Pleat yourself

Fashion: THE STYLE POLICE; Don't be shy of this season's staple, writes James Sherwood. Knife or box, knee-length or maxi, there's a pleated skirt to suit everyone

As doyenne US Vogue editor Diana Vreeland once remarked, "Blue jeans are the greatest invention since the gondola." Of course, the divine Vreeland was prone to exaggeration. But it set Style Police thinking about the autumn/winter season. If you read last week's love letter to the new season, you may be forgiven for thinking we'd gone all DV on you. This season's soft modernity is apparently easy. However, the women who are going to wear these new proportions have filed a complaint to Style Police which must be addressed.

Imagine changing gear from fifth to first in a brand-new BMW. This season is fashion's answer to an emergency stop. After the initial jolt, we assess the damage. No, everything seems to be in working order except that knife- pleated skirt which swings from the hips and sits on or below the knee. This skirt shape is not as voluminous as the Fifties prom dress but it owes a lot to Fifties high-school campus chic; particularly when worn with the twin-set and Mary Janes. Crucially, this skirt reminds generations of British women of the grey flannel pleated skirts they wore at school. This institutional association is hard to suppress.

The second objection is how unflattering a pleated, on-the-knee skirt can be unless you have a stomach like a washboard and long legs. Last season the fashion press dissed pedal-pushers and it was the first damned thing you all dashed out to buy. This time, we're practically salivating over the pleat skirt and you aren't convinced. Style Police can't abide fashion that excludes anyone so let's see if we can make sense out of the knife-pleat skirt.

Correct, the full knife-pleat circular skirt is not going to be easy on hips wider than a razor's edge. However well the garment is cut, there will inevitably be a slight ballooning from the waistband. Now here's the clever part. That's why labels as diverse as Nicole Farhi, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton and Warehouse have intentionally styled this skirt with a slouchy sweater which should sit over the hips. Problem solved. If you're looking for a full pleat that sits on the knee in charcoal grey then you should be looking at Monsoon (pounds 45.95), Next (pounds 34.99), French Connection (pounds 80) or Warehouse (pounds 35.99).

That full pleat doesn't necessarily have to sit on the knee. Mid-calf is going to give you more cover and, in Warehouse's case, ankle-length is positively purdah. Now the calf length is fine and dandy as long as you're happy with your calves. If not, run for the hills. You'll feel more confident in a pencil or a maxi. But Morgan do the most marvellous calf-length pleat at pounds 59.99. If you're feeling flush, then pop yourselves down to Nicole Farhi for her calf-length charcoal knife pleat (pounds 169). As with all these pieces, you must try every variation on before buying. Trust Style Police; there will be one cut that works for you.

There are variations on this theme designed to make it easier on y'all. The first is a skirt cut to pencil mid-thigh then pleated from that moment on. Iceberg, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan have all gone with this cut. This is essentially a homage to the Twenties pleat skirt which appears to drop the waist. Wallis has produced the drop-waist pleat from pounds 45, and a jolly good one at that.

The other is a box pleat. Here comes the science part. A box pleat doesn't sit in a row like the knife. It pleats inwardly so, stationary, you are wearing a pencil but with inverted pleats which will be revealed when you move. On the knee, the latter looks a bit schoolmarm-ish, especially in institutional grey.

You're going to need to get yourselves down to Burberrys if you really want to see the pleat skirt cut with near-scientific precision. They do all the above in the usual charcoal/black/gunmetal. They also do the box- pleat skirt in edible icy blue and cream satin (from pounds 175). If you dare, then how does a Whistles fire-engine red satin box-pleat skirt grab you (pounds 225)? We guarantee you won't be mistaken for a history teacher.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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 General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions