Style Police: The gypsy queens

Tassels, fringes and shawls are going to make it a Romany winter. Just go easy on the hoop earrings, warns JAMES SHERWOOD
Style Police had a gypsy awakening at the opening party for Tocca's new London flagship last week. Tocca has always been known for sugar pastel broderie anglaise pretty little slip dresses, and lo and behold! I spied three variations of the gypsy skirt, each dripping with fringe and dipping at an asymmetric angle towards the cutest kitten-heeled party shoes.

Tocca understands the allure of the exotic gypsy style. This season a skirt just isn't a skirt unless it is finished with fringe, beads or frills. Colours are as lurid as James Hewitt's diaries and there's more sparkle on accessories than in a drag queen's hoover bag.

You're waiting for a Style Police "But..." as in "Do you really want to wear more tassels than the Royal Opera House curtains?" Maybe someone laced our espresso with lithium this morning because we haven't got a bad word to say about this trend - but let's get this gypsy vibe straight. When fashion says "gypsy" it doesn't mean the variety you find camping in caravans outside Preston. Nor is it naive peasant girl, so we don't want to see any smocked tops and rustic aprons, please. No, our gypsy is part Freida Kahlo and part Carmen. She's a Spanish flamenco diva or a Mexican siren who can salsa all night without breaking into a sweat.

The fringed skirt came from none other than John Galliano. The fringed Dior couture dress Nicole Kidman wore to the 1998 Oscar ceremony was a homage to one of his beloved muses: the Twenties Hollywood siren Dolores del Rio (see picture below, taken from The Power of Glamour by Annette Tapert, Arum Press, pounds 19.95).

Mr Galliano has been derided by select fashion harpies for a good few seasons but the man is a genius and it is he - and Dolores - you have to thank for the fringe benefits this season. Credit where it's due. Without Galliano's Dolores dresses, we wouldn't have the pleasure this season of Yves Saint Laurent's wild jet bead fringe tunic. We wouldn't gasp at the gorgeous electric neon tassel skirts and tunic tops at Emporio Armani.

You don't need a crystal ball to anticipate the end of folksy, peasant style. It was ugly in the days when Cher was still singing "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves". It is ugly now. Don't you get the feeling paying hard-earned moolah to look like a peasant is slightly immoral anyway?

Fortunately the designers agree that this season's gypsy is Hollywood glam in glorious technicolour, not dingey traveller. So keep the image of the wildly glamorous Dolores del Rio in your mind's eye and you won't go wrong.

How to wear it

Start with the skirt. It has to be asymmetric and it has to be fringed. With hips like a snake and a little attitude, the fringed skirt moves with all the stealth of a conga eel. Gorgeous.

If, however, you don't have the legs for fringe, then the flounce maxi may work for you. Imagine Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa and you're halfway there. If you're too young to remember Ava then think about the kind of skirt Geri Halliwell has been wearing in her Mi Chico Latino incarnation.

Accessories are too divine this season to allow you to go barefoot. You'll want to be wearing strappy stilettos with the fringe skirt and beaded flat pumps for the ruffled flamenco number. Oh, and one more thing. This is vital. You can't do wild gypsy style with sleek, groomed hair. Hair has got to look as though you've just been for a roll in the hay with a band of randy Mexican banditos.

Where to buy it

Emporio Armani's tasselled silk skirts are the clear winner this season for pounds 395. We would recommend Miu Miu's gaberdine dress with fringed hem for pounds 215 but the goddam thing is brown! Yves Saint Laurent's jet-tasselled tunic is a gas, but you'd rather buy a small car for the $5,990 tag. Style Police would be inclined to dash down to your local vintage clothing store, buy the prettiest embroidered fringe shawl and DIY a wrap-skirt. Just be sure you're wearing saucy knickers because they'll show as the tassels dance around one thigh. For the embroidered ruffle maxi skirt either try out Boyd's white cotton number trimmed with a fine scallop hem (pounds 203) or get yourself down to the new Tocca store because that's one label that has always had the gypsy in its soul.

Address book

Boyd at Browns (tel: 0171 491 7833).

Emporio Armani (tel: 0171 823 8818).

Tocca (tel: 0171 225 1002).

Yves Saint Laurent (tel: 0171 493 1800).