Why the 'paperbag waist' trend is a style to avoid

You want to look dressed up, not trussed up, so steer clear of this Charlie Chaplin look

Belgian designer Veronique Branquinho debuted the paperbag waist in Paris two years ago. Stella McCartney’s current collection embraces the trend

Belgian designer Veronique Branquinho debuted the paperbag waist in Paris two years ago. Stella McCartney’s current collection embraces the trend

 

Amongst the season’s current trends – pleats, deconstructed shirts, stripes, metallics – there is one to steer well clear of and that’s the paperbag waist. Fashion victims, take care: it does no silhouette any favours, provides bulk where it is not wanted and makes even the most svelte look awkwardly over-endowed. Some of the more extreme examples, with frills rising up almost to the armpits, recall Charlie Chaplin’s little tramp with his baggy trousers famously suspended half mast. Comfort chic it is not. You want to look dressed up, not trussed up.

Loose baggy trousers have yet to replace skinnies in popularity, but surplus fabric, ruffles and pleats mid-section, like pie crusts, may play with volume (a common fashion activity these days) but provide no visual appeal either fore or aft on one’s anatomy. And, given that these details originated on the catwalk, some female designers are the worst offenders. The otherwise no-nonsense Belgian designer Veronique Branquinho debuted the paperbag waist in Paris two years ago, worn in that careless, slouchy, androgynous way at which she and others are so masterful. 

Plague has spread

Since then the plague has spread into other collections, from Isabel Marant and Balmain in Paris to Proenza Schouler, Tod’s and Phillip Lim in the US and now infecting the high street and sites like Asos (though tamed down). Stella McCartney’s current collection embraces the trend even more robustly, with nearly all her trousers and some skirts, from daywear khakis to evening wear velvets, decorated with paperbag waists and worn with fringed chenille separates. How could she? Slogan prints in the same collection read “Thanks, Girls”. For what?  

Stylists continue to provide examples of how to nail the look, but I’m not convinced. Unless you are Grace Jones, over 6ft, flat-chested with a long, lean torso and supremely confident, it will do your figure no favours. Even then it can be tricky to pull off (excuse the pun), even on Sienna Miller, seen wearing the style earlier this year with a tight skinny top offsetting the bulk.  More flattering alternatives (depending on your shape) could be high-waisted trousers or those with a central zip that flattens the tummy and visually narrows the hips. There are ways of dressing and decorating the midriff that are far more attractive and appealing than looking like a bag lady. So bin it.

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