How to rock the trouser trend
If you expect clarity from the JC on trousers for Spring, you are - and I say this with the utmost regret and humility - in for a disappointment. The fashion editor is as confused as most of you and, indeed, as most of the designers, who cannot seem to agree on what is the hot trouser shape for the Spring season, offering, in place of clarity, a smorgasbord of choice.
Philip Lim's 3.1 label offered skinny trousers with turn ups, ankle-hitting tuxedo trousers and long, wide-leg silk babies with turn ups. Bucking the ankle-length trend, Antonio Berardi produced over-long trousers in narrow and wide-leg versions; Betty Jackson did long, 70s-style wide-leg turn ups as well as narrow, ankle-hitting turn ups and some narrow pants without turn ups that also just hit the ankle.
Dries van Noten did wide, 70s-style, long trousers and wide-leg jeans, and narrow trousers with digital floral print spilling over the hips. Phoebe Philo's acclaimed collection for Celine featured slouchy trousers that skimmed the hip then flared gently from mid thigh, falling long and unstructured, as well as narrower, slouchy, mannish babies, and skinny, ankle-length variants. (Do keep up at the back; there'll be questions after the lesson). Stella McCartney's trousers were almost all skinny with turn ups, just hitting the ankle bone, but she also did long, wide-leg 70s-style pairs, sans turn-up. Marc Jacobs embraced the 70s disco diva, producing wide-leg trousers in satin and silk, also without turn-ups, while MaxMara went skinny, with tailored, top-of-the-ankle trousers with a tiny kick flare, departing from the shape with the occasional pair of palazzos.
On the high street and in the up-scale shops there's even more choice, since most of the shapes shown on the Spring 2011 catwalks have been joined by styles which appeared on the runways in 2010 (and even 2009; it takes time for some of the most cutting edge styles to filter through to the rails).
There's skinny (with and without turn ups), wide-leg 70s (also with and without turn-ups), palazzo, tuxedo, harem, paper-bag (last season's peg-top and carrot top renamed), cargo, fisherman, tapered and even "smoking" trousers - a slim shape that may or may not have earned its name via a misunderstanding of the term "cigarette pants".
But what is generally agreed, from the high street to Browns, Matches, et al, is that trousers are definitively a key bottom half for spring. This is good news on a number of counts, including less fretting over untanned, unwaxed legs in April. But the issue for most of us when considering adopting the trousers trend will be footwear.
To look totally fashion forward in most of these trousers - and to appear no broader in the hip/thigh area than we actually are - we require, unless we are size 10 and 5' 10" tall, added height.
Fortunately, there are less agonising alternatives this season to killer heels: the small stiletto/straight kitten heel, which looks especially fabulous with all those narrow trousers that just skim the ankle bone, and platforms, which will give you the required height to stride, glamazon style, in your 70s-style wide leg trousers, are both more tolerable - if not totally UGG-comfort-level - options.
On the subject of trouser length, the newest, most desirable "cropped" trousers just skim the ankle bone - no more. They are emphatically not mid-calf, which is good since mid-calf is not only the least flattering length on anyone who doesn't have long, slender legs, but - perversely - seems to be the most popular length among the women least built to wear it.
The good news for those without Lara Stone-style pins is that a long blazer or tunic top makes the slim, ankle-skimming trouser workable. Although Phoebe Philo put wide, Berber-influenced and cape-y tops over wide trousers, for most real women, this isn't tenable: wide top plus wide trousers means wide silhouette. Far better to team wide-leg trousers with a streamlined top, like a cropped, curvy blazer, a 70s-style, silk shirt or, when summer arrives, a skinny halter top.