There’s nothing like a wardrobe shake-up for injecting some oomph into the daily grind. A style rut, however reliable and fail-safe, can be soul-sapping and ageing if you stick with it too long.
Whether you’re setting out with a long “to buy” list, or “shopping your wardrobe” (a ludicrous expression, popular, I regret to say, among certain fashion editors, ie moi, which, as Charlie Gowans-Eglinton points out, just means rootling through your own clothes), those trends that we go to great lengths to mine from fashion month are a good starting point.
But they’re not the end point. What suits you – your personality, your lifestyle and your body – should be at the forefront of your mind when you try new ideas. Even “statements” should be flattering. That doesn’t have to be limiting. I meet so many women who, once they’re in their 40s and up, tend to overthink fashion’s challenges and assume they can’t wear any. Wrong. There’s a way to game the system and interpret most worthwhile trends that will enhance all of your favourite features – even the mini skirt (although we don’t have to worry about that one just yet, because although it is mounting a comeback, it is very early days).
You just have to think a bit laterally, be prepared to do a lot of trying on and where necessary, get things altered. I know I’ve said it before, but this last bit of the equation makes all the difference. I go to the brilliant Artesian Tailoring in Notting Hill, London, where Abdul is boss, but the whole team is brilliant. They’re worth crossing London for, but if you live outside, go by word of mouth – and please share them with me.
Meanwhile, five of the most desirable, wearable trends for this winter are set out here – but with pretty much all of the slog taken out, as I’ve divided them into body types. Go forth and multiply your options.
The hiking boot modernises a classic casual look whatever your age: £275, Toast
It’s all about knee boots and over the knee boots this winter. But some boots are so long, no one under 5ft 7 can wear them. Others only do up over the spindliest calves. If your calves are more generously proportioned, look to Duoboots.com for some reassurance that the world isn’t some ginormous dastardly plot against your personal style mandate. Not only do their boots come in 10 calf-width fittings – up to 50cms – they’re also not stupidly tall. And they’re nicely made. I’m still wearing mine from three years ago. The sleek, glossy Belmore, a block heel in burgundy leather, garnered a ton of compliments this week (£230).
If you’re smaller than 5ft 2, and most knee boots reach to your lower thigh, consider a shin length boot. While they’re not flattering with shorter skirts, if you wear them with a midi, there shouldn’t be any gap – and that’s key. The fewer horizontal lines, the better. These lace up Whistles Victorian-style bootees should do the trick – and they look lovely with ankle-cropped trousers, which are always good on petite figures. If you’re a beanpole and only wear trousers, then stick with ankle boots. Unless you tuck your trousers in, you won’t get your money’s worth from knee boots, and even then, hello deep vein thrombosis. A tractor sole lace-up will look modern – and it’s very practical.
A V-neck is great for fuller busts : £79, Arket
It’s back and undeniably cosy. The challenge is how to de-frump it. First things first, bobbles don’t look good on anyone. Invest in a de-bobbler (£40, steamery.co.uk). Secondly, a zip will modernise a cardigan, lending it an elegantly sporty feel. It also allows you to control how much skin you reveal and looks good on all shapes, especially smaller women.
A deep ribbed hem will emphasise narrow waists, as will a cropped cardigan. V-necked boyfriend shapes are excellent for busty women, but particularly good in thicker textures, which gives them structure. Cardigan coats, or coatigans, are a wardrobe warhorse, but need a topical tweak every so often. This mid-length version, from Jigsaw, suits small- to mid-height women and will skim over less than flat tummies and thighs nicely to provide a streamlined outline.
A high waist works on most bodies including pears. If you’re short, define your middle: £132.99, Universal Standard
The newest on the catwalk are high waisted flares, but they’re only for the tall. That doesn’t mean shorter women can’t benefit from the leg lengthening effects of a raised waist, or enjoy flares. Look for something that sits just above the navel. A tie waist is very flattering on anyone with curves of any size since it accentuates the narrowest part, but is equally good for creating the illusion of curves if you're straight-up-and-down.
If you’re petite, wear your culottes with heels: £70, Boden
Culottes – another hit on the catwalks – are also surprisingly good on shorter women. (They can come up too short on tall women, but if you’re under 5ft 5 and they’re a bit too long, you have the option of shortening them). Culottes show off trim ankles and calves, and there’s something charming about a pair worn with classic courts. In other words, they can be as feminine as a skirt, but with some tomboy attitude.
Fuller figures don’t have to swamp themselves. Go for shape enhancing silhouettes and show some ankle: £183.99, Universal Standard
If you’re voluptuous and have previously been scared off trousers, then these joggers from Universal Standard could be the answer. Sleek, sporty, thigh skimming but smart – wear them with a heel, to show off ankles, or stompy hiking boots.
Reiss’s asymmetric, bias cut skirt flatters fuller figures: £145, Reiss
Skirts are back this winter – largely thanks to the return of knee boots and the Celine show, which made frumpy tweed skirts, tank tops and staid, late Seventies’ business-outfits look desirable (it’s all in the fabrics and styling). A box pleat wool or tweed skirt and boots is only for the tall, but a slimmer, or gently A-line version can work beautifully on someone shorter. The bias cut skirt is also having a moment or three, but it can be unforgiving in skimpy fabrics. This Reiss one is thicker and nicely structured and looks fabulous on curves. Remember, it’s not about being skinny, but being toned – and good shapewear (Heist’s Highlight short, £65 heist-studios.com) comfortably helps achieve that effect.
A gentle A-line skirt works on pear shapes: £110, Toast
Pear shapes look best in a gently flared or A-line midi – the wider hem balances out hips and thighs. A proper waistband, that sits on the navel, will flatter small waists. Contrary to received wisdom, pears and big tummies can wear pleats, which are still very popular. Make sure they’re in a soft fabric and wear with a longer jumper or blazer. Or if you want wool, look for flat panels across the stomach.
Fuller curves can look terrific in knee-length or below the knee pencil skirts. Wear a neat, fitted top that tucks in or sits on the waistband, and glossy footwear. If you’re size 16 or above, or size 4, check out Universal Standard, arguably the world’s most inclusive e-tailer. Set up by Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler, two charismatic women who run the gamut, size wise, it caters for all, from 00 to 40 (US sizing), and shows them on appropriately sized models (its backers include Dame Natalie Massenet). This skirt is business-wear all right, but there’s nothing staid about it.
A cape that works on all ages, shapes and sizes: £95.99, Zara
It comes, it goes. And each time you think, meh, what’s the point in a garment that doesn’t seem to know what it’s for? I’ll tell you what, having tried a few out capes this season: it’s a brilliant layering piece. This may sound like more fashion-speak, and it is. But this is some vocab you need to learn. Layering, if you spend your time darting in and out of buildings in winter, as opposed to labouring for hours on end in a weather-blighted field – is what stops you becoming insanely overheated every time you step on a bus/get into a car. The fact that you can wear a properly chunky warm jumper underneath without losing use of your arms is a plus. Their brevity is another, since it means they look sleeker with trousers and most knee length, midi and maxi skirts better than a below the knee length coat. Provided they cover your thighs, you should still be toasty.
If you’re small – under 5ft 4 – you may want to belt one, to give definition. If you’re 5ft 5 to 5ft 8, avoid the long capes. That way Mary Poppins insanity lies.