The Return of Pretty

In its upcoming issue, Vogue Australia gives an insight into “the most intriguing fashion right now” by describing it, in part, as “soft” and “languorous”, with a “powdered palette”. Most importantly, women’s fashion this season is “coloured by the past while responsive to the mood of the moment.”

If you’ve been lucky enough to have the £3 or £4 left over from your student loan this month, your magazines might have left you with a sickly, sweet taste in your mouth; stuffed with cotton candy pinks and virginal white lace, big houses such as Vuitton (Vuitton’s princesses sit prim and proper atop a carousel at the S/S ‘12 show in the picture above) and Dior present pictures of freshly-scrubbed girls in socks and ponytails, clutching ice cream sundaes in one hand and bags of Barbie proportions in the other. While the jewelled butterfly hairclips and strappy sandals may bring back bad memories of childhood parties for some, even Chanel, with its structured waists, ladylike lengths and voluminous, curve-balancing shoulders, are doing their best to keep one thing under wraps: our modesty.

It’s difficult to imagine a time when these shapes were not only de rigueur, but our mothers and grandmothers would have fainted at the sight of us, poured into almost non-existent, tight bodycon dresses pre-Ocean on a Friday night. The shape (and the shape of 2010) was pioneered by Hervé Léger and his bandage dress, seen on every celebrity, from the impossible hourglass to the tall, rail-thin models that walk his shows. Inspired by the ’80s power dresser – the woman who worked hard and played hard – the form-fitting style made its way to high street stores, and soon it became difficult to find anything that did cover you up. As someone who’s always found solace in vintage styles and softer, sweeter pieces, it took an awful lot of coaxing to come around to the idea and yet, I found myself embracing and eventually, appreciating the opportunity. To all those women that fought for freedom from garters, bustles and long-line bras, for control of their sexuality, to those who were taught that bodies were meant to be hidden and that were chastised for showing a little too much shoulder, it felt like an insult not to jump on board.

So, what’s a girl to do when, once again, the ankle is the sexiest thing on show? My first instinct at seeing the collections was to breathe a sigh of relief, but as I reveled in the swathes of lilac chiffon I was presented with, McQueen’s sequined gloves and Prada’s floral pencil skirts, I couldn’t help but mourn last season’s devil-may-care attitude to femininity. All of a sudden, we’re taken back to the strict modesty of our grandmothers – we’re not powerful, just pretty.

But is this revival really a step back, or is it simply a bit of fun? And isn’t that what fashion should be? There’s certainly something less jarring about this season’s palette; more forgiving about the old-fashioned silhouette, and who doesn’t love to get dolled up (quite literally) on occasion? Furthermore, perhaps fashion is far more “responsive to the mood of the moment” than we think. Intelligent young girls are always finding new ways to explore and celebrate their sexuality and, as we’re about to see, a well-tailored suit has something of its own to say, and it could be something important.

While even I may not be quite ready to don one of Rochas’ headscarves over my beehive, and while my brand new sky-high wedges may look best paired with a mile or two of leg, this season will be my season. I look forward to a playful summer of tea dresses and romantic hairstyles, and the important thing – I’m still the same girl; you’re just seeing less of me.

Hannah Murray


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