Frock advisor: getting shirty

This week: getting down and shirty and pre-Raphaelite goddesses


dunstThe proliferation of shirting is making me nervous, isn’t it the domain of the male? How can one be feminine in starched cotton?

The shirt does send shivers down a style-savvy spine. Is it that we were forced to wear shirts at school? Is it that they comprised a mainstay of our earliest faltering steps on the career ladder? Is it that boobs of any sizable impact refuse to be contained by an underequipped placket? Well it’s time to park the regressive issues and get all SS14; the shirt in all its forms played a key role in the style evolution of the mid decade and refuses to be confined by our memories and pre-conceptions.

When you think back to key style moments in shirt history, which comes to mind? In frockadvisor’s ivory tower, we’re visualising Grace Kelly’s sun kissed loveliness circa 1958 and exactly 40 years later Sharon Stone left us slack jawed as she worked a men’s Gap shirt with a lavender Vera Wang skirt on the red carpet at the Oscars.

But that’s not the best bit – respectively memorable and smouldering as those looks were – a more subversive lasting image is edging in from left field, that of the Bond girl using her lover’s shirt as a post-coital cover-up. From Sylvia Trench to the inimitable Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, that woman-in-shirt image is part of our collective consciousness. It follows the rules of reveal and conceal: yes the shirt is manly, oversized and baggy, but out pops a well-toned leg to create balance and anticipation. These principles can be applied all the more effectively in summer, when the chances of a well-toned leg reach their highest probability.


So what of this season’s take. Shirting in general pushed the boundaries with sheer and billowing fabrics as seen at Paul Smith, who drove the theme to an unexpected conclusion with a sheer and bohemian shirtdress, but more on this challenging development below.

At Dior they stuck close to the source with crisply tailored shirt-dresses, subtly wrapped, to effectively encase those unruly breasts. For those who want a shirtdress with high femininity, we here at Lennon Courtney (yes, we know) presented a full-skirted version high on swish and flow, low on nipple reveal, closed to the neck for the demure, opened to reveal a hint of lingerie for the, well, not.

Failsafe Swedes Cos has shirting in abundance, from work-wear staples to crisp post-coital leg revealers, just remember a Bond girl always wears her heels, a mid heeled sling-back being the perfect companion.

nextCome on now, this sheer business is for pre-Raphaelite goddesses and ballerinas, not mere mortals, am I right?

Don’t get upset, the runway is a provocation. It is a large bottle of concentrated cordial, too strong to drink neat, which must be diluted for consumption. You’re right, who in their right mind . . . and where would you . . . and if I turned up in that . . .

We know, but that doesn’t mean you won’t dilute to taste where ever you choose to spend your fashion euros. Sheer is a wonderful concept, an ethereal ghostly casing at Simone Rocha, or a form-fitting sheath with the father, both equally beautiful.

But this is a trend you can easily control. No one says you can’t wear an underpinning, a delicate camisole under the over or, alternatively, the newly re-emerged “body”. Oh yes, they’re back, those undignified fumblings to close the dreaded poppers in restaurant toilets – slide across rather than open, darlings, time is money.

Regardless, they make excellent bedfellows for a sheer or semi-sheer top. Many sheer garments are carrying their own modesty garments with them like this grid-patterned dress from Next (left).

If you’re still not feeling up to the challenge, harness the power of print on sheer, as at Antonio Marras: an urban camouflage to obscure visibility, worn with a nude undergarment, a wonderful effect is achieved.

Absolute entry level for sheer this spring is moving from thosde 50 denier black leg casings to a sheer hose, scarier than a Japanese horror movie – perhaps it’s time to reconsider the nipple peep.

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