Why women are embracing ‘do-not-fancy-me’ fashion in revolt against hypersexed clothing
What does a woman wear when she has no interest in attracting male attention?
The answer, according to Sienna Miller, is: "Big, baggy, sort of chimney-sweeper trousers and tweeds. High-waisted, bunched-up things and slightly odd shoes."
Talking about her style evolution in a recent interview, the actress explained that she has ditched "flirty and sexy" pieces in favour of what she calls "do-not-fancy-me" clothing.
"The more unattractive I can make myself, the less flesh I can possibly show, the better," she added. It's a rare woman who admits that she dresses for the opposite sex, yet Miller has, in so many words, done just that. If her new wardrobe says don't-fancy-me, we can conclude that her former wardrobe of studied Bohemianism - wispy silk camisoles, tiered gypsy skirts and floppy hats - said something else entirely.
Women who wear what Sienna calls "sexy and flirty" clothes often go to great pains to point out that they don't do so for male attention. Stiletto-induced blisters? Thong-related UTI? Shapewear-compression organ damage? She did it for herself and nobody else, mister.
Not that Miller (pictured above) really bought into the skin-tight dress and sky-high Louboutins side of Sexy Inc. Hers was a subtle school of seduction - more Rolling Stones muse than Victoria's Secret model. Still, her comments suggest that even the braless and barefooted Bohemian can come to prefer the comfort of a well-engineered bra and a cosy pair of socks.
Miller's sartorial shift isn't just age-related, though. Don't-fancy-me clothing (patent pending) is fundamentally a revolt against hypersexualised clothing and a counterpoint to 20-odd years of cleavage.
It started in the Nineties when Eva Herzigova trilled 'Hello, boys' from a traffic-stopping billboard. Soon we had whale tails, belly button piercings, bumsters, Brazilian waxing, vajazzles, bandage dresses, monokinis, underwear-as-outwear and yoga leggings that reveal the entire outline of your perineal region should you decide to climb the stairs of the 16A bus.
Sure, there were moments when provocative fashion titillated, but for every va-va-voom Jennifer Lopez Versace dress moment, there was a dear God no, Jodie Marsh army belt moment. For THAT one safety pin dress, there were 100 more predictable Elizabeth Hurley ensembles that beseeched rather than suggested. The jig was well and truly up when Kim Kardashian's arse became an emoticon.
The evolution is epitomised by the changing shape of women's jeans. In the nineties we all wore no-nonsense Levi's 501s. These were soon supplanted by hipsters (the lower, the better), which were in turn superseded by skinnies. Then denim manufacturers began to experiment with body-enhancing, bum-lifting fits. Bum-lifting jeans marked a high point in denim engineering but a low point in women's overall dispositions. When squeezed into a tight spot - literally and figuratively - the human spirit will eventually gasp for freedom. Enter boyfriend jeans. Oversized, off-duty, and unapologetically unappealing, they are the staple piece of a don't-fancy-me wardrobe and, as it happens, the style of the moment.
Women are breaking free from the confines of skin-tight apparel and realising the easy-breezy elegance of clothes that don't give them thrush.
Miley Cyrus, who once preferred to perform in near-nudity, is now enjoying the ease of oversized t-shirts; Paris Hilton was recently photographed sporting an abaya, and Leandra Medine's fashion blog the Man Repeller has become a global phenomenon.
Even Victoria Beckham has embraced loose-fitting shirts and slouchy slacks. She recently revealed that her husband "doesn't understand" some of the outfits she wears, and wishes she would dress like she did in "the old days".
Sure, few men will imagine tearing a pair of billowing tweed culottes off a woman's body - or fantasise about her keeping the chunky flatforms on - but after two decades of flesh-baring, man-pleasing fashion, that's precisely the point.