On the meta-issue of how to wear clothes in 2017, there is one essential piece of fashion advice which I am borderline evangelical about. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from running after women in the street and wrestling them to the ground in order to drum it into their heads. It is this: that loose clothes now look smarter and more modern than tight clothes. There is still a hard-to-shake-off mindset which tells us that loose clothes are casual – pyjamas, tracksuit bottoms – and that smartening up means tight skirts and fitted jackets. That making an effort means wrangling with Spanx and fastening your belt on its tightest notch. And it’s just not the case. Clothes that sit away from the body look grander, more considered, more elegant, more all-round fabulous than skintight ones.
Many women seem to feel that wearing clothes that do not trace the outlines of their body will somehow place them at a disadvantage. And if your gameplan is simply to maximise eyeballs on you, then sausage skin dressing is undoubtedly effective. But we can do better than that with our clothes, I think. Quality rather than quantity of audience engagement. And I have a proposal for you sceptics, if wearing a fluid, sack-shaped dress to a meeting sounds more alarming than wearing nothing at all. August is the ideal time to experiment, because this is silly season, and that applies to your wardrobe too. You don’t have to power dress. This is the ideal moment to loosen up.
Ditch the tight, sleeveless office dresses, stuff the denim shorts and spaghetti strap vests back in the drawer and try a long, loose dress. These are everywhere this summer, from designer versions like the one I’m wearing here to high street takes. You can choose from folkloric, picnic-vibe dresses, disco-orientated Saturday night maxi-dresses and office-appropriate longer-length shirt dresses.
Looser clothing has its own rules and requirements. The level of detail is key. Too stark an outline, and you end up looking like Handmaid Offred. Too much jingle-jangle, on the other hand, and you look like a charlatan fortune teller. (Beware, specifically, the pom-pom glut that is plaguing this summer’s high streets.) There is a learning curve to figuring out how to look smart, now that tight doesn’t mean smart, and summer is the perfect opportunity to get up to speed.