As part of my ongoing attempt to smarten myself up and streamline my wardrobe I have been trying out new fashion trends. I say trends, they’re really just things that many people have been wearing for ages yet I still find hilariously novel: cropped wide-leg trousers (ie trousers with legs that just look too short), tank tops (like a waiter’s waistcoat but without the buttons) and massively ugly boots and shoes that look as though they’ve been designed by a medieval stonemason. Who specialises in carving gargoyles.
I haven’t enjoyed testing out any of those trends. In fact they all made me feel so deeply, irreversibly unattractive that I didn’t even document the process in my usual humorous way. I just couldn’t do it to myself. I’ll wear any fancy dress costume for a laugh – I’ve even dressed as a giant poo for a Sky advert – but I draw the line at some of the shoes that I see for sale. And this isn’t meant to be a condemnation of the aforementioned trends – some people look absolutely brilliant in the wide-legged cropped trousers and I know that you have to select the right ones and style them properly etc etc – I just don’t like them on me.
Is it an age thing? Do all generations look down on the fashion trends of the next and wonder what in God’s name is going on? Perhaps we’re more deeply conditioned by the dress codes of our respective eras than I previously realised. I’m Generation X – by a whisker – and my fashion rules growing up were:
1. Show boobs or legs but never both
2. Only wear a coat if it’s snowing
I think that’s why I’m now in a constant state of battle with my own wardrobe: I want to be comfortable, I want to be warm, but – thanks to living out all of my teen years in the nineties – I’m still not convinced that an outfit is worthy of the outside world if it doesn’t hinder or hobble me in some way. If the skirt isn’t so short that I’m constantly pulling it down have I really made the effort? If my heel height isn’t too high to speed-walk in then can I call myself polished? Am I properly pulled-together if my trousers don’t crotch-garrotte me at the seam?
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Anyway, I think I’ve found a “trend” that I can get on board with – hallelujah – the leather (or leatherette) skirt. I realise that this isn’t massively wild or revolutionary for most but in all honesty I’m just pleased with myself if I manage to put on a garment that doesn’t double up as sleepwear. If I can don something in the morning that isn’t a tracksuit then I genuinely feel as though I’ve partly conquered the day before it’s even begun. So to be wearing an actual trend? That’s relevant? I’m absolutely bloody cock-a-hoop!
And it doesn’t even require any sustained effort from me, this trend. It’s not a trend that forces me to hold my breath all day (BodyCon) or avoid anything that might stain me (weird “head to toe” cream and camel trend, worn by people who never come into contact with children, pets or dirt) and it’s so versatile that I can easily do that thing that everyone talks about but nobody actually ever does, ever, which is…“taking my look from day to night.”
Total urban myth. Have you ever changed your top and your makeup in the back of a cab to “take your look from day to night”? Who are these people? Why have I never met them? Surely we all decide on one outfit for the day and grumpily say “it’ll have to do” regardless of what wild anomalies our schedule might have in store? And what are these wild anomalies anyway? Who is forced to sit at their desk wearing a pinstripe suit until exactly 6pm but then must be ready to swan down the red carpet to receive a Bafta at 7? Isn’t this something of a niche problem? Yet every publication since 1999 would have you believe that everyone in the British workforce is toiling all day and then immediately taking themselves off to black tie dinners and dressy soirées.
Back to the leather (or leather andere, there are many options out there) skirt. I love the hard, masculine sort of connotations that leather things have – it’s rock and roll, it’s bikers, it’s the punk era, it’s….cowboys. But then you have it crafted into this very feminine garment and it feels very unexpected. Looks amazing with a soft-as-cloud cashmere jumper slightly tucked in.
I think that’s my favourite way – pictured on this page for your enjoyment. Other styling attempts haven’t been quite so successful – mainly because, as we all know, procuring one new wardrobe staple almost always necessitates the buying of more wardrobe staples because nothing you already have looks quite like how you imagined it would. Suddenly you need boots of a certain length, or a top with no sleeves and a high neck, or a top that is almost identical to one that you have already but just slightly more sheer. Anything else will. Not. Do.
I can tell you things that definitely do not work with a leather pencil skirt: lots of other leathery things. Add a leather jacket and you suddenly look as though you’re an extra at the Blue Oyster Kneipe. Add leather boots with any sort of spiky heel and you look like a dominatrix. The key is, so far – and I’ll keep experimenting – something nice and fluffy and oversized on the top half. It takes the leather from a hard, tough sort of material to something tactile and beautiful and gloriously soft.
Now I just need to find the right boots that are just the right length and I’ll be ready to take the fashion world by storm…
Skirt, Whistles here* (I’m a UK 10 and wearing a size 10)
Cashmere jumper, Arket here* (I’m a UK 10 and wearing a size Sulfur)