Life & Culture

What to wear for new year - and the new normal

Jan Shure would normally be handing out advice on what to wear for shul - but many of us won't be going this year. But new clothes are still part of our new year routine, and just what you need to boost your confidence, easing out of lockdown


Normally, at this time of year this page would focus on the season’s perfect pieces to wear to attend synagogue. But in this strange year, we are highlighting the pieces that work for synagogue if you are attending but will also allow you to look effortlessly polished for the return to work, and for all aspects of your life.

Explaining autumn-winter trends is complex in 2020. This is for reasons entirely unconnected to the pandemic but rather because the fashion industry has changed in the last few years.

In the past, by a magical process, all designers and fashion brands arrived at one colour palette, one hemline and one silhouette each season that fashion editors would write about and all fashion-conscious women were “encouraged” to wear or risk looking hopelessly démodé.

While this was wildly autocratic — even bullying — it made a fashion scribe’s life straightforward. And while the fashion industry had softened its tone of late, it continued in more or less this way until recently when demographic and environmental factors collided with feminism to spark those changes.

The industry realised that, if it wanted women to keep shopping, it must abandon its one shade-card, one cut and one hemline and instead, tempt us with a lavish fashion feast of myriad colours, mixed silhouettes and a medley of hemlines…

Thus the A/W20 colour palette encompasses most jewel-bright shades (red, blue, emerald, yellow, fuchsia), as well as several pastels. There are also autumnal shades (russet, conker, apple-green, etc) plus sludgy muted tones and endless variations on beige. For glamour, there is cream and winter-white plus a resurgence of black which looks fresh used in tailoring.

There are many fabric choices, too. As well as tweed, cord, velvet and leather, these include faux leather which, having acquired star-status due to its vegan credentials, is widely used alongside the real thing for skirts, trousers, blazers and jackets. Leather, of course, even faux leather, is not a good choice for Yom Kippur.

Prints, too, are many and varied, and include striking geometric patterns; bold or delicate florals; spots and checks. Even animal print is around again from Tom Ford and YSL as well as more affordable brands.

There are hemline options, too. The under-20s will probably embrace the mini that was seen on runways and at Zara. Maxis stay around as a daytime option, but for grown-up women, the midi remains the key length in A/W20.

There are also options in silhouettes and moods, all the way from grunge to polished tailoring. The grunge/grime aesthetic is seen in oversized silhouettes, sludgy shades, muted tweeds and porridge-tone knits offered by many high-end labels and on the high street by Whistles, Jigsaw and Cos.

Blazers and tailoring provide a polished aesthetic that contrasts with slouch and volume. This season’s most breathtaking blazers are by Balmain, YSL and Blazé Milano, with more affordable ones at Joseph and MaxMara and on the high street at M&S, Boden and Hobbs. Find gorgeous leather blazers by Whistles and Altuzara; corduroy by Gabriela Hearst and Mango and tweed by Boden and Bella Freud.

Some labels are offering blazers paired with tiny pencil skirts or shorts. This ironic take on the 90s power suit would be a cool look for anyone too young to have rocked this trend last time around. The rest of us can achieve a polished look by pairing a blazer with a midi-skirt, trousers or the right dress. Find midi-skirts in plains and prints at Rixo, Boden, M&S, Next and Hobbs; find pleated midi skirts — back again — at Joseph, MaxMara, Boden, Next, M&S and many more.

The trouser suit is here for another season, widely available at high end and high street to provide a polished look for those attending non-Orthodox congregations. The newest trouser shape is wide-leg cropped, but in this era of anything goes many cuts are available from wide-leg long to ankle-skimming skinny.

Find blazer and co-ordinating trousers in sky-blue corduroy by Victoria Beckham; in tan cord by Mango; in scarlet satin by Alexander McQueen; in pale tweed by Alexandre Vauthier; in black leather at Whistles; in pastel pink by MaxMara; in fuchsia by Nina Ricci; in red by Hobbs, and many more.

Despite all this tailoring, that one-time wardrobe essential for shul-going women, the tailored skirt-suit, remains elusive. Prada has a sublime navy skirt-suit, but for those seeking one at a less eye-watering price, there are fresh, meticulously tailored jackets (including blazers) and skirts (plus interchangeable trousers, shorts and dresses) at clever UK brand Kaya Turello (

In dresses, the collections feature some minis and daytime maxis, but the midi remains the key length. This season’s are mainly in print.

The oversized shirt is a key silhouette, though many have a defined waistline or wrap bodice above gathered, tiered or A-line skirt. Frills, fringes and asymmetry are key details while ruffle-edged cuffs are new in tailoring.
If you’re in shul, or sitting at home, new clothes will give you a much-needed new year boost.

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