Designers have a love-hate relationship with leather. Except for labels like Loewe and Celine, whose roots are in leather, designers go for entire decades treating skin as vulgar. But then, along comes a new mood, and leather is the fabric du jour. Currently, as part of the revival of all things 80s, they are loving it. Alexander McQueen, Bottega Veneta, Philip Lim, Miu Miu, Cavalli and a clutch of other starry names used it in their autumn-winter collections, so the high street followed: places such as Topshop, Warehouse, River Island, French Connection and New Look are full of key pieces in leather.
The trick with leather clothing —- especially a dress — is keeping the look on-trend rather than King’s Cross working girl. The perfect example of how not to do it was Angelina Jolie at the premiere of husband Brad Pitt’s movie Inglourious Basterds in September. On the catwalk, the model wore the dress — an artfully cut, skinny, strapless number by Michael Kors — with fierce shoes and hair slicked back into a neat chignon. Jolie would have done well to do the same; instead she wore her hair loose and falling seductively around her shoulders, thus going straight to “slapper” territory, an effect exacerbated by the sky-high bondage shoes.
Keep a leather dress “fashion” by offsetting its aggressive sexuality with neat hair, bold, plain jewellery and (when not in Hollywood) opaques. And if you like the look but not the price tag, Wallis’s PVC dress at £55 is on-trend and cheap enough to chuck when leather returns to designer purdah.
If you are planning to purchase leather trousers, keep them lean (the looser cut ones, worn with pale cashmere, are not on-trend). And if you need camouflage for the hips, team them with a long sweater, long boyfriend cardi or jacket, or long fur gilet.
Where to find leather
Jackets: Classic biker jacket, £489, double-breasted military jacket, £389, both by Sandro, Fenwick, W1; chocolate leather crop tuxedo jacket, Max & Co, £369, Fenwick, W1 ; long leather jacket, £350, French Connection; biker jacket, £130, River Island; extended shoulder collarless jacket, £140, Warehouse; skinny, V-neck jacket, £129, Wallis; violet leather jacket, Monsoon, £110; violet biker jacket, £120, Marks & Spencer; V-neck, slouchy jacket, £195, Reiss.
Trousers: Biker jeans with quilted knees, £329, leather jeans, £329, both by Sandro, Fenwick, W1; skinny leather trousers, £220, French Connection; skinny leatherette trousers, £45, Wallis; skinny fit trousers, £99, Marks & Spencer; tapered trousers, £110, Topshop.
Skirts: Fringed leather mini, £85, River Island; gently gathered skirt, £100, Warehouse; violet leather tulip skirt, £85, Marks & Spencer.
Dresses: Pale leather punch-hole, £295, French Connection; black leather and lace bodycon, £100 Topshop; cap-sleeve PVC, £55, Wallis.