Real clothes: Keep your shirt on

Floral shirt (sizes 8-12), pounds 225, Eley Kishimoto, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 5000). Faded jeans 882 (sizes 24-40), pounds 55, Diesel, 43 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2. 8-9 Lower Temple Street, Birmingham (tel: 0171 833 2255).

Lilac cotton shirt (sizes 8-14), pounds 80, YMC, Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (tel: 0171 613 5293).

Faded jeans 882 (sizes 24-40), pounds 55, Diesel, 43 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2. 8-9 Lower Temple Street, Birmingham (tel: 0171 833 2255).

White drawstring hem shirt (sizes 8-14), pounds 32.99, Jane Norman, 153 Oxford Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 437 0132). Dark 525 jeans (sizes 26-34), pounds 55, Levis, (tel: 01604 581501).

Navy/white gingham fitted shirt (sizes 8-16), pounds 59, T M Lewin, 103-106 Jermyn Street, London SW1 (tel: 0171 930 4291).

Olive green shirt (sizes 8-14), pounds 170, Elspeth Gibson, 7 Pont Street, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 0601). Jeans (sizes 26-31), pounds 100, Earl Jeans, Harvey Nichols, London SW1 (tel: 0171 235 5000).

I'm often asked what I think is the definitive shirt and I don't think there is one. That's the whole point. Shirts are one of those supposed staples that you always end up having hundreds of because you always search for The One. Occasionally, you find something that comes close, then it goes out of fashion or it falls apart. I had two such shirts. One was by the now defunct label Willi Wear: white cotton, collarless with puffed sleeves. Although it sounds terribly Eighties it would still look good. But I outgrew it. Then there was a mannish-style shirt from the basement at Harvey Nichols, made from that wonderfully soft cotton that feels as if it has been handed down generations. It became held together by darning and finally disintegrated.

Whole articles have been written on the definitive shirt; frankly, I don't have that much time. What I can tell you is that the fitted shape shirt with three-quarter length sleeve is still with us but that, if anything, silhouettes are becoming a teensy bit looser. There is a definite tendency towards "blousey" shirts again, worn ever so slightly a la Human League, with low slung belts. This time they're not quite as exaggerated, and the belts are thinner. It's a look the tall and thin can wear. Olive is the colour to buy your shirt in if you want to be really fashionable, and - I predict - lavender will become another hot autumn colour for shirts and knits. If you must still go for florals, keep the colours washed out: intense floral shades are very last season.

Styled by ZO BROWN

Photographs by PETER WARREN

Make-up by Sharon Willmore using Cosmetics A la Carte. Hair by Giuseppe Bulzis at Windle using Bumble & Bumble (tel: 0171 497 2393). Modelled by Aude.

Shot at Alphaville studios 0171 490 8889

Navy nehru shirt (sizes s-l), pounds 80, Diesel Style Lab, 43 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, WC2 8-9 Lower Temple Street, Birmingham (tel: 0171 833 2255). Black studded belt (sizes s-l), pounds 5, Top Shop, 214 Oxford Street, London, W1 (tel: 0800 7318284). Cropped jeans (sizes 8-14), pounds 75, DKNY, 27 Old Bond Street, W1. 78-80 King Street, Manchester (tel: 0171 499 8089).

White cotton shirt (sizes 8-16), pounds 135, Margaret Howell, 24 Brook Street, London W1 (tel: 0171 495 4888). Turquoise belt (sizes s-l), pounds 5, Top Shop, 214 Oxford Street, London W1 (tel: 0800 7318284).

Red stretch fly front shirt (sizes 8-16), pounds 24.99, Oasis, 292 Regent Street, London W1. 14-16 Frederick Street, Edinburgh (tel: 01865 881986). Denim A-line skirt (sizes 26-32), pounds 30, Levi's, (tel: 01604 581501). Studded wristband pounds 3.99, River Island, 283 Oxford Street, London W1 (tel: 0181 998 8822).

DID YOU KNOW?

The shirt as we know it today started "coming out" in Tudor times; before this it was regarded as very much an undergarment. Back then it was exclusively the preserve of men and it started showing itself slowly, initially through the slashes in a gentleman's jerkin which were there expressly to show the quality of the shirt material underneath - and therefore the social standing of the wearer. Pristine shirt cuffs indicated that the wearer was a gentleman who had servants to do the dirty work. Right up until the 20th century, a gentleman would never show his shirt sleeves in the company of ladies (and if he did an apology was in order). Although women had worn chemises or "blouses" for centuries, it was not really until the the late 1910s - with the advent of the First World War and the more mannish fashions of the Twenties - that women started wearing the shirts we know today.

TOP TIP

"To get shirts really crisp use a fine mist sprayer as well as a steam iron, and don't have shirts bone dry before ironing. Start with the collar, then iron the cuffs, then the sleeves. Then, with the shirt unbuttoned and the button side facing away from you, iron the body of the shirt, working the fabric away from you. Or, better yet, get someone else to ironed the damn thing for you." ANNIE

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