Ready to Wear: The New Look is a projection of a woman that heterosexual men dream of

A fashion fact: Prada and Louis Vuitton are among the most powerful brands in the world. Fashion fact number two – and also just a fact, in fact – history repeats itself.

And so, if Christian Dior's New Look was a nostalgic – and extravagant – look back at a pre-war period where fabric rationing had been about as far from the collective consciousness as women going out to work, in 2010, as the luxury goods industry shakily emerges from the worst crash since the Thirties, the two aforementioned names have taken a new look at the New Look.

Dirndl skirts, a soft shoulder, a high waist and breasts so prominent that they threaten to take the eye out of unsuspecting passers-by were on display at both labels' shows for the forthcoming autumn/winter. It's the sort of projection of a woman that a heterosexual man dreams of, albeit one which, in the hands of Marc Jacobs and, even more so, Miuccia Prada comes with something of a twist.

The Fifties-style prints that dominate the latter's collection were also a reference to her own mid-Nineties archive, as any fashion trainspotter will know. They are ultimately more reminiscent of Grace Kelly's sitting-room curtains in Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder than anything that this archetypal clothes-horse might actually have worn. Similarly, sweater dressing is here scaled up to become rather more chunky a beast than the original. Particularly when worn with a chunky-knit circle skirt to match, it is nowhere near as conventionally flattering as it once was.

At Louis Vuitton, the newly re-invented embonpoint – edged with frills or spilling from a tweedy corset – is more wanton than M Dior ever proposed. Skirts, though, are just as overblown as the late couturier might have wished them to be. It's the type of excessive use of unashamedly expensive materials that caused a veritable outrage back in 1946, when women the world over flew in the face of pragmatism and either bought or copied the New Look, scandal only adding to any appeal.

And will women the world over fly in the face of pragmatism once again six months from now? After all, this new silhouette is directly at odds with the narrow line that has dominated the way we choose to dress for so long; the determinedly casual wardrobe of skinny, low-rise jeans – spray-on or slouchy – and equally slender T-shirts and jackets has so far proved impossible to supplant. All of this springs from the male rather than the female wardrobe, of course. It is functional over and above decorative, therefore. With this in mind, it may take quite something to persuade women that it's about time we poured ourselves into something that emphasises our more strictly feminine attributes. The new New Look is new again, but just who is woman enough to dare to wear it remains to be seen.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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