Essential west London girl dons her boyfriend's vests and antique lingerie

By Susannah Frankel,Fashion Editor
Thursday 09 August 2012 05:36

The photographer David Bailey once said of the model Jean Shrimpton: "She was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen."

At her Paris show yesterday, Stella McCartney used this voiceover to introduce her most confident collection yet.

The clothes had more in common with Saint Tropez in the 1970s than Swinging London in the Sixties: picture a golden-skinned girl slipping on nothing more than a white lawn cotton dress with tiered, ankle-length skirt and still stealing the limelight; or how about her boyfriend's vest and a full, layered white muslin skirt.

The tailoring she has become known for came this time in black, white and pale grey. Oversized, mannish trousers looked great with an equally roomy waistcoat over a crisp cotton shirt or with a shrunken jacket that emphasised the slender torso. Then came the lingerie-inspired pieces that have become a McCartney signature.

Petticoat dresses, camisole tops and even French knickers all made an appearance for women who would rather pay designer prices for such flights of fancy than trawl the market stalls and buy the originals second-hand.

Of course, McCartney is not the only designer to plunder vintage treasures for inspiration - everyone from John Galliano to Marc Jacobs is in on that act. McCartney is better placed for it than most, however. She is, after all, the quintessential west London girl and she wears the style well herself. For evening, crystal-trimmed dresses in pale aqua were more attention-seeking, although still part of a modern and entirely relaxed mood.

The Belgian designer Dries Van Noten celebrated his 50th fashion show the previous evening with a collection paraded on probably the world's longest banquet table. In a monolithic disused factory building, guests filed in to take their seats and were served a chandelier-lit dinner before the lights went down and models took to the linen-clad table in this season's designs.

These were typically opulent mixes of floral and ethnically inspired embroideries and bold print, strewn across dirndl and pencil skirts, fluttering silk dresses and shirts and loosely structured but always feminine tailoring. Colours were typically luscious. Complimenting signature neutrals were rose pink, fern green, duck-egg blue and deep ruby, as well as more sun-bleached shades, from primrose to a deep blush.

Van Noten is a fashion original: he refuses to advertise, relying instead on the fact that he has a hugely loyal clientele. It is a formula that works well: his clothes are bestsellers at department stores the world over. The fashion show, according to Van Noten, is all that's needed to market his product. Suffice it to say, then, that the message sent out by this most recent showing in Paris should do his business no harm.

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