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Neater knits

If you don't remember the Sixties first time round, you'll soon get the idea. Just think skinny-ribs and fine-gauge sweaters, says Tamsin Blanchard
Fashion breeds familiarity. And if these pictures look familiar, it is because you think you have seen them in one of those kitchen-sink dramas of the Sixties. Or maybe there are pictures lurking in the family photo album taken circa 1964 that look remarkably similar. It is ironic that this stark style of clothing and photography is now perceived by the fashion industry as the height of modernity.

The tousled backcombed hair; the flecks of Lurex in the skirt; the dowdy skinnyrib cardigan; the marbled, unstockinged legs; the kitten heel shoes - these are all styles that look as though they could be found second- hand. Except the wool on the knitwear is not bobbled, the shoes are not worn and scuffed around the edges and the prices match the designer labels.

Miuccia Prada, the Italian designer, is at the forefront of this new downbeat glamour. Her Miu Miu line is aimed at those young enough not to know that clothes like these have been around the block once already. For many of us, these are clothes that already hang in our wardrobes - the fine-gauge knit sweater that has perhaps shrunk a little in the wash, and the sensible box-pleat skirt like the one your English teacher used to wear at school and that you swore you would never wear yourself.

For whatever reason, fashion designers have decided that the spare silhouettes of the Sixties are the future. Over the past two seasons, we have seen the mod revival with monochrome shift dresses, Courreges-style shiny white plastic flared hipsters, skinny jumpers, and knee-high boots. And if you haven't already invested in one, or all, of these items, the chances are you will have by the end of next summer, for the trend shows no signs of abating.

But these are sensible, quietly conservative clothes that hint at, rather than scream, Sixties revival. They bridge the gap between the elegant and refined, the laid-back and effortless. And a knitted top like the lilac sweater with elbow-length sleeves from Jigsaw is the perfect antidote to the usual winter offerings of bulky knitwear that swamp the body and make you feel like hibernating until after Christmas.

From left to right:

Mohair chocolate short-sleeved cardigan, pounds 155, by Plein Sud, from Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1, and Harrods, Knightsbridge, SW1; black and white boucle skirt, pounds 100, by Sui by Anna Sui, available from Harrods; watch, pounds 250, by Katharine Hamnett, 20 Sloane Street, London W1 and 38 Princes Square, Glasgow; red mock-croc shoes pounds 155, by Miu Miu, available from Tokio, 309 Brompton Road, London SW3, Pellicano, 63 South Molton Street, London W1 and CF, Princes Square, Newcastle, NE1. Powder-blue sparkle sweater with roll neck, pounds 99 by Joseph, 23 Old Bond Street, London W1 and Flannels, 3 Brazil Street, Manchester; strawberry and cream dog's-tooth pencil skirt by Kookai, branches nationwide; shoes as before.

Lilac short-sleeved lambswool sweater with roll neck, pounds 37, by Jigsaw, 21 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2 and 151 Grainger Street, Newcastle, NE1; Prince of Wales plaid skirt, pounds 170, by Miu Miu, from Harrods, Knightsbridge, London SW1, Pellicano, as before, and Pollyanna, 16 Market Hill, Barnsley, S70 2QE; shoes as before.

Black and white wavy-stripe knit top, pounds 95, and black pin-striped pleat skirt, pounds 110 by Whistles, 27 Sloane Square, London SW3 and 15 Princes Square, Glasgow; shoes and watch as before.