Frump up the volume

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Kitchen-sink chic is here to stay, but that doesn’t have to mean looking like Ena Sharples. Alexander Fury shows you how to pull off the dowdy look

Fashion is fickle. It has a habit of twisting the negative into a positive. Witness the latest fashion no-no to become a resounding yes – frumpiness. Below the knee skirts, heavy knitwear, a subdued, even dismal colour palette and materials like boiled wool, felt and astrakhan. All were prevalent.

Combined with some of the ugliest shoes known to mankind – either breeze-block heeled or pancake flat with snub toes – and you have next season’s key look. It smacks of libraries; of charity shops. It smacks of the woefully unfashionable. Like I said, fashion’s fickle. For winter, looking “Out” is decidedly “In”.

Leading the pack is Rochas, where creative director Marco Zanini has made frumpiness his leitmotif. Over the past few years, we have been treated to such dowdy delights as sack-shaped, pilled- angora skirts, sludge-coloured ribbed cardigans and marigold-style gloves with hairy knuckles of fur. All sounds frightfully… well, frightful. But Rochas’ sales are also up 48 per cent on the season. Evidently, there’s a market for it.

This season, Rochas is joined by labels like Jil Sander, Lanvin and Marni, showing hefty below-the-knee skirts, brogues, oversized coats and prints in dodgy kitchen-sink colours. On the high street, Cos and Asos offer their take on the key principles of frumpiness:  XXL knits, A-line skirts, heavy tweeds and sickly shades of tomato or Air Force Blue.

Ugly. Dowdy. Dodgy. These aren’t the usual words used to sell garments, honestly. But that’s part of the appeal of frumpiness – you have to be in the know. The look isn’t new: Miuccia Prada started it all in the Nineties, her collections awash in brown and vomit-green, prints lifted from Seventies wallpaper. There had been ugly clothes before, of course, but never “ugly chic”.

Those quotation marks are all-important – the key to fashion frumpiness is intention. It’s not without its pitfalls – it’s far too easy to end up looking like an actual typing pool reject rather than the glossed-up glamazon versions that populate Mad Men. You want to look like Tippi Hedren, not Ena Sharples (pictured).

As with so much high fashion, frumpiness isn’t easy to pull off – unless you have the dewy complexion and icy chic of Ms Hedren, it’s easy to look as if you should be rag-rollered and gossiping in a ginnel.

What is pulled off only by teenage models on the catwalk can be pulled apart for everyone else. Replace a clunky brogue with a chunky heel, layer a fine-gauge sweater under a Michelin Man cashmere cardigan and avoid matching said ovoid shape with a rounded skirt. An ode to frump could be as simple as a slightly lower hemline or heavier knit. Indeed, a sensible sweater – like one your nan could have knitted – is a key component for the look. It also keeps you warm in sub-zero British winters. That’s possibly the strange, unique appeal of frumpiness to fashion fans. From flat shoes, to long skirts, to those snuggly sweaters, frumpy chic is all so damn practical. Granny would approve.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

    Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003