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
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