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How to dress like a grown-up with Shane Watson: Collar this season's latest trend, like Cate

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You may have seen the pictures of Cate Blanchett at the Bafta Tea Party last week. She was wearing a black tunic pantsuit over a top with an ivory ruffle trim collar and cuffs.

The outfit was a bit modern professional and a bit renaissance prince, so it covered all the bases, but what you couldn’t fail to notice was the impact of her ivory frilly collar.

Any woman over 50 (Cate is 53) looking at that collar will have thought, ‘Oooh! Now some version of that I could do business with’.

We owe Cate for reminding us that the frilly collar is not just for apple-cheeked nursery school teachers circa 1980, and for demonstrating that a full on mille-feuille of a collar can be worn in the day and look chic, not fancy dress Pierrot or Sloane Ranger revival.

Cate Blanchett, 53, wore a black tunic pantsuit over a top with an ivory ruffle trim collar and cuffs at the Bafta Tea Party

Shane warns against tipping into'Victorian dolly territory' when trying the frill trend (pictured: Chanel S/S 2023)

Shane Watson shares her tips on how to master this season’s collar trend which she says is a fast track, anti-ageing fashion hack 

Frilly collars have been around for a couple of years, but it’s time we started taking them seriously as a useful bit of feminising detail and a great anti-ageing strategy. Like the late Nora Ephron, a lot of us feel bad about our necks these days, and clearly this is a gift of a neck coverage solution.

(If you haven’t read Nora’s collection of humorous essays in her book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, then don’t wait another minute.)

Nora’s tip was never to look at your neck in the rear-view mirror of a car when seated in the back seat. But she was also a big fan of turtlenecks, blouses with neck ties, turned-up collars, wrap around scarves — all the tricks. It’s safe to say she’d have approved of the new frilly collar, especially as, like us, she’d almost certainly have erred on the side of less frill.

'Frilly collars have been around for a couple of years, but it¿s time we started taking them seriously as a useful bit of feminising detail,' Shane (pictured) says

‘Frilly collars have been around for a couple of years, but it’s time we started taking them seriously as a useful bit of feminising detail,’ Shane (pictured) says

If you’re over 50 and embarking on frilly collars, there is no denying you have to exercise caution; frilly collars can tip you into Victorian dolly territory, or make you look like minor Monaco royalty — which is to say prim and old beyond your ears, the opposite of what we’re aiming for.

Here are the new frilly collar rules. Follow them and you’ve got yourself a fast track, anti-ageing fashion hack:

1. One layer of standup frill collar — just covering your mid-throat level — is the safe bet and the most useful.

This is the collar you’re wearing to make a sweater look smarter, or on its own tucked into high-waisted trousers or a longish skirt.

This season, every label you can think of has done a frill trimmed stand-up collar on a shirt or a blouse or a layering top (the ones that aren’t meant to be seen: only the frill shows). The Princess of Wales wears Me+Em’s sleeveless stretch-style with cotton trim under jackets (£65, meandem.com). She doesn’t need neck camouflage — this one is a V-neck to soften the neckline of buttoned-up double breasted blazers.

Boden does a round-neck one (£32, boden.co.uk), but Me+Em’s layering top with the statement stand-up collar (£115, meandem.com), as in bigger and fatter, is the one that’s going to pay dividends.

It looks great under a cardigan, a round-neck sweater or a buttoned-up collarless jacket. If you’re in the mood for smartening up your look, this is step one. Just add relaxed tapered trousers.

FRILLY COLLARS: THE RULES

  • Go for a high frill collar not cuffs.
  • Wear under a collarless jacket. 
  • Wear frill collars with high waists. 
  • Try a frilly top with a graphic print.

2. A frill down the front can work. The jabot may feel a step too far, but it doesn’t have to be if it’s slim and unobtrusive. H&M’s cotton blouse with a small frill collar and ruffle front, will look as good in summer tucked into a belted skirt as it does now under a tank top with wide leg trousers (£17.99, hm.com).

A white blouse with a hint of a frilly front is feminine in a crisp way and an excellent accompaniment to minimal pinstripe or navy tailoring.

Talking of stripes, Cos does a great dark blue and white striped relaxed shirt with a slim ruffle collar and frill-trimmed placket (£69, cos.com). Wear this out over trousers for a relaxed but smart office look. I also like La Redoute’s Eugenie blouse (£24, laredoute.co.uk) with a ruffle, high-neck, frill front and broderie anglaise trimmed pleats. That’ll soften up a business suit or smarten up dark jeans.

3. A print frill-collared blouse is your answer to office and ‘on wear’. So long as the print is unfussy and involves just two or three colours. Try black silk with an ivory heart print (£55, stories.com) or one of Me+Em’s silk prints in the sale.

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