Fashion has turned a corner and gone very sleek, if not bleak.
Fashion talk: Don your pretty, floral dresses while there's time
Having caught a glimpse of the autumn/winter Paris catwalks, I would offer some advice: enjoy the roses while there's still time. From what I can see, fashion has turned a corner and gone very sleek - maybe even a bit too bleak. What the fashion website style.com heralds as a victory for the power-suited businesswoman, I read as a loss for the average, normal woman - one who is not reed thin and earning a six-figure company salary.
Buzzwords for the autumn/winter 2010 season are "clean", "polished", and "chic", which is how I might describe the area around my coffee table after a good going over with a duster, not my clothes. I saw the writing on the wall when Phoebe Philo sent out her utilitarian Celine range last October, closely followed by Hannah MacGibbon's Chloé ponchos and boy scout shirts. It's all lovely, just not my cup of tea.
Which is why I sure as anything am going to make sure I enjoy the current season, which is romantic, feminine, flouncy and all about dresses. Included in my floral frock wish list are styles by Ralph Lauren, Rochas, Rebecca Taylor and Erdem. Team any one of these with a thin belt, black Louboutin stilettos or glossy nude heels by Jimmy Choo, a retro granny bag and a Tom Binns Alice In Wonderland charm necklace.
I can live without the home-dye red hair and leather drainpipes that fashion magazines advocate. My spring look is bare legs, a floral dress and nice shoes. Although digi prints are very "of the season", you just know they are going to date. Floral prints, in contrast, get better with age. They are the perfect spring antidote to the fierce, aggressive, warrior-woman tailoring we've just left behind, and they will supply a breather before we enter this new era of utility and bodycon tailoring.
I am looking towards the London-based, Canadian-born designer Erdem Moralioglu for inspiration. He has successfully put a new spin on both florals and dresses, and is certainly the designer who has influenced high street trends the most this season. His rose and pansy prints are vivid and modern while never losing sight of what made them appealing in the first place (dare I call them pretty?). Erdem seems to be one of the only floral-loving designers who get this balance right. It looked OK on the catwalk, but I'm not sure how Stella McCartney's flowery print dress will look on all her celebrity friends, especially those on the other side of 35. (Ouch! There, I've said it.)
In contrast, during the recent London Fashion Week, Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron, who will soon be battling it out for prime minister's wife in the British general election, both chose Erdem and looked great. I admire designers, male or female, who consistently make women look great. Others include Alber Elbaz, who has inherited enough Parisian grande dames from his days at Yves Saint Laurent to be put in his place if he did anything besides this.
Much as I admire Roland Mouret, if you aren't a model, under 21 or teetering on the verge of anorexia, you are not a walking advertisement for his work. Although I'd like him to embrace colour more, Elbaz has created a unique modern glamour - made for and to be appreciated by women of all ages. Besides, anyone who slips in comfort as an added factor deserves to take his place among the designer greats.
The other thing about florals is they are flattering for most skintones. Last week's dud Oscar fashion night proved just how blood-draining blush pinks and the nude neutral palette is. The way to wear your pretty flowery dress (and I say again, wear it while you can) is under an army surplus khaki shirt. Kylie Minogue and Madonna have both been spotted wearing these recently. Despite virtually every designer doing a take on this, nothing quite looks like the real thing. When was the last time that happened?