There is always one item per season designed to keep the punters happy – and this season we have the pencil skirt. Not exactly a revolution, I agree, but nevertheless a solid foundation on which to build our autumn/winter wardrobe.
Who would have thought that this time-honoured silhouette created by the French designer Christian Dior in the late 1940s as part of a post-war "new look" would play such a major role in modern society? Although admittedly, in terms of a "shape to suit all", the pencil is pretty hard to beat. It's risky without the tarty part, with a kind of now-you-see-it-now-you-don't appeal.
It's all in the wiggle, of course, which is almost always down to the cut. And if the concept of pattern cutting baffles you, simply think of it as an inverted triangle. Now add a fat rubber band somewhere around knee level, close your eyes and imagine trying to walk, and - well, you get the picture. What's not to love? The pencil can add much-needed curves to a boyish figure - and make the most of an hourglass shape by following and compressing the natural form. So not much wrong, I say, although, as always, there are still a few guidelines to take on board.
Firstly, forget the retro Grace Kelly/Audrey Hepburn parody. The single string of pearls and twin set has been recreated so often it is now perceived as poor taste. So instead of reaching for the traditional ballet flats, try this season's knee-length boots - Prada does a wonderful version if you can swallow the price tag. To counteract the primness, try pairing the skirt with something ultramodern on top; a structured graphic print should do the trick.
For everyday use, try teaming it with something particularly unstructured - perhaps a loose textured piece, a casual T-shirt or an oversized piece of knitwear that can be worn outside the skirt.
Your height will play a more important role than normal - don't forget that skirts that finish at the calf are not flattering for a petite frame and will only accentuate chunky legs. So make sure your hemline skims the most narrow point of the leg - knee level.
There we have it, the rare item we can't really moan about, a piece that suits all shapes and all ages (for the legs, they say, are the last to go.) We should be rejoicing, no? Those over 40 should surely be positively beaming, right?
Of course - but we will simply do what we always do, and ask: "Does my bum look big in this?"
The answer? Probably. Which for once is exactly the point.
This week's highs and lows
BAG ENVY This season's bags (like this from Valentino at net-a-porter) have got to be the best in a long time. Restraint, ladies!
DOUBLE DENIM The rodeo look may still be a big trend, but we are not impressed with Acne's interpretation.
A COOL COLLABORATION NYC's of-the-moment designer Sophie Theallet is teaming up with Starbucks to design its 40th anniversary T-shirt.
COCKTAIL DRESSES It's all about the midi flowing skirt this autumn.
COUNTRY LIVING Band of Outsiders' S/S collection has us longing for the countryside.