Fashion: Juicy fruits

In this season of high camp, choosing a wardrobe for next summer requires a careful eye
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The Independent Culture
What is a girl to wear next summer? Ask some of the designers who have been showing at London Fashion Week over the past five days and the answer may be a fur stole, dyed red and green, worn with shoes so high and spiky you would be incapacitated (Tristan Webber); an organza skirt and a pair of customised ice-skating boots (Boudicca); a leather neck-brace (Alexander McQueen), a dress so short it reveals your sequined knickers (Matthew Williamson), a suffocating, crudely printed bustier so short you'd catch a chill around your nether regions and would need to be waxed from your toes to your belly-button (Sean McGowan), or a tinsel bikini (Julien Macdonald).

If you don't like those answers - and why should you? - you could look elsewhere. But many of the offerings on the catwalks over the past five days have been nothing more than camp twaddle - clothes made by self-indulgent designers who should know by now that no woman wants to look like a) a sci-fi superhero, b) a drag queen, c) a freak. Girl power does not mean women want to wear ugly clothes. None that I know, anyway. But there were also clothes here for intelligent, fashion-conscious women to salivate over.

My own shopping list would include a modern and graphic dress in red by Mulligan. The designer Tracy Mulligan made a welcome comeback to the catwalks and her collection was clean, simple and easy to wear. My list would also include a lemon yellow dress with an elasticated waist and ribbons at the shoulders, by Sonja Nuttall. As Suzanne Clements of Clements Ribeiro recently told me, the dress is the answer to most women's wardrobe problems. It pulls you together and skims over the lumps and bumps. And although lemon yellow may sound a peculiar colour, it looked bright, fresh and sunny. For evening wear, I would go along with Clements Ribeiro's suggestion of light, lacy dresses that looked feminine without being fussy. Not surprisingly, it is the women of Fashion Week who are providing the most wearable, most desirable clothes.

Hard-edged, aggressive fashion has - it would appear - had its day. Even Alexander McQueen softened his shoulders and made flattering cocktail dresses in softly draped jersey, while Hussein Chalayan's simple, modern pieces, including jackets and skirts with geometric shaping, were a must- have.

From Paul Smith - London's answer to Ralph Lauren - there were sumptuous satin duster coats in baby pink, and ice-blue satin shoes for evening, or simply jeans and a relaxed tailored jacket for everyday wear. Thankfully, there is an end in sight to the stranglehold the colour grey has had over fashion for the past three seasons. Summer 1999 promises to be one of juicy fruit colours.

Finally, my list would have to include a pair of 24-carat gold shoes by Manolo Blahnik for Antonio Berardi - the newest alternative to jewellery and, at pounds 10,000 a pair, best kept locked up in a jewellery box - to wear with a batik print chiffon summer dress, or a soft and lightweight, floor- length, knitted angora dress. Practical? Not in the least, but fine and precious all the same.