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Trend report: timeless femininity


For the coming season, Italy’s designers have embraced a vision of femininity that’s all about raw elegance, sensuality and knowingness – and its influence is spreading, as Harriet Quick explains

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Harriet Quick,

There’s a new woman in town. She looks ravishing in her fox-fur stole, she steals the show in her circle skirt which swishes to and fro, and she makes men’s hearts positively skip a beat wearing a sinuous bias-cut silk-satin evening gown with carmine red lipstick and diamond-drop earrings that catch the light just so.

Yes, the siren is back in style and ready to make her presence felt. Spring/summer’s coquettish muse in her optical striped mini skirts has been knocked from her perch by this ‘all-woman’ figure that exudes alpha-female glamour.

Key ingredients

Miuccia Prada (herself fond of a sheath skirt and stilettos) paved the way with her autumn/winter 2013/14 presentation as she sent out a cast of ‘just ravished’ 1950s heroines in tweed button-through dresses (yanked down from the shoulder line), leather below-the-knee skirts and black sequinned-lace tea dresses. The ingredients – fur, lace, diamonds and leather – speak of sensuality and substance or, as Prada herself dubbed it, ‘raw elegance’.

The stage, with its projections of semi-derelict buildings, chicken-wire fences and prowling cats looked like the backstreets of Naples in the 1950s. Prada’s woman, with her wet-look hair, strolled through the shadows as if departing from an early-morning tryst. The models had the air of past screen sirens: Ingrid Bergman in Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli, Beatrice Dalle in Betty Blue and the bewitching Italian actress Anna Magnani in The Rose Tattoo. ‘I go where my instinct goes,’ says Prada of her design process. ‘But I always love strong, substantial fabrics – nothing too soft,’ she says, referring to flyaway materials but also to easy, comforting ideas.

Screen idols

There is real sense of gutsiness to the new siren glamour, which takes its cue from stars such as Veronica Lake in the 1940s. Not only can she seduce like her screen idols, she exudes a passion, a sense of knowingness, in the way she wears her clothes, tugged and belted just so as if stylishly improvised on the go. Tomas Maier at Bottega Veneta was also on the siren trail. Raquel Zimmermann opened the show with red lips, wavy side-parted hair and a defiant stride, dressed in a moulded black wool belted skirt suit with dolman sleeves pushed up and skirt hemline flipping just below the knee. Maier’s suggestions were reduced to the essence: a skirt suit, a coat, a cocktail dress with a clever neckline or peplum and a substantial handbag, this season a doctor’s-bag style in Bottega Veneta’s intrecciato leather.

Second skins

Sirens can be serious as well as predatory, as Frida Giannini proved with her python skirt suits and plunge-neck sleeveless coat dresses in rich plums, greens and purples at Gucci. It’s ‘a couture-like silhouette with subversive undertones’, noted Giannini of her predilection for skin-thin leather turtle tops that slipped under ladylike suits or the dip-dyed monkey-fur capelets and satin evening gowns topped with lace body suits sprouting 3-D feathers and jewels: part mythical siren/part David Bowie.

Beyond the Italian catwalks, this vision of timeless feminine allure was weaving her magic elsewhere. A siren thrives on drama and big gestures, and there’s nothing bigger than Marco Zanini’s flower-sprigged satin or luxurious checked-wool circle skirts for Rochas. These skirts had real volume, even more exaggerated when worn simply with a belted cardigan or little sweater. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz sent out models dressed in beaten-satin bias-cut dresses worn with feather-light fox-fur stoles and sequinned-bow satin dance heels. His raw-edged checked-wool 1950s-inspired suits that looked as if they had been re-cut from a man’s overcoat spoke of a female survivor all over.

Mixing it up

Fashion designers also seemed deeply enthralled by the way in which a siren might keep her own timetable. That means she can wear silk pyjamas by day or in the evening with a smattering of diamonds and pearls, or simply slip out in a silk negligée under a luxurious fur-lined satin peignoir coat, as she did at both Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton. Ever the trendsetter, a tousled looking Jacobs took his bow in a pair of flower-print pyjamas himself.

For luxury, indulgence, sensuality and power, there’s nothing more seductive than siren style. Start the shopping list now: a circle skirt, a sweater or two, an outsized coat, a silk negligee, a little bit of leather and some fur and lace. Just add red lipstick, an arched brow and that priceless air of aloofness.

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