FASHION: Lean, mean and dangerous to own

The shirt is back - but not the oversized, manly garment loved by those with something to hide. This new version is more slimline boy meets rock chick. Tamsin Blanchard is ready to button up

The perfect antidote to the silliness of Christmas frock-buying is a good, lean shirt. The last time shirts were the focus of such attention was when they were oversized and masculine. This time round, the shape is slender and tailored close to the body. Ideally, the shirt is worn dangerously unbuttoned and tucked into a pair of well-cut hipsters, in the style of the late Sixties rock chick. Think Julie Christie circa 1967 if you're a girl, and Mick Jagger circa Marianne Faithfull if you're not. A slimline, boyish figure is required.

Gucci, the label that has found new peaks of hipness with its wonderboy creative director, Tom Ford, has spearheaded the slim shirt look. But if you want more than a handful of change from pounds 400, Gucci may have to provide inspiration only. This season's shirt at Warehouse, for less than pounds 35, is in shiny satin, skims the body smoothly and even comes in that deep shade of turquoise that Gucci aficionados like so much. Look for a shirt long enough to stay tucked in, team it with a pair of deep blue velvet hipsters like the ones in our picture by the London-based designer Sue Rowe, and even Tom Ford would look twice.

The menswear retailer Ted Baker has seen a very successful first season for its new line - Ted Baker Woman. The line was put into production after endless pleas from women wanting men's styles in a cut for them. The range is split between easy-fit shirts for day and slim fit for evening in richer fabrics. Paul Burton, head of design at Ted Baker, says the focus has definitely shifted to the shirt in womenswear.

For spring, Burton has skimmed a few inches off the length for a hint of midriff. While the company has not introduced the skinny shape for men because demand is limited, women love the narrow silhouette. A skinny shirt can be much more forgiving than a skinny jumper that clings to every lump and bump.

The shirt remains a key item long into next summer. The lean lines will remain (for once, a look that promises to last more than a season). But if you really want to get ahead of the pack, invest in a knee-length shirt dress, preferably in some luxurious fabric such as shantung silk. Shirt dressing is here to stay.

(Right) Pin-striped shirt, pounds 59.95, from Jigsaw, 91-95 Fulham Road, London SW3 and stores nationwide; white leather jeans, pounds 89, by Joseph, 26 Sloane Street, London SW1, and 23 Old Bond Street, London W1

(Left) Shoe-print shirt, pounds 125, by Paul Smith, 43-44 Floral Street, London WC2; The Changing Room, 8 High Street, Tunbridge Wells, and Smith & Westwood, stockists nationwide; PVC stretch trousers, pounds 115, by Sub Couture, from Spirit at Selfridges, as before, and Hyper Hyper, 26-40 Kensington High Street, London W8

(Above left) Cream satin shirt, pounds 34.99, by Warehouse, branches nationwide; stretch blue-velvet hipster trousers, pounds 79, by Sue Rowe, available from Spirit, Selfridges, Oxford Street, London W1

(Above right) Diamond-textured shirt, pounds 59.99, by Ted Baker Women, 1-2 Langley Court, Covent Garden, London WC2, and stockists nationwide; velvet hipster trousers, pounds 79, by Sue Rowe, as before

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