Grandmother's footsteps

Frumpy? Not any more. Raid your grandmother's wardrobe and join the new British designers

Just take a look at pictures of your mother and grandmother over the years. The faded black-and-white pictures from the Forties will show a lady in a high-necked, ornate blouse and a below-the-knee skirt. Ten years later, the only difference is a twinset in place of the blouse. Today more directional designers, such as Miuccia Prada and Anna Sui, are encouraging us to dress the same again.

The dog-eared snapshots from the Sixties show a young woman wearing a miniskirt and a black polo neck, or perhaps tight trousers and a black polo neck.

The Seventies pictures will have a change of hairstyle (long and straight, with a middle parting), and the tight trousers will have become tight hipster flares. The polo neck will be there, but in this incarnation it is nylon, and orange. In the Eighties, the polo neck becomes cashmere, and the skirt is a few inches longer. Get my drift? We are creatures of habit, and however much we feel things change, on closer inspection we see that the basic difference is negligible.

As we approach the spring and summer of 1996 all the old frumpy favourites are back, but this time they are not sensible, sturdy or decent; they are chic. Yes, chic. In an ironic (the new word being bandied about to describe today's fashion looks) twist, all the clothes we would have balked at if we'd found them in the wardrobe of an older female relative are in the trendiest of Sloane Street shops and the glitziest of department stores.

Finding the shoes and the bags won't be a problem: Prada, Gucci, Patrick Cox, Russell & Bromley and Ravel have all done square-toed and heeled shoes with chrome buckles and thin straps in an array of non-colours, such as off-white, oyster, caramel and champagne (with matching bags, of course). The clothes - well, if you can afford the Prada outfit shown here you're laughing; if not, preferred haunts, such as the church hall jumble sale or old faithfuls M&S or Burberrys, may have some key pieces to offer those tuned to the new-frump vibe.

Incidentally, when you are kitted out, make sure that you don't queue-jump at the bus stop on your way to bingo (the only thing to do on a Friday night), or I'll hit you with my sturdy handbag. Melanie Rickey

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