It was colour all the way for summer which means that for autumn ... you guessed it. By JAMES SHERWOOD
For the few of us left in Blighty during the holiday season, Style Police has only one thing to say: what's with the fashion industry? We're all gagging to summer-shop and what do we find? Magazines full of autumn/winter collections - which only thick and thin trophy wives have time and money to buy now - and shops flogging end-of-summer sale stock. Sure, a few silly fashionettes are going to stalk round in high summer wearing a languid Ali MacGraw knit scarf just to prove they're the first into autumn fashion. But, in the words of Shania Twain, "That don't impress me much."

July is our revision period. Then we devour the catwalk reports in the August glossies. We look at the themes, analyse what's new, what's coming through from the previous season and what we know is going to sink like a cement-filled stiletto boot. A few bits in our closet will be worth exhuming. Gaping holes will eventually need filling. We'll worry about that come October when the weather demands a new DKNY sheepskin blanket coat. But, for now, we're desperately seeking one new theme that's going to see us through high summer's fashion famine.

We're entering what's known as a retail black hole. It's too soon for autumn shopping and way too late for summer. You'd think that this would be cause to hold a candlelit vigil outside Karen Millen until autumn/winter stock hits the shelves. But Style Police knows you're not that kind of girl. When fashion lets you down, the only thing to do is improvise. Frankly, you've even surprised Style Police in the way you've made sense out of this mid-season malaise.

The answer is deceptively easy. Black is back with a vengeance for autumn/winter. More specifically, the little black dress will dominate. Style Police is aware that the LBD's return is as predictable as summer blockbuster films drowning in their own hype. But now? Spring/ summer meant colour and it's not going away. A/ w is going to be a disco-glitzy, Seventies hippie, zebra-striped, mink-lined season. But underneath all the nonsense, there is a strong seam of lean, mean little black numbers courtesy of Calvin Klein, Valentino and Narciso Rodriguez. You're on top of this trend and way ahead of Style Police. The girls we've spotted wearing the LBD have, in the spirit of recycling, simply dug out an old one from the back of the closet and vamped it up with a new pair of piebald print pumps. We always knew the LBD is a class act. And, honey, you've been away too long.


When Style Police first spotted the little black backlash, it was at Valentino's party at The Hempel. Both Liz Hurley and Naomi Campbell wore the maestro's severe black slip dresses. Then we saw one or two single girls about town wearing the LBD. Why this quiet revolution? Because we've all overdosed on summer colour.

May we present exhibit A: the cover of August Elle on which Zoe Ball and the ghastly Sara Cox wear foofy pink satin and spangly beads by Mr Valentino. It's all very summer - blonde and girly. It's also as sickly as being force-fed candyfloss. Exhibit B is Valentino's latest couture collection, shown last week in Paris. Valentino put black couture cocktail dresses as sharp as a wasp sting on girls as sleek as polo ponies. Hair was severely scraped back and lips were a gash of crimson. Basically, we're talking Robert Palmer's black-clad bitches in his "Addicted to Love" video.

It's a question of contrast. Go to any party this summer and it's full of girlies in flamenco frills humping the dance-floor to the tune of Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca". Imagine the impact of a sharp, neat LBD in a room full of salsa chicks. The woman wearing the LBD is going to look as sinuous as a black mamba in a pool full of flamingos. While the other gals are drooping under the weight of beads, bows and diamante, your little black number needs only a slash of red lippy and a pair of killer heels. The LBD has the bite of a vodka martini in a season of saccharine pina colada frocks.


No, didn't think you'd be joining the queue at Valentino's couture atelier for a to-die-for LBD. Give it a month if you want a Valentino ready-to- wear LBD. Ditto this season's Calvin or Narciso. But for the present, Style Police knows you've all got at least one LBD in the closet. It could be vintage Azzedine Alaia, an eternally fabulous Ben de Lisi or an old Jigsaw. Matters not. Get your LBD dry-cleaned and blow all those Barbie party girls out of the pool.


Calvin Klein at Harvey Nichols (tel: 0171 235 5000).

Narciso Rodriguez at Harrods (tel: 0171 730 1234).

Valentino: (tel: 0171 235 5855).