Wednesday, November 17, 2010

British fashion

The temperature is dropping (7˚C today), the weather is turning to drizzle, and darkness is falling by four in the afternoon. It’s time to consider that question all antipodeans need to face when confronting their first Northern Winter: what to wear?

I don't have to have the dog too, do I?
I consulted Carrollanne on this question. She recommended boots, a Liberty skirt, a cashmere sweater and something called a ‘barbour’. In explaining this coat-like garment, she claimed it was like the Australian Driza-Bone®, but upon checking I find that it has more of an English country look than Australian outback. Think relentless drizzle rather than “drought and flooding rains”. And rather than team it with your R M Williams boots, the welly seems to be the footwear for Barbour® wearers. Yes, I’ve added a ‘registered’ symbol, because these coats are made by J. Barbour & Sons Limited, and apparently have been since 1849. Excuse my ignorance. As they seem to be warm and waterproof, I will be adding a ‘Barbour’ to my shopping list. But the quilted or the waxed? On the names alone, the waxed ones may have it: you can choose from ‘Badminton’, ‘Blenheim’, ‘Defence’ – and one named ‘Kate Jacket’ which may or may not have appeared after yesterday’s announcement of Prince William’s proposal to Kate Middleton. Decisions, decisions. I must consult Carrollanne again.

As to the footwear question, the frequent rain calls for more stamina than my suede fleece-lined boots (bought in New York in the winter) can hope to supply. I have therefore invested in a pair of ‘all-weather boots’ that feature rubber soles – ordered online, so yet to be tested, but hopes are high.

As to the Liberty skirt, there appear to be many options,  and I’m not sure which one Carrollanne would regard as de rigueur – but perhaps this Vivienne Westwood number at £260? Just perfect for sloshing through the English winter?

I adopt a mocking tone, but it is a serious question. My principal aim will to be warm and dry. Or at least  warm-ish. And dry-ish.  But many a young Londoner is not to be satisfied with such unadventurous goals – they aim also to be stylish. One young lady I followed down the street yesterday was rather spectacularly attired, thus: shiny men’s brogues (flat and practical lace-ups), pencil-thin trousers on skinny legs, rolled about four inches above the ankles, which were clad in warm men’s socks. Above the trousers, a black fake-fur jacket with a high cosy collar; and the head topped off by a white-and-orange woolly hat. She actually looked great. Skinny but warm.

As to the fake fur coat, I wonder if I will be able to get through the winter without one?  I also came across a blond, walking along hand in hand with her boyfriend, wearing a wide white fake-fur cape. I thought capes were dead forever, but apparently not. All the shop windows feature the fake-fur you must have. I may not be able to resist as the temperatures plummet further.

I read that the conservatively estimated revenues of the fashion industry worldwide are US$500 billion, making it the fourth-largest industry globally. It seems likely that London shops account for a large slice of this, despite the economic doom & gloom here. The Guardian’s ‘Style’ page recently featured the enthralling question: How to Tie Your Scarf This Winter:

Listen, we’re not Trinny and Susannah but, honestly, there are ways of doing things. This paper’s very own fashion editor has declared a loose loop to be the scarf look this winter. Elsewhere on the fashion desk there is much talk of tucking your hair into the scarf. This looks very cool and a bit French. Meanwhile, over at Vogue HQ, Emma Elwick-Bates tells The Briefing she’s channelling Balenciaga’s super tight tucking-in scenario of autumn/winter 2007. Has the snood got as many options? I don’t think so.

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