Ladylike. There's a double-edged sword of fashion criticism, possibly only bettered by 'commercial' as now-you-like-it, now-you-don't doublespeak. Christopher Bailey's Burberry Prorsum collection was all knotted up in the idea of Ladylike chic for Autumn/Winter 2012. After all, the most lady of all ladies, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, sports Burberry's classic trench - as have more than a few queen consorts before her. Long may it reign.
Burberry was to the manor born for next season. Anyone who saw January's menswear collection could have predicted that. The different with the womenswear was that is seemed less tongue in cheek, less Sloane Ranger than plain Sloane Street, albeit Sloane Street in 1949, when the women strutting its length in furs and structured suiting lived rather than worked (read: shop) there. Bailey's take on lady was mired in the past, peplums jutting over knee-length skirts in slightly fusty shades of rust, burgundy and moss-green. They were the colours of an aristocratic estate - sometime they looked a little like the colours of aristocratic curtains, caked with dust and torn down to run up a tight little Dior number from the McCalls pattern. Well, aristos became impoverished a long time ago.
Muse-wise, think Mitford - the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was constantly in mind as models tripped out in frill-fronted pencil skirts tied up with a chic little bow. Those ribbons even strapped down goosedown puffer jackets, transforming all that volume e, yet again, into something approaching the New Look (which, by now, does look rather old hat). All fine, but not immensely practical for mucking out the horses. And practicality is what both the British aristocracy and Burberry are all about. When Bailey ditched the stuck-on frontage of furbelows and used poacher's pockets to achieve his volume, it looked much more relevant, contemporary even. It felt fresh and new.
Sending out half-a-dozen men's looks was a mistake on Bailey's part, however. In their tight tailored gabardine and velvet trousersuits and quilted hacking jackets, they looked like another breed entirely to the uptight Lady of the Manor walking alongside - and reminded us of exactly what was missing in her wardrobe. Freedom. Maybe it was Mellors and Lady Chatterley? In any case, it won't be long before The Burberry girl gets in the Burberry boy's trousers. To wear, that is.