With the close of Paris Fashion Week, a survey of the trends that will take us into spring.
The fashion outlook for spring
The style world's biannual whirligig finally came to a halt in Paris last week, with the four major fashion weeks (the others being New York, Milan and London) having offered us a view on what we'll all be wearing next summer.
The shows in Paris ended with two labels that are favourites in the Middle East. Louis Vuitton (designed by Marc Jacobs, who is still the hot ticket for the top spot at Dior) and Elie Saab both offered classically wearable, ladylike collections that reflect the still-shaky state of the fashion industry. Neither was austere, of course - Saab remains the king of the glittering red-carpet dress, and while Jacobs's shapes were demure, the fabrics were, as in his similarly ladylike autumn/winter 2010 collection, almost couture-like in their uniqueness and handworking.
That was one of the themes of the season: simple, classic, no-great-shakes silhouettes were made extraordinary using texture, beading, embellishment, thick brocade, embroidery, appliqué, sequins and paillettes. It's a fairly obvious strategy but one that makes shopping easier: investment pieces that will last. If you're going to splash out on a new frock when you're supposed to be tightening your belt, you'd better be able to wear it time and time again.
This being fashion, though, it's not quite so simple: where some designers went bounding off towards the heavy satins, elaborate details and sit-up-straight constructions of mid-century Mad Men couture, others pared everything down for a more relaxed version of the practical, minimalist, menswear-inspired looks that have been gaining ground for the past couple of seasons. From easy, loose jackets in pastel colours at Paul Smith, Margaret Howell and, of course, Stella McCartney, for whom the look is a signature, to Jean Paul Gaultier's deconstructed pinstripes, Sonia Rykiel's sporty-girl pleated skirts and Anne-Valérie Hash's lean silhouettes and soft, light fabrics, this is less about masculine dressing than about looking confident, strong and above all, womanly.
Beyond the obvious trends, there are a few ongoing details that span the collections in the shops right now and the ones that will appear in six months' time. Curved shoulders, often constructed with a raglan sleeve (in which the sleeve goes in one piece from the cuff to the neckline, rather than having a classic "socket"), are probably most iconically found on the Dior Bar jacket, as reprised by Bill Gaytten this season, but can be seen across the collections as an easy, sophisticated alternative to padded shoulders. Shoe heights have continued to shrink, and although there are still plenty of platforms out there (the most popular for summer being the block-platform sandal), flats and kitten-heels are making incursions, as are rather elegant stilettos. Trousers ranged from clown-wide (at Kenzo) to cigarette-thin (at Yves Saint Laurent), but while you might not always look to Italy for innovation, its collections will usually offer the most flattering version of any prevailing look, and Giorgio Armani's trousers were just that: slender but not tight, cropped a fraction above the ankle and loose in the hips.
Here we look at the five essential trends for next season.
It started a few seasons ago, at Dior and Louis Vuitton, but that full-skirted Mad Men look has developed into something altogether less "costumey" and more relaxed.
Having taken a couple of detours, both brands are going down this route again, with Dior's bouncy silk gazar puffballs (Andrew Gn designed puffballs, too) and Vuitton's structured bell skirts.
For a more daytime approach, Burberry Prorsum, Jonathan Saunders and Diane von Furstenberg's cool cotton skirts sprang out from tight waists but were more relaxed, even a little creased, and suited for a crisp spring.
Straddling the two, Oscar de la Renta and Dolce & Gabbana went ladylike without being froufrou: de la Renta's taffeta ball skirts looking modern with their lean lace tops, and Dolce & Gabbana's vibrant print versions offering that Sophia-Loren-on-the-Italian-Riviera look.
Perhaps in reaction to the 1950s hourglass obsession, autumn saw a few tentative steps towards the dropped-waist dress, but this season, the flapper look has really come into its own.
Its most fabulous incarnation was probably at Gucci, where Frida Giannini's 1920s-style evening frocks were beaded in gold and black art deco-inspired motifs. Ralph Lauren offered a fairly literal interpretation of the Great Gatsby look, Marc Jacobs went for Bob Fosse-style sassy 1920s city girls, and Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti's frocks were as delicately sparkling as ever.
At Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld combined the dropped waist with puffed-out tulle skirts, a more glamorous alternative to the flapper, and a number of designers, including Paule Ka and Kenzo, used the shape for a naive, doll-like, baggy frock with a straight top and gathered skirt.
Yellow and orange
Since Prada blasted through the beige last spring with a shot of neon orange, it's a colour that has been on the up, and it's now almost mandatory to include at least one mandarin look in a collection.
The shock of it now mitigated, the new dazzler is bright yellow, with designers including Sonia Rykiel, Jill Scott, Paul Smith and even the normally fad-free Elie Saab offering some sunshine with this hard-to-wear hue. With dark skin or a tan, it looks fantastic, but those with pale or olive complexions should be cautious: perhaps stick to an accessory or a blast of yellow on a skirt, where it's not too near the face.
Print and pattern
While autumn's colour-blocking obsession remains important for spring and summer (particularly Yves Klein blue with cinnabar red or orange), prints are huge, too.
Dries Van Noten always offers a huge selection, which this season ranged from traditional botanical drawings to photographic digital prints. Florals appeared in giant form at Dolce & Gabbana and delicate sprigs at Ralph Lauren, and graphic pastel prints at Preen and Marni looked modern and crisp.
Art Nouveau-inspired pattern, too, came through, with Yves Saint Laurent's dark twill silks covered in sinuous curlicues - something to look out for next season, if the one-colour jacquard brocades at a number of shows are anything to go by.
For some, colour and pattern were an unnecessary distraction from the serious business of silhouette, and all-white ensembles - even some all-white collections - were seen across the shows.
Diane von Furstenberg started her show with a crisp, unfussy white shirtdress that was as far from her usual aesthetic as you can imagine; Giambattista Valli's stiff, structured shapes were shown to great effect in a white and off-white palette and the Olsen Twins' fantastic brand The Row offered the sort of eerie asceticism that the fashionable pair represent.
Chanel and Alexander McQueen both had large sections of all-white, using fabric texture and embellishment to work around the colour limitation.