The divide: skirt or trousers?
I realise, dear reader, I am paid to tell you whether skirts or trousers are the garment du jour; that I am not supposed to prevaricate, and should be decisive in a thoroughly Wintourian way.
We would not, of course, be having this discourse if the climate had behaved normally. Temperatures would have dropped months ago, and we would all have shopped in late October for some trousers and a skirt or two. But the crazily unseasonal autumn meant we delayed making such purchases, and only now, with the sales just weeks away, we are having to choose.
On the catwalks, the designers were divided: in the trouser corner, there was Celine, Balenciaga, Prada, Rochas and Isabel Marant. In the skirt corner, Dolce & Gabbana, Chloe, Chanel and Mulberry, with Stella McCartney doing both rather well.
But identifying the debate is only the first step to solving this wardrobe dilemma: consider the permutations within each option and you may need a little lie down. On the trouser side there are '70s-style, wide-leg; palazzos (similar shape, softer fabric); cigarette pants; skinny ankle-skimmers; track pants; and carrot top/paper bag/harem, which Vivienne Westwood and lots of high street brands have stuck with for winter.
And there are no fewer options in skirts: maxi; midi; mini; cocoon; tulip; draped; skater and on-the-knee/over-the-knee pencil… Plus the added variables of fabric: leather is a key trend for skirts and trousers (and still worth buying); lace is a strong winter trend (notably the Zara one at £39.99) with wardrobe longevity, since barely a S/S 12 range lacks a lace pencil skirt.
Another trend worth investing in is print. A slow-burner for winter, print of every kind - birds, butterflies, fruit, flowers, abstract, digital - will adorn trousers and skirts (and pretty much everything else) in spring and way beyond.
There are a few do's and don'ts worth noting when it comes to working trousers and skirts: part of the reason wide-leg trousers trend stalled was how staggeringly (sic) difficult it is to wear the platforms and heels required to make anyone shorter than 5'10" look tolerably good in them. So unless you are prepared to wear the shoes (or are 5'10"), step away from wide-leg trousers now.
Narrow, ankle-skimmers need bare feet and pointed courts (kitten heels or stilettos), while cigarette pants work best with fierce, strappy, mid- or high-heel shoe-boots. When it comes to proportion, wide-leg trousers need a top that is cropped or can be tucked in.
With skirts, it's a similar story; short, slim or tucked-in tops with a skirt that has volume; ladylike blouse or cable jumper with skater skirts; and volume on the top to balance out a pencil skirt.
Over-the-knee pencil skirts, as I have observed, may be a hot trend, but can also look deeply boring unless worn with the right shoe, which is almost always going to be something with a high heel and a lot of attitude.