Why wearing chinos may require a careful over-the-shoulder backward glance.
Katie Trotter: On chinos
Chinos: men simply end up looking like they are in desperate need of a suit and women like they are in desperate need of taking the suit off. You'd think I would be all over them, being on the left of the flipsy-dipsy side of fashion. But while most of us think in terms of simple likes and dislikes, when it comes to a new trend, I - because of the nature of my job - am on the lookout for potholes, making sure you all don't fall in. So listen carefully before drawing conclusions.
I once visited a friend in the US state of Colorado and spotted a busload of prospective university students and their parents hop off to do some joyful campus tour as only Americans can do. Now close your eyes and picture the accents, the tans, the dark glasses, the jewellery - the kind of high-camp drama I so craved. Now open, as this is not what I saw. What I did see, much to my disappointment, must have been about 85 pairs of chinos - almost all too high and too tight, I may add.
It was a curious sight, like watching a pack of chatty cigars: all beige-brown and lumpy and topped off with the brightest trainers I had ever laid eyes on.
Aside from the obvious benefits of chinos - comfort, practicality, ease of movement and less exposure than shorts and skirts - I can't quite get rid of the terrifying "mum bum" images I saw that day. Yet that high-waisted, excess-fabric, bottom-magnifier I now know as the chino is back with a vengeance.
My advice? Like every other kind of trouser, ask for - if not demand - a try-on. Don't assume, as many women do, that a baggy cut is more deceptive than a tight fit. Like children who cover themselves in a blanket in a game of hide-and-seek, the reality is still there for everyone to see.
Cropped or pleated trousers, however, add a touch of vintage glamour rather than the slightly pathetic look of an ex-public school boy if you are truly desperate to give them a whirl. Ankle-swingers work well, but make sure to team with a pair of open-toe ankle boots or two-toned ballet pumps to offset the look.
The neutral colour of chinos will go with pretty much anything, but brighter colours on the top half will lift the outfit. Experiment with a sharp blazer and a white T-shirt for evenings, or if you want something more feminine, try a silk shirt with the sleeves rolled up.
Even with all this I won't pretend that this is the most flattering of garments: when you see the effect on your bottom, you may need to sit down for a moment, perhaps with a glass of room-temperature water - but at least you will know that you will be comfortable when doing so.
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