FASHION / The puritan look

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THIS SEASON, designers got religion. At the Paris shows in October, Helmut Lang produced shifts that would have graced novitiates in a convent. Not to be outdone, Jean Paul Gaultier plagiarised the dress of Hasidic Jews. And in New York, Calvin Klein eschewed the Hamptons and took a trip to Amish country. Even Prada, the Milanese company much loved by urban hedonists, did penance by producing a collection of shifts, albeit in velvet and suede rather than sackcloth. And now the clothes of the prayer meeting are on the streets: pinafores and shifts over plain white shirts under long lean coats with lace-up boots. Despite the rather unlikely sources, it is a rewarding look for most of us - simple, pure and flattering. But as a sign that we are becoming more spiritual? Unlikely.

(Photographs omitted)