Whiter than white

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The colour message from the Chanel show was white, white, white – sometimes with black trim – an endlessly classic combination.

Chanel suitI really rather liked the clothes at the Chanel show for Paris Haute Couture Week yesterday. Crisp, clean, very white, pretty businesslike.

It was a strong image, with an A-line skirt (flattering for most women) and a neat shoulder, slightly wide, to balance the hips. 

Most of us will have to make do without the lovely bits of extra trim that made the Chanel collection so exquisite, of course: wafer-thin wisps of thread, cut-out paper flowers, crystal beads and all the rest of it (this is couture, after all, not ready to wear), but silhouette is always the strongest message in any fashion collection, and clearly here, Lagerfeld meant business. 

The look reminds me rather of Cardin in the 1960s, or Oleg Cassini (more Jackie O references), especially the standaway collars, which came in all kinds of designs. Very clean, ladylike and grown-up. Clothes for responsible adults, by and large.

Colour was replaced almost entirely by texture – guipure lace, crystal beading, ostrich feathers, all kinds of chiffons and voiles, and stiffer fabrics such as pique (aren’t these meant to be autumn/winter clothes?). If you didn’t fancy white, there was cream or ivory (OK: not exactly much of a choice), or – a perennial favourite – white with black trim. 

I have always liked this look. One year, I made myself a white sundress with black polka dots, trimmed with black and white striped bias binding – it could be worn with either black or white shoes and jacket, and always looked clean and fresh no matter how hot the weather got.

What’s nice about monochrome as a fashion look for this year is that it’s eminently easy to copy on a budget (not that this is of much concern to Mr Lagerfeld, I imagine). A quick swap of white buttons onto a black cardi, or vice-versa, a white dress pulled in with a big black belt, or a fluffy white collar added to a black coat and you’ve nodded to the zeigeist without having to break sweat.

I note, too, a tendency for layering, which is quite appealing – a cropped jacket over a hip-length top, over a knee-length top, over narrow trousers. The key is to keep it close-fitting and neat, rather Nehru in style, rather than baggy and enveloping.  

For a full view of the fashion collections, visit Style.com.

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