x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Push your style boundaries, remembering fashion is supposed to be fun

I know I really ought to have grown out of it by now, but I remain endlessly captivated by how and why we dress like we do.

Models walk the catwalk during the Mary Katrantzou Runway show at London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012. Getty Images
Models walk the catwalk during the Mary Katrantzou Runway show at London Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012. Getty Images

The other day I was sitting in Cafe Arabia chomping on a halloumi sandwich (pretty good, I may add) when I spotted a girl whose look I admired. And, upon closer inspection, I realised why - she was wearing pretty much everything I own. Alexander Wang zip sunglasses - got them. MiH dark blue jeans - wearing them. Over-the-top knuckle duster ring - got a drawer full of them. Looky-likey Chanel jacket from Zara - on my back. It was a funny feeling, being captivated by one's clone, the depth of my fascination bordering on the narcissistic.

I know I really ought to have grown out of it by now, but I remain endlessly captivated by how and why we dress like we do. Most of us, myself included, go for the same-old-same-old: on go the jeans (yawn), the black shirtdress (yawn), the trusty flats (yawn). We are often just a bit too fraught or frazzled to put any more deliberation into our outfits than necessary. Because, let's face it, dressing like a pro takes commitment. It takes time, a 9-to-5 sort of time.

The problem is, we often forget about multi-layering here (the easiest way in which to stand out and make your mark); it's too hot to think, full stop. And you can forget vintage, because there's almost none here. So where do we start when it comes to being individual?

Well, when our thoughts turn to summer, designers turn to print, so use the time to experiment. Paisley is the new polka dot, and flashes of the Indian heritage print of swirling, curling shapes can be a great way to perk up an otherwise drab attire. Try a Paisley printed cotton dress, as seen at Jil Sander, or those who are feeling somewhat braver can go for the on-trend, pyjama-inspired silks, as seen at Stella McCartney and JW Anderson. Surprisingly enough, intricate pattern can work in your favour when it comes to flattering your figure. More often than not, if the pattern starts small and increases in size as it goes down, your waist and hips will appear slimmer.

Summer florals are also worth a shot: at Christopher Kane, an amazing collection of flowery stickers sealed within two layers of sheer organza signalled a modern advance, while one couldn't help but fall head over heels with Erdem's more classical take. Go for hard, masculine, mismatched prints to offset what could be a little too bubblegum for some, as seen at Mary Katrantzou, Sportmax and Clements Ribeiro.

This is not a season for sissies: tangerine orange, sunny yellow, hibiscus, scarlet, fuchsia and snooker-table greens are the colours of choice, as traditional print references continue to inspire. I've been skirting around the subject of leopard for a while now in the hope that it might fade away, rather like the poodle perm or Yo-Yos, but I'm afraid it's here to stay. Animal prints, particularly big-cat spots, are not going anywhere anytime soon and are best seen scattered across evening wear. Safari suiting - all-khaki cotton and patch pocket in that high-gloss 1970s way - has made an impression. Large, dramatic, ethnic prints, raffia, tribal sketches and beading will be everywhere, but remember that styling is crucial - the idea is to make your outfit look anything but a uniform.

Everyone has something to say about what others are wearing. Left, right, smart or stupid, it gets our hackles up. In fact, I have spent the greater part of my career trying to pinpoint the differing forms of self-expression and, so far, I've come to the conclusion that, despite our somewhat titanic efforts, fashion cannot, and will probably never, ever make everyone happy. My advice? Be safe in the knowledge there is no right or wrong way; expression is personal and the boundaries in taste and authority are highly debatable. It is, after all, meant to be fun.

ktrotter@thenational.ae