Lace, florals and sugary pastels mean a more feminine look this season.
Katie Trotter: Tough times mean a softer side to fashion
Something obscure is happening in fashion, what with all this lace, florals and sugary pastels - even the girls on the catwalk seem a little more joyful than normal.
It seems to have sprung from nowhere, perhaps in the dead of night or when we simply weren't looking. Suddenly, women everywhere were ditching the jeans and square-shouldered blazers and fixing diamanté brooches to their lace dresses. We are swathing ourselves in silk brocade and organza for the first time in a fair few seasons and looking to luxury houses such as Prada and Lanvin for inspiration. We are investing in heirloom buys rather than a large collection from the high street; out goes budget shopping and in comes exquisite investment pieces. Hooray!
You see, while 2012 was all about austere structure and hard lines, 2013 is set to be a softer, more ethereal season. I'm all for it. There's something wonderfully poetic about it. Expect a feminine, cinched-in shape and a longer hem (just a touch above the knee).
Although this softer trend has long been gaining momentum (Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel and Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen are to thank), it was the cult New York label Rodarte - using multilayered tulle, feathers and cobwebby knits - that brought it to the forefront. The belted floral dress, whether high-necked or square, will feature predominately, as will soft, collarless blouses in powdery chiffons that create a sensual mood. Look for soft pinks, corals, taupes and sheer greys in your colour scheme. Earthy tones of slate grey and rustic olive, cornflower blue and teal will also feature. Anything with a bit of movement and you know you are on the right track. Anything with a whiff of debutante and you are onto a winner. If nudes tend to wash you out, try coming from a different direction by adding the use of pleats, ruffles or intricate fabric.
Start small with flashes such as a chiffon shirt or a high-waisted skirt. If you're feeling brave, go for a pair of pastel-coloured tights (more flattering than they sound).Stay clear of anything with a hard contrast or strong lines. Instead of your normal black handbag, go for a pale, grey suede or a light tan, and your silhouette should be whimsical rather than austere.
Make sure to use your shape to it's best advantage - remember only about, oh, .001 per cent of women have a perfect, natural hourglass figure, so don't rule things out before trying. Fashion is your weapon, your master disguiser. A fuller skirt with low heel is a nice change from the usual pencil-skirt combination.
The look is perhaps due to both the recession and the throwaway culture of the past decade, a time when more was, well, more. Experts predicted we would give up on fashion altogether but, tenacious bunch that we are, we have simply reinvented the game plan. Women are now buying precious pieces, and what is not to celebrate in that? Let's call it polished femininity - for everything in fashion must have a name - and polished it is. This look demands work, the sort of relentless, behind-the-scenes stuff that men have no idea we do. Perfectly manicured nails, neatly trimmed and roller-set hair, polished shoes, carefully shaped brows - the full works. As a result, don't even think of delving into the trend if you know you may abandon the upkeep. You won't just be able to tumble out of bed and roll with it; that goes against everything this lady stands for.