Your favourite big jumper? Bin it

STYLE POLICE: Wool might be the answer for sub-zero temperatures, but for God's sake keep it slinky.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
What good news about the Queen being reinstated. Yes, Julie Goodyear is back as Bet Lynch in a Coronation Street special. It warmed Style Police's heart to hear Bet call Steve McDonald, "That rat in aftershave who's after your money". We've all known them, right? But it was Bet's love of leopard skin that inspired this week's opus. Fashion is a fickle beast. When Bet left the Street in 1995, leopard skin was as common as a bag of chips. This season it is caviar. Who'd have thought that autumn/winter '99 would also be the season that knitwear got sexy?

Even the word "knitwear" makes the Brits think of rocking chairs and Val Doonican. In America, however, knits have been an integral part of eveningwear since the Fifties. Skinny pastel cashmere twin-sets with full satin skirts are key components of easy American "sport couture". We in Blighty have finally embraced the twin-set and should now be graduating to sexy knits 1999 style. But fashion for autumn/winter has jammed a spanner in the works.

Hand-crafted, home-made folksy pieces have infected fashion like Typhoid Mary this winter. So chunky, cosy knits are ironically in synch with the season. Galliano for Dior exaggerated the Arran cream chunky sweater with knit pom-poms and extravagant cowl necks. Alexander McQueen's knits were like loose-tension cocoons and you'd better brace yourselves for the return of the golfer's Argyle V-neck come spring 2000. Don't for a minute imagine any of those chunky monkey Arrans or Argyles are truly chic. Do so and you might as well buy an Aga and a Labrador and retire to deepest Shropshire.

Fashion rarely manages to do sexy and warm. Frankly, an Arran isn't exactly a crowd-teaser. But now the nights are dark and the cabs are scarce, you're going to need knitwear. Tight-fit knits in the season's electric colours are a foxy way of avoiding frostbite. Ralph Lauren showed a rainbow of coloured knits, from pastel to neons, which all hugged the body and framed the face with a chic polo or cowl neck. Missoni's fine multi-stripe knits are contoured to cling this season. Besides, a clinging knit is a darned sight warmer than those baggy bell-sleeved hand-knits. Fine gauge fabrics remove the bulk from knitwear and a splash of cashmere makes them soft as a kitten's tail.

How to wear it

The two major selling points of truly sexy knits are colour and fit. A sexy sweater clings to the figure like an amorous python. It follows the contours of the body and balances this season's funnel-neck knee-length coat, stovepipe denims and A-line maxi skirt. When you're high street shopping, your Dulux colour match is Ralph Lauren's flaming orange, Yves Saint Laurent's olive green and DKNYs shocking pink. Your neckline should be either a great polo, a simple V or a daring scoop. Unless you can afford Missoni, please avoid the high street attempt at stripes. They are invariably big fat strips of colour that expand over the bazooms like undulating waves.

Where to buy it

Style Police has already told the guys where to buy 100 per cent cashmere sweaters for pounds 60 (Principles Collection). Girls, you better hurry on down to W.Woman for baby-blue merino wool funnel-necks for pounds 50, short-sleeved 100 per cent cashmere crew necks for pounds 50, and short-sleeved cashmere polo necks for pounds 65. That's fashion's answer to Asda price.

Jigsaw has got colour sorted this season. Love the olive, love the sky- blue and die for the deep cerise. Style Police particularly loves Jigsaw's Mohair roll-neck for pounds 65. Think Viv Nicholson. Spend, spend, spend. Gap, however, has just missed with its pounds 34.99 V-neck jewel-colour knits. Ditto Marks & Spencer which was always so strong on basic shapes and seasonal colours. Give us a good slinky cut, Auntie, and watch those figures rise.

The eternal sex kitten of knitwear is John Smedley. Style Police always knows it is autumn when we switch from Smedley's delicate Sea Island cottons to its luxe winter merino wool. The fit is exquisite, the feel is like melted butter and the colours are spot on; from Prada's green to YSL's orange. At pounds 70 starting price, I th ink we can safely say that Smedley is knitwear Nirvana.

Address book

5 Principles Collection (tel: 0800 731 8286).

5 W.Woman (tel: 0800 915 9901).

5 Jigsaw (tel: 0171 491 4484).

5 John Smedley (tel: 0800 028 6792).