How to wear... chic vinyl
It's one of the season's most intimidating trends, but Meadhbh McGrath brings you the grown-up's guide to pulling off the patent look
High-gloss vinyl first emerged as a major street style hit last year. The likes of Alexa Chung were quick to embrace the PVC trench as the 'It' coat of the season and experiment with shiny trousers. It looks like that trend is here to stay, with designers expanding to vinyl skirts, dresses and suiting for autumn-winter.
There were high-shine macs and trench coats at Chloe, Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini and Vanessa Seward. At Saint Laurent, Anthony Vaccarello presented a whole suite of gleaming partywear - ruched, ruffled mini-dresses and skirts in black and petrol blue, along with patent leather shorts, trousers and slouch boots. Calvin Klein covered dresses and coats with a layer of clear vinyl, while Lanvin created a vinyl trouser suit.
At first glance, the shiny fabric might seem intimidating, with its connotations of fetishwear and The Matrix. It's admittedly one of the more challenging trends, but incorporating a single piece in your outfit is an easy, chic way to make a statement. For a real-life take on the trend, allow your vinyl to do the talking and keep the rest of your look streamlined.
Start small with patent accessories: a wide belt with high-waisted jeans and a turtleneck, or a pair of slingback courts and tote will give even the plainest outfits a futuristic, fashion-forward touch. Swap your usual evening bag for a shiny clutch, upgrade your ankle boots to a patent pair - it's far less scary than splurging on a vinyl coat or pair of trousers, but will allow you to work your way up to more of a statement piece. The good news is vinyl works best with more relaxed outfits. While you can amp it up for a knockout evening look, it's safer to dress down a glossy skirt, coat or trousers for casual effect.
The trench carries the biggest wow factor, and, being waterproof, is suitable for Irish climates. Vogue fashion editor Sarah Harris's trench offers a twist on the classic Burberry version, and she keeps things simple with jeans and loafers. Alternatively, vinyl offers a sharp contrast with a chiffon dress or delicate florals.
Many of the vinyl skirts on the high street tend toward mini length, which can be unforgiving for all but the slimmest thighs. Opt instead for a smart pencil skirt in this season's red - follow Cara Delevingne's lead and wear with a red blouse and heels for an on-trend tonal look, or play it safe with a cream or black roll-neck knit. Red vinyl pieces work strikingly well with neutral tones. We love Zara's low-heeled slouch boots with a knit midi dress.
The key is to strike the right balance between the vampiness and modesty. Tone down a glossy black wrap skirt with a slogan T-shirt and trainers, or give it an office-appropriate twist with a grey wool jumper and ankle boots.
For evening, River Island has lots of vinyl options. The navy midi skirt is gorgeous with a dressy top and sock boots, or go the full Saint Laurent with a ruffled mini-dress and patent stiletto pumps.
If you're going to go for vinyl trousers, it's worth investing in a decent pair with a looser fit and a straight-leg cut, rather than the skin-tight leggings dominating the rails - it's no-nonsense, plus a better quality fabric (ideally a soft leather) will be more comfortable and spare you the horrendous squeaking every time you move. And stick to black, which will offer an easy alternative to denim. There's something effortless about a pair of vinyl trousers with chunky knits and trainers, or you can dress them up with platform heels and a silky blouse. You could even wear them to work with a crisp stripe shirt and loafers.