Fashion talk July is limbo month fashion-wise, the rare occasion when even the most driven fashionista will allow herself a bit of a breather from trend-following.
Summer holiday lines do little to lift spirits
July is limbo month fashion-wise. Too hot and not quite the right fashion "moment" to lunge into the new season trends (even if they were in the shops, and most are not). This is the rare occasion when even the most driven fashionista will allow herself a bit of a breather from trend-following. It doesn't mean she can put her feet up. This week in the topsy-turvy fashion calendar is affectionately known as "Christmas in July".
Over the next few days, designers, clothing agencies and chain stores reveal what's on offer for the holiday and party season. Late November and early December are crucial for fashion retailers. They follow the inevitable slump in sales after the initial excitement of the new autumn/winter stock, which arrives August and September. The later deliveries (or "drops", in fashion speak) are arguably even more thrilling because they include catwalk "show stoppers" - the finale dress or bejewelled evening gown - as well as distilled trends that often prove the true gems of the season.
To be scrutinising these finer, flimsier pieces, many of which weren't even on the catwalks in March, in the heat of mid-summer sets my pulse racing. After wading through hot showrooms stacked with knitted dresses, furs and coats, it is little wonder the satins, chiffons and lace of the Christmas deliveries look so appealing. If only I could get my hands on some of the key pieces, which by December will be commonplace. Right now I'd kill for a flimsy pale pink satin or deep purple-printed chiffon evening blouse. Or a shrunken black tuxedo jacket, or shift dress in a jewel colour like sapphire, ruby, emerald, gold, silver or bronze. Or cobweb fine black lace (Linda Evangelista wears it in the new Prada campaign and Claudia Schiffer models the fabric in the new Chanel campaign) dripping with sequins and encrusted with all manner of embroideries.
Although the cruise lines and pre-collections which are just starting to filter into stores are perfect for this time of year and holidays, the ranges are, on the whole, bland: very classic and - dare I say? - boring Why is it that summer holiday clothes don't have the same effect on my spirits as their sparkly winter holiday relations? Between Christmas appointments, I nipped into several boutiques and department stores to clock what's ended up on the sale rails. One word: prints. I knew that Alexander McQueen psychedelic sunburst print wouldn't sell. Neither did Balenciaga's instantly recognisable warrior print. How irritating for all those shop owners who stocked up on the "must-have" pieces which featured heavily in glossy magazines. In pictures, great. In reality, unwearable.
During the Paris couture shows earlier this month, the ultra-fashionable guests seemed to have steered clear of obvious trends. Where were the prints, the wacky art house squiggles and the florals? In the summer sales, of course. Here's a taste of some of the newest trends, which you just might find in summer sales if the designer was thinking ahead of the pack. The newest trouser shape is a flattering take on tapered jodhpurs, often in a slinky satin or a "trouser jean". The jacket to team this with is neat, nipped in and cut in a military fashion, a bit like the 1980s New Romantic bandstand type with a bit of brocade trim. Although the shops are full of wide, skinny or boot cut trousers, I'd give them a wide berth.
The maxi dress continues to pop up, but as it is difficult for the average woman to pull off, the fitted shift dress with a built-in pencil skirt (and sometimes even a cheating corset to cinch that waist) is the sure-fire winner. Key accessories include the jewelled cuff, chandelier earrings, clanking pendants on ribbon necklaces and either sheer or lacy black tights. Even if you can't buy it yet, start dreaming of a black lace Christmas.