ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Lockdown’s grim legacy… big pants and floral flocks
Fashions are meant to reflect the times we live in, so what are the trends saying about now?
The voluminous skirt of Dior’s New Look was a celebration of the end of wartime austerity, the minis of the Sixties were emblems of sexual freedom and social mobility, the shoulder-padded tailoring of the Eighties weaponry to break the glass ceiling.
And here we are in 2021, after 18 months of pandemic, with high-collared Little House On The Prairie-style dresses and the body moulding of shapewear.
I know I’m not the only woman who doesn’t want to dress like a pioneer housewife – covered from neck to calf in acres of ditsy floral fabric with flounced hems and puffed sleeves. But the look is still everywhere, from M&S to Keira Knightley.
You might suggest that during lockdown this throwback style was a reflection of our housebound lives – a time when domesticity was everything.
Remember singer Billie Eilish’s Vogue cover? Add in tummy-confining big pants and you have the story. Even Valentino’s models (pictured) wear big pants
Perhaps this faux modest femininity was part of the same syndrome that saw us spending a fortune on DIY and making our own sourdough starter?
But the other big trend of shapewear worn not only underneath clothes but as a visible part of the outfit – as seen this week on Boris’s daughter Lara, in a Tatler fashion story – is equally confounding.
Shapewear is basically a corset by another name, and from time to time they have popped up in fashion.
Remember Madonna in her Eighties Gaultier cone bra and more recently singer Billie Eilish’s Vogue cover? Add in tummy-confining big pants and you have the story.
Why squeezing our bodies into an interpretation of womanhood as retro as those Prairie dresses is relevant to today’s world is anybody’s guess.
Yet I don’t suppose that when Gloria Steinem wrote ‘each individual woman’s body demands to be accepted on its own terms’, she imagined it would ever be used, as it now is, as a marketing slogan for an American plus-size denim brand.
The best I can do is posit that the fad is a breakout reaction to the asexual leggings and leisurewear that became a working-from-home staple of many during lockdown.
Not that fashion always makes a lot of sense at the time. No doubt someone was thinking similarly critical thoughts about the knee-exposing flapper dresses of the Twenties, retrospectively regarded as demonstrations of women’s new emancipation.
Here we are in 2021, after 18 months of the pandemic, with high-collared Little House On The Prairie-style dresses and shapewear, Alexandre Shulman (pictured) says
But for now there is no reason I can find to squeeze myself into uncomfortable shapewear or buy one of those prim dresses that oddly need a perfect figure under them if you don’t want to look like a sofa. These are two trends I’ll be sitting out.
How to save Britain with one handshake
Two men arrived separately for dinner last week both firmly grasping my hand at the front door.
It’s been months since anyone shook my hand and, even before Covid, handshakes had almost vanished – replaced by hugs from those you often didn’t remotely want to be hugged by. But they’re the perfect greeting for now.
None of that ‘Do we? Don’t we?’ bashful kerfuffle when people don’t know whether they should be clasping you to their bosom and kissing you on both cheeks now that they’re allowed to. None of that ludicrous elbow-bumping that some people still feel more comfortable with.
A handshake does the trick most satisfactorily. And you can easily discreetly run your hands under the tap afterwards, if you so wish.
Olympic pride swells – just like my waist
Every Olympics I am utterly disinterested in the whole thing – until they begin. Whereupon, from the opening ceremony parade of flags from countries I scarcely knew existed to a new-found fascination with speed rock-climbing, I’m gripped, like much of the country.
Boo to the fogeys who think the new categories of skateboard and surfing aren’t real sport. Go Team GB!
For a brief period we’re inspired to transform our armchair sporting selves into the real thing, signing up for taekwondo classes in the park, enrolling our children in a rowing club. Heck, I’m even tempted by a Victoria Beckham/Reebok tennis dress.
And then, of course, by the darkening days of October most of us have reverted to our more familiar persona – that of the couch potato.
Every Olympics I am utterly disinterested in the whole thing – until they begin. From the opening ceremony (pictured), I’m gripped, like much of the country
Speaking of which, Public Health England has launched a Better Health campaign to get us fit, having discovered 40 per cent of adults put on weight in lockdown. In this house the opposite is true – I lost a stone and a half.
The only way we could socialise was a walk, so regular treks were part of the daily routine. There were no parties, no long dinners with endless drinking. But now why walk when you can sit down with a coffee and chat?
An evening out can easily include four hours of alcohol. And those pounds are steadily creeping back on…
Boris’s biggest risk? Bread and circuses
France’s National Assembly Deputy Alexandre Holroyd has described our ludicrous quarantine demands on those arriving from his homeland as ‘Kafka goes on holiday with Godot’. Just brilliant.
Can you imagine Grant Shapps making such a witty comparison?
Although we do have Boris, who rarely loses the opportunity to remind us of his classicist education. No doubt he’s well aware of the Roman Juvenal’s observation that so long as emperors provided ‘bread and circuses’, the masses would be happy.
The epidemic of artisanal bakers that have sprouted on every street corner is helping in the bread department and this summer’s sporting fests – the Euros, British Lions, Wimbledon and now the Olympics – have provided a non-stop circus of gladiatorial contest.
It remains to be seen whether Mr Johnson suffers the fate of most of those emperors.
‘Affordable homes’ at just £7.5m each!
I parked my car next to London’s Holland Park outside a block of what I imagined to be uninterestingly designed affordable housing.
Never mind that they are a bit narrow and bland, I thought. What a dream location.
Now I learn that they are Christian Candy’s new development of three-bedroom houses at £7.5million a pop which, even with concierge service and a pool, surely come into the more-money-than-sense category.
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