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Ready To Wear: A formal wardrobe is invariably ageing


Back to school and "you should see M in his new uniform" says my friend, A, "he looks about 25". M is, in fact, all of 11.

While the philosophical thinking underlying the need for such formal attire is complex, clearly, it is true that the aesthetic is ageing – just look at Bugsy Malone.

James Dean and his generation knew that, of course, which was the reason why their look took root in the first place and went on to prove so empowering. Why should young men – and indeed young women – dress like their mothers and fathers, the thinking went at the time. It's a miracle it didn't happen any sooner.

As far as contemporary fashion is concerned, it is now pretty much irrelevant to label clothing age appropriate or not. A woman is never too old to wear a short skirt. It is the shape of her legs – not to mention degree of confidence in them – and not her age that determines whether she is likely to do so. Ditto: jeans from skinny to boyfriend. And designer looks are as youthful or adult as their individual creator sees fit and depending on their mood. Marc Jacobs – for Louis Vuitton and for his own label – and Yves Saint Laurent's Stefano Pilati are just two designers who play with a bourgeois dress code safe in the knowledge that it will appeal to their core client – the well-heeled woman of a certain age – but perhaps come across as more special still worn by a young teenager or twentysomething. They can carr it off with a hefty dose of irony. Nice, grown-up clothes; naughty little girl. Never let it be said that fashion is politically correct. Her mother, meanwhile, though elegant in the very same styles, may all too easily appear like a frump by comparison.

Whatever, there's little point in telling A any of this. Such superstar names rarely coat their designs with Teflon, for example, recommend they drip dry or actively encourage static.

The fact remains, though, that it is now more likely to be the younger members of the family who uphold a retrogressively strict dress code while their parents cheerfully regress.