I can stand up to some serious cross-questioning on the subject of fashion.
And contrary to what sometimes seems a popular belief – feminism and an interest in fashion can coexist. Why would it be antithetical to feminism to be interested in style, in design, in line and colour and cut? Why would a desire to feel good about yourself, to look modern, be at odds with feminism? Look at Coco Chanel. She looked fabulous.
Surely feminism should allow women to be as complicated and contradictory in their personalities as we allow men to be, with their football teams and fishing rods. Absolutely! Women are more complicated. Much more interesting. But what about the argument that our culture makes too much noise around women’s looks as it is, and feminists shouldn’t add their voice to this? That’s a quite separate issue from fashion. The emphasis on how you look is very narrowly defined in our media. That’s the problem. Whereas women can look great in all sorts of different ways. And women on their own terms understand that. Women who are interested in fashion dress much more for women than for men, and with a complex idea of what is stylish which most men just don’t understand.
Does power dressing come into wardrobe choices? It used to. Now, it’s more a case that there are certain wants for which you want to choose an outfit you feel confident about and then not think about it again.
Tonight, I’m out and I’m wearing a Prada skirt with an Etro shirt, which I found for £90 in the Liberty clearance room. I’m a bargain-hunter – of course I am. And I’ve learned that certain labels and pieces work for me.
I exercise quite a bit so I can squeeze my body into most things – I play tennis every Sunday afternoon with a friend. Not this weekend as I’m away.
If you want to do feminine and graceful, you wear trousers (wide-legged, extra-long) and if you want to look tough and all-action, you wear a dress. No, you heard me right. Wait, you got my email about this being the age of gender fluidity, right?
This, as a result, is when women who don’t necessarily normally do dresses can do dresses. I’m going to go with “tomboy dress” as a phrase. Tomboy dresses can be sporty, fastened with oversized ring pulls instead of buttons, or drawstrings instead of sash belts. These are not so much a new take on the dress, as the final frontier of athleisure. The aesthetic of the gym, having already attained ultimate wardrobe-creep by coming to define pre-6pm wear on non-working days, now has designs on what you wear to work.
But there is another option, too. Demure floral dresses have long been a fashion no man’s land. The default choice of the slightly depressed wedding guest, and therefore a look that all of us considers herself to have a little bit of an edge on – women like us, in other words – wouldn’t touch with a bargepole. But now, they are being rediscovered and worn in a way that is more indie-kid than Duchess of Cambridge, with chunky studded belts and ankle boots, and a streamlined, grownup line that makes them modern. (Think a black polo neck layered under a dress, rather than a cardigan on top of it.)
The dress has been liberated from girliness. Sporty details give energy to simple shapes, while a sweet dress is toughened up with biker boots and a ribbed knit. If the high-maintenance elegance of trousers has got you on the run (pale pink wide legged crepe pants are divine, but not exactly the practical option) a dress is this season’s more down-to-earth alternative. There’s even a failsafe test. Does it have pockets? This matters: for practical reasons, and for what-to-do-with-your-hands reasons. If the answer’s yes, that’s your dress.