Cheap and chic: The freshest looks for the new season
Budgets are bound to be tight this January, but thankfully the freshest looks for the new season can be found on the high street, says Carola Long
Underwear as outerwear
Is your underwear too pretty to be kept under wraps? Well this season it doesn't have to stay hidden, as bra tops, corsetry detailing and tiny shorts (or are they big pants, who can say?) become outerwear.
With sales of pointy bras soaring at John Lewis and Nineties-style bodies flying off the shelves at Marks & Spencer this trend looks set to stay. The most daring might like to try wearing a shirt unbuttoned over a bright bra, or a corset over a T-shirt, but in real life this could look as stylish as wearing your pants over your tights à la Superwoman.
More modest options include wearing a lace body under a cropped vest or T-shirt, layering a sheer lace T-shirt over a vest, or opting for lingerie-inspired details such as lace trims. Oasis have also provided a handy cheat in the form of this trompe l'oeil T-shirt by student Rosalind Keep, who has designed a capsule collection for the store.
Enjoy that head-to-toe black while you can because whether you call them sorbet shades or candy colours, many of this season's hues are good enough to eat. Lemon yellow, eau de nil, mint, lilac, and cotton-wool pink appeared at numerous shows, and the high street is set to come over just as pretty.
However, to avoid being mistaken for Fifties Homemaker Barbie make sure you keep the look modern. Firstly, stick to the very palest, lightest versions of these shades, rather than E-number brights, and look for sharp modern shapes, or the kind of rebellious undercurrent seen at Christopher Kane and Miu Miu, where dresses in innocent colours came with sheer or cutaway elements. Try sugary shades with boyish separates; team a rose-pink silk vest with rolled-up chinos or a boyfriend blazer. Watch out when pairing pastels with black; shades of khaki, camel and tan look more expensive. After all, this look should evoke an upmarket Parisian patisserie rather than a pack of Mr Kipling's French Fancies.
You can practically smell that spring is in the air when the high street starts sprouting. This season, though, there is more to florals than frocks, as blooms appear on knits, skirts, tops and even jeans. There's more variety in this trend than in a packet of mixed seeds, with scattered meadow flowers, prize roses, impressionistic dabs and photographic prints all making an appearance.
Topshop has embraced the trend enthusiastically, with cotton crop-tops, denim skirts and cardigans decorated with Forties-style spriggy patterns and big, bright bouquets that wouldn't look out of place on a pair of 1950s curtains. This isn't a slavishly retro look, so keep it modern by mixing florals with androgynous elements such as denim shorts or rolled jeans. This season's take is also much more sexy than previous versions; forget the girlish tea and prom dresses of a few years ago and look for sheer chiffons that float around the body like a gentle breeze, structured silk shifts as seen at Erdem, or tiny spriggy shorts that would surely have made Laura Ashley blush.
Good news for anyone in a post-Christmas slough of dishevelment. The official uniform of January, namely tracksuit trousers, has been elevated to high-fashion statement. Tailored sweatpants are the most literal manifestation of the sports luxe trend that swept the catwalks with all the force of a Federer forehand. Alexander Wang worked the varsity look with grey gym knickers and sheer silk tracksuit trousers, Gucci reinterpreted extreme sports details while Prada's more minimal take on the theme featured cycling shorts in techno fabrics. Banana Republic have come to the aid of the overindulged with the putty-coloured silk trousers pictured, featuring – oh happy detail – a drawstring waist. Paired with a white blazer and vest, this has an uptown American feel that couldn't be further away from Vicky Pollard's hot pink tracksuit.
After a season of hard edges, sharp shoulders and tough textures, fashion is rediscovering its feminine side for spring/summer, and frills are surely the girliest trend of them all. Whether it's a ra-ra ruffle à la Dolce & Gabbana, a sculptural wave, as seen at Lanvin, or bright dappled fabrics in Viennetta-like ripples like at Stella McCartney, there are ways for everyone to get their cheap frills on the high street.
Those of us with no occasion for Cinderella-like confections might prefer to mix it up a bit by layering a faded denim jacket over a frilled dress for a tougher, more casual edge, or wearing a tiered chiffon skirt (Cos have branched out of their trademark minimalist look with a version in lilac chiffon) with a plain grey marl T-shirt from American Apparel.
Distressed denim is still around for spring/summer thanks to Balmain – and Topshop Unique – but it's also been given a lighter touch. Stella McCartney's Seventies-style A-Line skirts and pinafores encapsulated a softer aesthetic than the spray-ons we've all become surgically attached to.
Gap is denim's spiritual home on the high street, so it's hardly surprising that the chain is offering everything from a pale denim biker jacket to indigo wedges and the pleat-front jean (left). Anita Borzyszkowska, Vice President of Public Relations, Gap Inc says, "I love the idea of mixing different shades of denim and pairing interesting new silhouettes. I'm looking forward to wearing our new pleat-front jeans in a darker shade of denim with the biker jacket in a contrasting but tonal pale blue denim. Mixing the two finishes gives the denim a very personal, individual feeling." Also look out for denim shirts – its ok to knot them – and keep your jeans up with a tan leather belt.