The fashion industry enjoys inverting everything we think we know about clothes every once in a while. These days, dressed down chic is not what it used to be. As it is, I’m more inclined to wear denims to dinner and tailored pants to the park. Traditional notions of smart and casual have been slowly deconstructed over the past several years, first with the emergence of athleisure and then with the appropriation of the “cocktail dress” by reality TV stars and Wags, who stripped it of all its finesse and transformed it into something flashy and flirty. Smart tailoring, meanwhile, which was once solely the uniform of corporates, bankers and city slickers, has been completely reimagined and is now standard off-duty style for many of us.
Modern dressing down is all about languid suiting that is mixed and matched to work with your own personal style. While jeans have become a little generic (although we all rely on them from time to time), the women whose style we want to emulate rely on soft tailored pieces mixed with utilitarian accessories. Look at Victoria Beckham (I know I reference her a lot, but from a style point of view there’s very little she doesn’t get right at the moment, which is pretty amazing given how much she’s gotten wrong in the past). A few months ago we oohed and aahed over her combination of tailored trousers, Stan Smiths and oversized sweater. She took an unassuming pair of smart pants and painted a completely fresh picture of how to wear them; with an easy throw-on sweater that looked like it could have been David’s and footwear that is anything but corporate or “polished”. Her staple now is the button-front shirt, but rolling up the sleeves, wearing it loosely tucked in and unbuttoned at the neck gives it the relaxed appeal of a T-shirt. In fact, it’s safe to say that shirts are the new T-shirts, while T-shirts are the new evening tops – pair a silk tee over a pair of wide-leg trousers for a modern take on evening wear.
Alexa Chung has been deconstructing traditional suiting and making the pieces her own for years. With her dishevelled hair and love of loafers and trainers, she adds a lovely low-key kick to everything she wears. And this is the vibe that modern women want to emanate – looking try-hard is old and tired, while overly tight pieces suggest insecurities (didn’t Beckham admit this in her recent Vogue interview?).
Sitting on my sofa, writing this article in the comfort of my pleated DKNY cropped trousers, it seems strange that skinny jeans were once our down-time go-to. Does anyone like to lounge in super-tight trousers? Do any of us want to squeeze into an unforgiving silhouette on a Saturday morning? So it makes perfect sartorial sense that our weekend uniform has evolved into easy-to-wear tailored pieces that are completely comfortable but create a chic silhouette that’s ideal for anything from the park to a house party. Who wants to change two or three times a day either?
And if you’re not of the trouser-wearing tribe? Try a pleated skirt with trainers and a sweater, or a ribbed midi with a denim shirt. But do ditch your denims and try to experiment with pieces that are a little more characterful. You may discover a brand new you for the new year.