Fancy the rustic look? Peasant trend will dominate this year, and it costs a mere £1,700

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The Independent Online

It's been actress Sienna Miller's trademark style for the past 18 months and it had its heyday more than 30 years ago. The peasant look, despite being a major trend for the current spring season, now looks set to dominate fashion right into next winter, according to the latest collections seen on designer catwalks last week in London.

However, there is potentially bad news for slender fashion followers such as Miller. In the wake of sheepskin boots, kaftans and flouncy gypsy-style skirts - all deemed must-have items over the past year - the latest garment to be borrowed from the bohemians is the billowing a-line smock.

Last week, the designer Jessica Ogden showed patchwork artists' smocks in her autumn/winter 2005 collection, with suitably rustic inspiration from the artisan quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Mississippi, while Danish-born designer Peter Jensen also presented smocks, this time with traditional Scandinavian embroidery. The youngest designers at London Fashion Week also fell in line with the peasant look, with Central Saint Martins student Sophia Amanzi-George wowing onlookers with her eastern European style dresses.

A move towards more elaborate folkloric styles also began at New York fashion week, where traditional Russian dress has emerged a major winter trend for designers Anna Sui, Matthew Williamson and Proenza Schouler.

"I think that the whole Russian and eastern European look is really strong for next winter," said Iain R Webb, a fashion editor at Vogue Russia. "People in the fast lane yearn for something remote and idyllic. Folkloric clothes are part of a fantasy of pastoral life. It's the Marie Antoinette syndrome.

"The peasant look is a proven success. With minimum advertising, labels such as Dries Van Noten and Marni have over the years built up a loyal client base by emphasising the handcraft-style elements of their clothing," Webb said.

The trend's continued success can also be attributed to its patent obviousness. "This is not a difficult trend. Gone are the days when women can think about their wardrobes 24/7," says Richard Gray of Harvey Nichols. "They know that they can put on a great yoked Matthew Williamson top with a pair of jeans and it will look great."

Despite 30 years passing since Yves Saint Laurent first put haute couture folkloric fashion on the Paris catwalks, some might blanche at the idea of designers borrowing ideas from rustic sources for their highly priced clothing.

Gray points to British high street fashion chains as the levelling factor that makes any moral outrages now outdated. "There's an egalitarian feel to the peasant look, because you can do it either with a fabulous £1,700 smock from Dries Van Noten or a £17 top from Topshop," he said.