Sartorial Musings: The art of demure dressing

Demure dressing is having a moment. Obviously, this is just a phase and not the initial tremor of a seismic ethical shift in occidental society, but it seems to be a phase which will last the season. Virginal white is everywhere. Prada’s Japanese poster girl is perfectly prim. The Mod aesthetic may centre on the mini-dress, but this sixties-inspired mini sits away from the body and is paired with flats or an innocuous kitten heel. And just like the rest of Spring’s muses, the New Lady happily rejects sexy with a capital XXX, in favour of prim pencil skirts and blouses buttoned up to opulent collars. Even if their joint campaign to bring back the ingénue were to be abandoned, there is no harm in considering how to dress in a way that eschews the shortcuts to sexy, delivering you into the realm of the siren by a road less travelled. The key, I think, is to find a new focal point: a part of the body not yet trapped in the semantic field of eros. Well-toned thighs are obviously a by-word for sexy but revealing only a pair of dainty ankles can prove just as enticing. They are best highlighted by cropped silk trousers and a pointy-toed court. Added points for a suggestion of toe cleavage. It makes a refreshing change from what you’ll have to excuse me for calling mammary cleavage. Even for evening, a plunging neckline feels out of touch with the times, not to mention a bit ‘obvious’. But then a high neckline – especially when it isn’t played against a short skirt or a pair of skin-tight trousers – can come across as frumpy. The perfect antidote is a lower cut back. You don’t have to reveal too much flesh: a slightly larger scoop back with hair pulled up off the neck is just as sexy and far more sophisticated.