Fashion: You'll never guess what's underneath: Designers have finally cottoned on to that women do not want to show every curve

Rarely is there good news for real women at the Paris fashion shows - unless you are a real Christy or Linda or Naomi. The pictures you see here probably won't fill your heart with joy and gladness. But they should. They represent the first evidence of a much- needed shift in style.

Ironically, they appeared while many of the fashion pack weren't looking, their attention diverted by the actor pack; Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Tracey Ullman and Kim Basinger, playing reporters in Robert Altman's fashion movie Pret a Porter, which was being filmed at the shows. Still, you would have had to have been seriously transfixed by Tracey Ullman's bad hair days not to notice the seismic shift going on in the foreground.

Many of this season's clothes seem ugly because they are so unfamiliar. But the signs are that women - too long constrained by fashions created for teenage girls - will find in them something to love again. Ample clothes, forgiving clothes, the kind of clothes people write to newspapers begging for were being hinted at again in Paris.

I say hinted at because the journey is incomplete. I wouldn't wear the clothes you see here because, with the exception of the Yohji Yamamoto piece which happens to be the least photogenic, they are too wild for me. But they do signal a shift towards different proportions which, when filtered into the mainstream, will have more far-reaching effect than tabloid red herrings about nipple counts or a Hollywood movie about fake fashion folk.

Look at the Vivienne Westwood outfit. Ugly and daft, isn't it? What woman would want to slip a chunk of a Chesterfield sofa under her skirt? But wait a minute. One of the models in the show was Eva Herzigova, she of the current and controversial Wonderbra advertisements promoting padded bosoms. There have certainly been times when these would have been judged equally ridiculous.

History is full of examples of an artificially embellished female form. The waist's pilgrimage up and down the body has been charted by many, and, from the end of this month, is even the subject of an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, called Waist Not. Think of farthingales, bumrolls and hip pads. And before you rush to claim that today's mobile self-assured women would never put up with such interference with their body form, think of shoulder pads. These may have shrunk, but they haven't gone away.

Westwood's statement of the case will be too emphatic for most people. My bottom is quite padded enough without her help. But what showed up as jokey upholstery here recurred as more convincing and acceptable disguise by Orson and Bodil, Sonia Rykiel and Marcel Marongiu.

Fashion has been so pared-down, so simple and so utterly unforgiving that the time has come for it to bear more resemblance to the conventions of the female form. Perhaps the padding is merely the first step from odd and ugly to acceptable and normal in a new fashion dynamic.

Bulky textures from poodle wools to fur (too much of it real) dominated the shows. Cropped sweaters were so fluffy the real shape of an upper torso couldn't be calculated. Rough and hairy boiled-wool coats were so immense that you couldn't tell if the wearer was a solid Amazon or a superwaif. At Comme des Garcons models looked as if they were swathed in curtains, while Jean Paul Gaultier took his audience on a far-flung adventure above the snow-line. And what do they wear up there? Layer upon bulky layer.

'Who would wear any of that?' I wondered aloud. 'I would,' one reporter said. 'I would, too,' said another. 'It's liberating. No one would know what size you are.' And that is the point. For too long, we have played along with the decreed 'perfect' body size. Now women are saying 'enough' and the most innovative designers in the world appear to be joining the chorus.

Let's not forget how it once was, when designers created for women rather than girls as a matter of course. Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972), probably the greatest fashion designer of the 20th century, showed rigorous haute couture on short stocky women. The current fashion icon is Bjrk, the curvy and delightful Icelandic singer. She opened the show of JP G, who used to worship Madonna's taut, trained body.

The smartest commentators are already equating the importance of this to the Youthquake of the Sixties, the enormously influential shift that led to our 30-year period of worship at the temple of youth.

Let's call this new one the Womanquake. It should be a big one.

(Photographs omitted)

Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

    £65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

    Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

    £8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

    £14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable