Fashion Update: Culottes are back
I was invited to the ballet last month with Tamara Hill-Norton, the founder of Sweaty Betty, who was not the only person in our gathering wearing a beautiful pair of culottes.
They were my first real-person sightings of one of the new season's surprise star items and I was impressed. Hill-Norton's culottes were navy and in a thick shiny material that gave them structure and modernity - the kind of sporty couture look that is right just now. I imagined they must have cost hundreds but it turned out they were 55 quid from Topshop.
Dismiss Toppers as "too young" at your peril and get your head around the culotte, ladies. I know it's been some time - I'm not sure I've worn a pair myself since I was 12. But having seen the culotte operating so succesfully it's clearly a good thing to have in the repertoire, particularly in this dynamic season.
If there is an overriding theme to spring 2014 it is ease: ease of dress, ease of movement. You need to look as if you are ready to sprint off at any moment, and the culotte can help you with that (particularly Roksanda Ilincic 's designs with in-built go-faster stripes).
That doesn't mean you have to wear them with trainers or flats, although thanks to Karl Lagerfeld's recent Chanel couture show it's trainers with everything from now on. Or the flat orthopaedic sandal (to be discussed). But I think we all know that culotte-plus-orthopaedic sandal is unlikely to give most of us the leg-lengthening proportions we'd like.
They looked great, rather grand in fact, on Hill-Norton with black tights and chunky black shoes - all the better for balancing the silhouette. This is a strong look, not a wispy one.
Don't be put off by the way culottes are being styled in editorials. There are a lot of cropped tops revealing abs (lack of) that the majority of us will want to brush by. Instead go for a wide-cut knit, sweatshirt or T-shirt in one of those thick technical fabrics so beloved by the minimalist designers (and Cos ). Then move on with ease.