Rhapsody in beaded chiffon

Sexy, floaty pastels, exquisite beading: Style Police is full of the joys of spring
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Indy Lifestyle Online
SOMETIMES you can be all too critical of fashion. Last week, Style Police overheard an eager young lover giving his girlfriend surprise tickets to Paris for St Valentine's Day. The girl, face like a slapped arse, did nothing but bitch at him about finding a cat-sitter. A romantic gesture was completely deflated by practicality. How like that ungrateful girl fashion critics can be.

This season's directional designer, Narciso Rodriguez, presented a spring rhapsody in eau-de-nil cashmere, oyster georgette and the most romantic powdery pink, double-faced chiffon. A starburst of tone-on-tone subtle beading was mouth-wateringly modern. And all we can say is, "Will it wash?" and "Not in February". So, this is Style Police's belated Valentine's card to the sheer prettiness of spring's new colours, fabrics and delicate, spider's-web smattering of beads.

"It's fabulous to see this palette and feminine detail coming back," says fashion writer Sally Brampton. "But this isn't girlish prettiness. It is glamorous pretty. The shape is extremely sexy. It is body-conscious. Crucially, the designers haven't gone too far. The back panel beading on one of Narciso's vests or tanks is a clever device. Not too cute."

We were the first to stand up and say "new femininity" didn't work last spring. We have already advised you to balance the baby pink with Gucci black. But isn't it wonderful to lighten up once in a while? Narciso's pink sequinned chiffon and cashmere apron tops (pounds 385) are expensive but exquisite. The tactile fabrics, the clean, keep-it-simple silhouette and the little touches of bugle beading are irresistible.

"I think there is a yearning for the artisan, for the hand-made," says Sally Brampton. "Most women wear a tailored uniform which is in no danger of dating. The beauty of beading - and you won't believe how well the high street can copy these shapes - is that we can slip them under the smoky grey trouser suit. Keep the tailored edge but just add that little touch of pretty."

There's an epidemic of embroidery, lace and tulle lurking like booby traps in the high street. Don't let anybody tell you spring fashion is about Galliano decadence, Helena Bonham-Carter florals or, god forbid, the butterfly motif. Erase from your mind fussy.

MaxMara's stretch-silk chiffon sleeveless, drape-neck top (pounds 553) is effortless. Champagne beads on nearly-nude chiffon are tone-on-tone perfection. Alberta Ferretti's oyster mushroom stretch tulle tops (pounds 333), beaded with seed pearls, is sheer and clean. The beading on Laurel's white stretch lurex top (pounds 321) hides your finer points even though the fabric is cobweb fine. Prada's doing beads, but they aren't nearly as pretty as Narciso and twice as expensive. Joseph's gunmetal viscose top with regimented silver bugle beads and sequins (pounds 125) is a sassier take on pretty.

Now let's hear it for the high street designers. Karen Millen's white crochet strappy dress, bang on the knee and pounds 89.95, has a neck and hemline iced like the edges of a cake with tiny white bugle beads. Watch those rails at Dorothy Perkins like a hawk for lilac or cornflower blue crepe camisoles, same-colour beading around a pretty scoop neckline. We've seen Stella Tennant looking ravishing in Episode's eau-de-nil "glitter" knits for their ad campaign. Not in store yet, but stake them out. This is shine at its most subtle.