what to wear when everyone’s watching

10/mar/2016 08.01.59 Charles Contatta l'autore

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Pressure dressing: what to wear when everyone’s watching

When I was a teenager spending hours laboriously putting together an outfit in which to exit the house, my mother would call up the stairs, shouting, prophetically: “It’s not a bloody fashion show.” Every time I pull out my suitcase to fill with items to take to fashion week, I have an urge to call her and yell down the phone: “Well, it is NOW.”

You might think working out what to wear to a job interview is stressful. You’re wrong. Working out what to wear to a place where your peers have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the net-a-porter.com stock listings, where silent judgment comes via photographers, crammed around the entrances of the shows, as they gently point their lenses to the floor when you walk past, where an acute hierarchy exists based on the number of your Instagram followers, where the apex of materialism and narcissism meet. That, is an actual sartorial challenge.

On top of this excruciating judgment, throw in some added elements: New York was -15 degrees this season. I came back from that blizzard into four days of London shows, before heading straight to Milan. I had two nights at home before going to Paris. That requires serious laundry/dry cleaning logistics. Plus it rained apocalyptically through most of Milan.

In Paris, there was blazing sunshine, rain and snow (in one day). Which means one needs to inject some practical thinking into ones look. Which is unideal, because fashion doesn’t really do practical. Fashion does bare legs in the snow and velvet platform heels in the pouring rain.

Joseph cashmere sweater, £225, NET-A-PORTER, La DoubleJ Editions long-sleeved silk maxi dress, £420, Matches, Jay chunky Chelsea boots, £90, Office

Image: red prom dresses

“One needs to curate a look that offers credibility and says: “Sure, sure, I work in fashion, I am open to spending my rent money on a pair of shoes.” But not: “LOOK AT ME I'M SO IN FASHION.”

I start to panic usually a few weeks before the off. Cue manic scrolling through all online luxury stores in order to secure at least one 'it’ item with which to maintain some sort of kudos (previous fashion week panic-purchases have included pink glittery Miu Miu open-toe boots, Isabel Marant splatter printed jeans and a lace Christopher Kane sweatshirt). This time I got obsessed with wanting a Vétements tracksuit, which would have come in at around £800. “Think how comfy I’ll be at the shows!” I said. Our fashion director raised an eyebrow, “I don’t really see you in a tracksuit.” (I took this to mean “you are not wearing a tracksuit to fashion week”). I spent so long debating which colour of Gucci loafers to buy, when I finally decided (black, obviously), they had all sold out in my size.

After this initial frenzy subsides, usually I become somewhat rational. Firstly, I don’t really ever want the 'thing’ that is the 'thing’ you’re supposed to be wearing. It’s too victim-y, too obvious. Yes, the entire front, second and third row will have those loafers. Ergo: I’m over them by the end of New York. Yes, every single street style pap seems to have the Vétements black raincoat. Jealous in a down pour? Sure. Still want it? No. I’d also rather have a standing ticket than it look like I want to be photographed. I fear hovering outside a show for too long in case anyone thinks I’m trying to attract attention. I find the whole thing wantonly embarrassing. Therefore, one needs to curate a look that offers credibility and says: “Sure, sure, I work in fashion, I am open to spending my rent money on a pair of shoes.” But not: “LOOK AT ME I'M SO IN FASHION.”

It’s a fine line. And obviously I do work in fashion, so I am ultimately bothered by what I’m wearing. I need to be in something that lets me feel confident in the shadow of a thousand bitchy-resting-face eyes, able to go backstage and not have the designer mistake me for an intern, and swan about in the posh hotels usually commandeered for appointments without worrying about being asked to leave. Here’s what I’ve learnt:

Invest in stealth basics

There is nothing more of a no brainer than a really good wool or cashmere jumper in a classic hue – navy, black, camel or cream. On any 'what the hell will I wear day’ I reach for my Commes des Garçons camel V-neck jumper. No one can argue with you if you are wearing CDG.

Wear one colour head to toe

This is one of the simplest things you can do to appear expertly pulled together. I only ever really buy things in either grey or navy so this is easy (black doesn’t count, wearing HTT black makes you look ill, which when you haven’t had a day off in three weeks is not what you need). Similar fabrics also help. My current grey look du jour is a 1205 ribbed knit skirt with a Cos grey roll neck. HTT knitwear also = blissful comfort.

Detail watch

You need at least one snazzy item. This could be a coloured shoe or handbag, quirky jewellery (everyone at le shows was doing mismatched pearl earrings, oversized, miniature and wonky versions all haphazardly yet precisely placed up one’s ear). Or you could slice off the hem of your jeans which is a very now thing to do.

Never save for best

If you buy a fancy silk dress to only wear on fancy occasions, you have terrible fashion-maths. Unless it’s taffeta with a bustle (in which case, back of the wardrobe Marie-Antoinette), employing swishy things as daywear is an easy win. You may feel the need to tone it down: add a chunky jumper over a long dress and wear with flat boots.

A hint of print

Printed items used sparingly are handy to add a little personality and interest. I favour tempering a print down with simpler items (plain bottom + printed top or vice versa). Fashion magazines like to harp on about clashing prints, personally, this makes me tense.

Try a tunic top

The best thing I bought was a white tunic top from Cos. It’s a bit like a shroud, and as it’s white, quite a high-risk item. But it was just the thing to chic up a pair of (crop flare) jeans. White or cream items always look glamorous. I recommend removing before eating penne pomodoro.

A great coat

An enveloping coat that has an element of design to it (say oversized pockets, a contrasting coloured lapel, a thick waist defining belt, in a tantalising colour) will always save you.

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