Get one step ahead: Shop early to avoid the throng

Sequins, denim, Eighties glamour and soft Forties styles – the new season is suprisingly democratic. So shop early to avoid the throng, says Harriet Walker

Monday 17 August 2009 00:00
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Brace yourself: it's 'drop week', fashion-speak for the arrival of the new season's must-haves in the shops.

Tatty summer sale rails and grubby unsold vest tops are no longer what draw the eye (actually, did they ever?) – rather, it is sumptuous racks of warm-looking, makeover-inspiring fresh stuff. And it's only going to get harder to resist its allure, so watch out for the investment buys that will make your money – and your look – work that bit harder.

The key trends this season are nicely democratic, because they needn't be a head-to-toe extravaganza; think of them more as features within your ensemble, whether it's structural detailing, embellishment, denim or a burst of fluoro colour. You'll get more wear out of pieces that way, and more versatility. Styling influences veer from Dynasty-esque brashness via Bladerunner futurism to feminine silhouettes, be they floaty, after the Bloomsbury set, or as sturdy as a 1940s Land Girl, so there's plenty of scope for changing your look.

Colourful add-ons are big this season and sequins in particular are fairly ubiquitous – hardly surprising with the party season glimmering in the distance – but they're all over all manner of garments besides cocktail dresses. From sloppy harem pants to sweatshirts, Topshop Unique's catwalk show featured lots of shiny sequins – and their bigger siblings, paillettes – on everyday wear, and French Connection's grey knit, replete with eyelashes and sparkly blue sequins, is a great blend of dressed up and dressed down. It's perfect for wearing with jeans and trainers or a prim mini-puff skirt and heels.

If you're looking for something more dramatic, there's a slew of heavily structured and swooping architectural pieces on the high street – try futuristic body-con at Warehouse, Dorothy Perkins and Jaeger, or Whistles' black number is a perfect mix of snappy and classy. Wear your big shoulders with an uncomplicated skinny lower half, so tight jeans, leggings or simple black opaques are all you need. Leggings are a look in their own right these days too, so take your pick from the many value-added pairs which are around at the moment: with cut-outs at Topshop, artful rips at Urban Outfitters and careful ruching with a high waist at minimalist's haven Cos.

Elsewhere, there's sports-luxe meets utility and Gap's silk pocket T-shirt (available in black or powder blue) wins the 'separate of the season' prize: we challenge you to find someone it doesn't suit or an occasion you can't wear it to. Look out also for Topshop's timeless trench, which has just enough going on to make it more interesting than your average, but not a one-season wonder: the cape detail, tartan check and ribbed wool sleeves all conspire to make it chic as well as hip. Wear over Banana Republic's cream pleated dress (with a forgiving elasticated waist) for your own take on Christopher Bailey's Forties-style Burberry belles. On the other hand, Reiss' double-breasted grey wool jacket is a retro-style alternative which nods more to the military than to the Mitfords.

The other two key stories for autumn are denim and Eighties – combine them wisely. All Saints' trusty denim shirt would be a handy addition to your wardrobe: it's a less obvious way of getting in on a trend than simply wearing your jeans, and is less scary than a full-on jumpsuit. Investigate the Eighties with care: keep statement pieces simple and plain – Dorothy Perkins' red origami miniskirt channels both Grace Jones and Jerry Hall, two equally stylish but rather polarised emblems of that decade.

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