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Katie Trotter: Hitchcock heroine chic is back in vogue

The influence of the leading ladies of Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, continues to loom large in fashion.

There is no doubt that Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense, was enraptured by the threat of feminine allure. Although he would probably have dismissed the whimsical nature of fashion as wholly unimportant, he ultimately understood the power of style and costume identity. The Hitchcock woman was outwardly impeccable, often frighteningly so - the carefully selected costumes recurrently underpinning the often inwardly capricious character. He was driven by the tragic heroine - whether it was Kim Novak's portrayal of Madeleine in Vertigo, suited in a sombre, grey pencil skirt made with knife pleats, the beautiful full-skirted Grace Kelly in Rear Window, or his most fatale of femmes, Tippi Hedren, as the scheming socialite Melanie, in her iconic eu de nil suit, (left ravaged by the final sequence in The Birds).

The nipped waists, the bleached chignons, the ultra-feminine suiting and the blank, icy stare - appearance was everything, the choices of clothing rife with symbolism. The common ingredients? Impenetrable femininity, elegance, taste and a twist of dark romance. Hitchcock did have a somewhat disconcerting portrayal of woman. Virtuoso? Misogynist? Probably both. Sketched from afar, his leading ladies projected perfection and remarkable refinement - which only heightens our unease when witnessing her inevitable unravelling.

It's a reference, however, that designers turn to again and again, a bit like the gloriously cool Edie Sedgwick. Why? Because most women would secretly like to look a little bit like that. Most likely a direct throwback to the 2012 biographical drama, Hitchcock, Prada took a less obvious interpretation from Hitchcockian glamour, but a recognisable one nonetheless. The paring of pretty pink-and-blue gingham prints with fur, leather and tweeds was the perfect balance. At Hermès, we saw mid-calf skirts, crisp white shirts and high-waisted grey trousers, all served up with a hint of film noir. There were elegant belted cardigans, sharp leather pencil skirts and handsome oversized handbags to choose from. Alice Temperley took to a more literal depiction. Her muse? None other than Tippi Hedren herself. High-waisted full skirts paired with simple cashmere jumpers, sheer blouses, and 1960s-inspired swing coats - all topped off with long leather gloves and silk neck scarves, obviously borrowed from the heroine.

Hitchcock's women were classic and never overdone. The most important feature was the waist. Remember? That little s-curve once to be found before "low-rise" jeans took over. Well, it's back. The problem is, the average woman in 1951 had a 27.5-inch waist. Currently we are clocking in at a hearty 34. The good news is that fashion is gloriously good at disguise. Start with your outwear - we're talking boxy jackets, dramatic swing coats and even capelets. The key is to not try too hard - the Hitchcock heroine was utterly timeless and never over-accentuated her features. Slim-cut dresses and suits with a nipped-in waist work well, as does a good-quality silk blouse neatly tucked into a full skirt. You can even try adding a few structured petticoats for evening wear. Pencil skirts are not as stress-inducing as one often thinks, although invest in a structured, quality fabric, because a cheap version will not hold its shape for long. Keep accessories simple - finish off with a swath of red lipstick and nothing more, and keep the hair up and tidy.

Obviously we need to emulate, not imitate, when looking at the Hitchcock heroine - there's nothing alluring about a deceitful, manipulating psychopath. A dose of poised self-possession and intrigue, however, could work wonders.

ktrotter@thenational.ae

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