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How to be fashionable without looking like an idiot

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When it comes to trends, there is an age-old adage that says if you’ve worn something the first time around, it’s best not to wear it again.

The seventies trend has been around so many times I’ve lost count. But I don’t even think I even looked good in seventies clothing in the actual seventies.

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I suppose at age twelve blue eyeshadow, overplucked eyebrows, crocheted halter tops and high-waisted denim flares somewhat frayed from dragging in the mud were quite the statement, but rest assured you won’t be seeing any of those on on me again.

From what I can see at the current ready-to-wear shows, there is yet another major foray into the seventies, with long, tiered Victorian-style dresses, leg o’ mutton sleeves and prim high necklines.

I recall wearing that exact style at my year five school dance. I paired it with white clogs, and a very fetching pageboy haircut.

Life was certainly easier for mothers back then because, looking back, I looked more Amish than alluring.

Scanning the current offerings, I’m thrilled to see the dress is back, especially the gorgeous floral creations at Erdem and those by the wonderful new designer Alessandro Michele at Gucci.

Maison Valentino and Zimmermann here at home have both had a lot to do with the return of the floor length, romantic dress and what marvellous news that is for those of us of a certain age.

L-R: looks from Erdem, Gucci, Zimmermann and Prada. Photos: Getty
L-R: looks from Erdem, Gucci, Zimmermann and Prada. Photos: Getty

How grateful we are for the full-body coverage, the high necklines, the addition of a long sleeve. But, here’s the caveat: that particular style looks good, like everything in the fashion world, on the young gamine with long glossy hair and a centre part, like a vision from a misty and vaguely pervy David Hamilton photograph.

I imagine the trend could look a lot more Miss Havisham than Marianne Faithfull on the wrong person.

The trick with trends, especially if you are not in your twenties, is to appropriate just some of the latest look, rather than all of it. The part that suits you.

Take, for example, the gorgeous Prada collection that hit the runway this week in Milan. Head to toe those looks are beautifully fashion forward, but definitely a commitment, and not easy to pull off.

The goal is to channel Marianne Faithfull – in small doses. Photos: Getty
The goal is to channel Marianne Faithfull – in small doses. Photos: Getty

I have heard countless times over the years people exclaiming that no one would wear the outlandish looks seen on the international runways. Often this is the case, but more that they should not be worn in entirety.

The way to approach a new trend is to break it into parts, and adopt the pieces that you particularly love. Those statement striped or paneled jackets don’t have to be worn as a ensemble – simply pair the jacket with your own favourite tailored pants.

The romantic blouses at Gucci can be separated in the same way, even put with jeans.

And accessories are the quickest way to update everything you have. The oversized sunglasses (Gucci), the game-changing shoe (everywhere), the new-look bags. It could be just a bold, statement earring (Prada).

They don’t have to be worn all together and, in fact, unless you are a seasoned fashionista, it’s best avoided.

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Just buy one or two pieces, put them back with your classics and it will bring you into the moment, without draining your bank account, or making you feel, and potentially look, like a fashion victim. If you really really love it, then it’s right for you.

Invest in these cherished pieces – that way they will stay in your wardrobe, become “vintage” (after approximately six seasons), and continue to be worn year in and year out.

That is smart shopping.

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