On trend and on time for New Year
Blue tweed, belted jacket, both Oasis
There is a new fashion mood this autumn and it doesn't shout - it whispers. It offers a new minimalism, but with distinctly luxe touches like fur and leather, and it marks a return to a low-key, polished elegance. It is about clothes that are grown-up but often with a twist - either literally, as in clever knots of fabric at Yves St Laurent, Burberry Prorsum and Elie Tahari; or metaphorically, like ribbed tights with brogues or 40s-style platforms to sharpen something that might, otherwise, slip into soporific dullness.
This stealth chic is lusciously and desirably wearable - as well as appropriate for everyone over 25. All of which is terrific news for every woman planning to make a new purchase for the New Year, since the shops are crammed with suits and dresses which combine being perfect for synagogue with being a worthwhile investment for autumn.
This new mood reinvents classics for the 21st century. For instance, it takes a garment as basic as a crisp white shirt and turns back its sleeves and pairs it with a black or conker-brown leather pencil skirt, thus transforming the two pieces into something greater than the sum of their parts. Or it takes a simple, half-sleeve shift dress, preferably in navy, charcoal or a Celine-influenced shade of latté, adds a narrow belt, opaque or ribbed tights and clunky ankle boots, and turns a simple garment into the definitive autumn 2010, go-anywhere (even to shul) piece.
It takes the retro trend that currently embraces everything 40s, 50s and 60s - heavily influenced, of course, by Mad Men and the industry's continuing fascination with its three favourite fashion icons, Grace, Audrey and Jackie 0 - and reworks it in a way that looks inventive and fresh, but not like fancy dress. It allows the adoption of some sharp cutting, a hint of braid and a few brass buttons in a nod to the military trend, but eschews epaulettes and fringing, which would makes us look like we had gone AWOL from Sandhurst.
The new mood embraces camel, but has styled it up with oversize collars, clever cutting and touches of patent (at Nicole Farhi and Jaeger), so that we do not turn instantly into our mother or grandmother, which is what usually happens - fashion editors' hype notwithstanding - when those of us who don't resemble Nadja Auermann don a "classic" camel coat.
And it requires us to reignite our love affair with tailoring of which there is, thrillingly, much. There are curvy, nipped-waist short jackets, often in tweed; belted and crisply tailored versions of summer's boyfriend jackets; and sharply cut, zip-trimmed wool jackets in a tailored variation on the season's favourite theme (leather and suede biker and aviator jackets). And also, for the first time in a decade, a matching jacket and skirt will not make us look as if we work for a building society.
Another readopted classic, hovering between tailoring and retro, is the Chanel-influenced, edge-to-edge cardigan jacket, which has been done across the price range, from Giambattista Valli to the high street.
The season's new classics do require effort, however, notably in forcing us to rethink hemlines. This autumn they have dropped, and pencil skirts, gently fitted, drapey dresses and those 50s-influenced full-skirted dresses - at Prada and Louis Vuitton and heading for the high street - all hover on the knee.
Simple, 60s-inspired, tunic-shaped dresses need to hit just above the knee, while for those who like them (and have great legs), there are short, flippy skirts and short sweater dresses - just don't wear them for synagogue.