfortunate that you’re feeling uncomfortable about your stomach. The practical advice – and I feel it must be given, as I myself am such a paragon of physical perfection – is to do exercises that are specifically geared towards your stomach. Sit-ups are old-school but no worse off for it, and aerobic sports such as cycling and running will help burn fat. If you’re really determined, you could join one of those hellish bootcamps and be shouted at while you attempt to better yourself.
Health-related advice aside, there are two things you can do: conceal and distract. On the former subject, Spanx is now doing a series of controlled support garments for men, and the cotton compression tee (right) will iron out any lumps and bumps and give a streamlined shape under T-shirts and shirts. It will set you back $58/approximately €45 from Spanx.com. And no one will be any the wiser.
If it’s distraction tactics you’re after, there are a few subtle things you can try to draw the eye away from your waist. Eyecatching belt buckles are out as they attract the gaze to precisely the wrong place. Ties are troublesome: if it ends right at the waistband, it will act as a homing beacon for curious eyes. If you must wear one, do so with your jacket closed. If you’re not wearing a jacket, forgo the tie. Try out a cravat instead – they’re very hip, you know.
In terms of T-shirts, wear a darker colour than that of your trousers, so that the eye is drawn below the waist, rather than focusing on your upper half.
You needn’t worry too much, though. As a man, it’s quite likely that no one is particularly concerned with how much your stomach sticks out. They’ll be too busy listening to what you have to say.