Kate Birch on sar­to­rial sins blight­ing Blighty.

From sum­mer’s bare bel­lies to winter’s adult rom­per suits, crimes of fash­ion are blight­ing Bri­tain, says Kate Birch

Friday - - Society Living Leisure -

Un­fa­mil­iar with the sights and sounds of Bri­tain, my seven-year-old son has taken to star­ing, some­times gasp­ing and point­ing, at ran­dom peo­ple on the street. And while old folk and women with dodgy fake tans have been no­table stand­outs, since the ar­rival of sum­mer (those few days in Eng­land), men without shirts have be­come the sub­ject of his in­tense scru­tiny.

He first spot­ted one out­side Waitrose in June (once tem­per­a­tures hit 21C, they come out of hi­ber­na­tion) and his au­di­ble gasp, point, stare and sub­se­quent dec­la­ra­tion of “there’s a naked man over there!” en­sured ev­ery­one else eye­balled the barech­ested bloke, who would have turned vis­i­bly red had he not al­ready been sport­ing lob­ster-rouge skin.

Yes, when the sun comes out in Eng­land, so does the skin… and for the most part, it’s not pretty.

Thanks to this year’s crop top come­back (wholly in­ap­pro­pri­ate and un­flat­ter­ing for all but toned teens), bar­ing one’s stom­ach has mi­grated to fe­males too, with naked midriffs of all shapes, shades and sizes now well and truly in the pub­lic do­main.

Wel­come to sar­to­rial sin num­ber one: PDS (pub­lic dis­plays of skin). The fash­ion equiv­a­lent of the PDA, PDS is not limited to midriffs, with Daisy Dukes (tiny shorts) and bikini tops deemed suit­able in Bri­tish banks, shops and restau­rants. The only skin not on show are the women’s faces, smoth­ered as they are in lay­ers of make-up.

PDS has taken Bri­tain by storm in re­cent years. So much so that one of the coun­try’s most pres­ti­gious race meet­ings, Royal As­cot, took ac­tion this year, is­su­ing strict guide­lines and turn­ing away women show­ing too much skin. Short skirts and low-cut tops were banned, send­ing many women into melt­down and caus­ing them to pray for rain so they could wear a stylish Burberry mac. But such in­de­cent ex­po­sure is far from be­ing Bri­tain’s only fash­ion flop.

Sar­to­rial sin num­ber two is what I call ‘the dread­ful duo’ – the socks and open-toe san­dals com­bi­na­tion. Be­lieved to have been im­ported by the uber-stylish Ital­ians (the Ro­mans wore the combo dur­ing the build­ing of the Em­pire in chilly Bri­tain 2,000 years ago), this in­el­e­gant yet ad­mit­tedly prac­ti­cal pair­ing favoured by dads for cen­turies is even re­ceiv­ing some recog­ni­tion on the run­ways, with Ver­sace, Dior and Prada hav­ing made this ‘don’t’ a very def­i­nite ‘do’ this sea­son.

It’s un­likely, how­ever, that we’ll see an­other dread­ful duo – pat­terned py­jama bot­toms with fake Ugg boots – at Prada any time soon.

This par­tic­u­lar pair­ing plagues Blighty’s play­grounds without apol­ogy. At first glance, I thought the mums had sim­ply not had time to get dressed,

When you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a crime of fash­ion to outdo even the most of­fen­sive of out­fits

but alas no, this most dis­turb­ing of all fash­ion faux pas is de­lib­er­ate.

As is the sin­ful sub­sti­tute of wear­ing tights as trousers, which leads me to sar­to­rial sin num­ber three: un­stylish sub­sti­tutes – when one piece of cloth­ing is used not for its pur­pose, but in­stead as some­thing en­tirely dif­fer­ent.

Women across the UK have not for­got­ten to pull on their skirts – no, they re­ally are wear­ing their tights (not leg­gings, but tights) as trousers, while those sport­ing ban­danas as tops did not just spill cof­fee down their front – this was a de­lib­er­ate dress­ing de­ci­sion.

Frock hor­rors are in fact lit­ter­ing the well-kept coun­try­side: leisure suits with low-hang­ing bot­toms in neon polyester and pas­tel velour; pa­tri­otic cloth­ing, from women in Union Jack leg­gings, to men in too-tight Eng­land foot­ball shirts; and the fu­sion footwear that is the wedge sneaker, most spec­tac­u­larly paired with that other hor­rid hy­brid (wel­come to sar­to­rial sin num­ber four): the jeg­ging.

But just when you think you’ve spot­ted it all, along comes a crime of fash­ion to outdo even the most of­fen­sive of out­fits. En­ter the onesie – an all-in-one hooded rom­per suit, sup­pos­edly for adults.

While I had heard about the birth of the onesie while liv­ing in Dubai, I had thought it a ‘onesie-off’– a fash­ion fad donned by Gen­er­a­tion Y for fun at fes­ti­vals that would, like the white stiletto and hair scrunchie, fi­nally fall from fash­ion favour.

I was wrong on all sar­to­rial scores. Be­cause not only have the white stiletto and hair scrunchie joined open-toe san­dals with socks on the run­way, but the onesie is very real, very now and very pop­u­lar. So pop­u­lar in fact that su­per­mar­kets are sell­ing them, Har­rods has ded­i­cated an en­tire depart­ment to them and they are cur­rently the most pop­u­lar search on eBay.

Yes, my sar­to­rial sin num­ber five is re­gres­sion fash­ion – baby-es­que and child­like gar­ments recre­ated for the ma­ture mar­ket. This in­cludes both the pat­terned fleece onesie and its lat­est lit­tle style sis­ter, the an­i­mal-styled onesie – a furry baby suit in­spired by owls, tigers and rab­bits. Even Brad Pitt owns one, ap­par­ently.

Well, if the onesie is good enough for Mr Pitt, then maybe it is good enough for me.

So I pull on my an­i­mal onesie, pair with Prada san­dals and socks, smother my­self in ma­hogany tan and voila! I look like an evil vil­lain from Wal­lace and

Gromit. Iron­i­cally, I couldn’t look “more cheese” if I tried.

Over­worked, over­whelmed and over there... long-term Dubai ex­pat Kate Birch misses

her maid, strug­gles with small talk and is des­per­ate for some­one

to pack her shop­ping

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