Style police: Time to ban the bomber

So the tailored jacket has been declared a goner. Fine. But with the zip-up bomber as its replacement? There must be a better way...

SOMETIMES the fates conspire to lull you into a false sense of security. Blaxploitation ubervixen Pam Grier is back in Jackie Brown. Madonna's Ray of Light is at number one in the album charts and God is in his heaven. Then just when you thought it was safe to go back into the wardrobe, fashion throws a spanner in the works. The tailored jacket, every woman's old faithful, has had a fatal coronary and collapsed. Liz Tilberis, editor of Harper's Bazaar, notes a "small fashion revolution taking place... fashion at the end of the 20th century is on the verge of loosening up... we've all started wearing little zip-front jackets".

Jil Sander and Calvin Klein are big on zip-front bombers for spring. Klein went for shiny techno fabrics and the hooded cut favoured by Tommy Hilfiger, All Saints and muggers. Sander's were collarless and colourless mud-tone cotton. Neither is particularly appealing. Out of the context of a pant or skirt suit, the tailored jacket has been redundant for a year now. As a separate, with this season's pedal pushers, pencil skirts or capri pants, it just looks wrong. But to replace it with the bomber jacket? Bros wore bomber jackets, for heaven's sake.

A good jacket is part security blanket and part corset. To lose it, even for a season, feels like the loss of an old friend. So let Style Police don the Eighties power suit and dodgy blouse of Cilla Black and see if we can set you up with a new friend for spring 98. Contestant number one is Press & Bastyan, currently in London and Glasgow but coming to a high street near you soon. The designers have cut a single breasted jacket in camel microfibre (pounds 180). It moulds to the body, working with the contours and relaxing around you. Yes, it is technically a jacket, but one that has breathed a sigh of relief and lost all the padding, stuffing and angles.

Remember the hell we had trying to find a good cardie on the high street some time back? Well, prayers have been answered. Oasis have got a - deep breath - powder blue angora mix long sleeve crop number with a smattering of blue bugle beading (pounds 44.99). They've got a stone silky knit ribbed cardie with a cute little collar for pounds 34.99. If you want weightless, then look at Warehouse's sheer viscose knit candy purple cardie (pounds 36, also in black) or Jigsaw's toffee-coloured crop viscose cardie (pounds 55).

Working women may look on Style Police's wisp-of-silk cardies as a betrayal: certainly no match for a good tailored jacket. Well, Clements Ribeiro have cut a funky, skinny bronze sequin relaxed jacket (pounds 744) with translucent sleeves and a tie-front. Marks & Spencer have produced the most amazing collection of jersey separates in camel. The tunic cardigan (pounds 40) has zero detail bar a Gucci-style clasp to tie just above the bust line. I'll stake my life that Betty Jackson, one of M&S's consultant designers, is behind this beautiful solution to the relaxed jacket. Still not convinced? Then take heart from Red fashion editor Alison Buchanan. "The jacket has survived Japanese designers in the Eighties, grunge in the early Nineties and it will survive the sportswear revival. Although dress codes for women at work are becoming more relaxed, it will take a long time for the tailored jacket to leave us altogether, especially when designers like McQueen are constantly reviving interest in a tailored silhouette."

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