Halfway through, Bailey threw in a few resolutely butch moments - down coats, chunky shearlings and thorn-proof tweeds trimmed with hide.
Whether channelling Princess Margaret, L.S. Lowry or east-London punk, the one thing that stays constant in Christopher Bailey's Burberry is its quintessential Britishness. And what could be more British than a torrential downpour?! That's what Christopher Bailey opened and closed his collection with - the former virtual, the latter very real indeed, with transparent plastic sou'westers to boot.
The collection those white squalls book-ended, however, was less straightforward. The trench coat is an item often appropriated by women from the male wardrobe - most iconically by Yves Saint Laurent - but Bailey seemed to work the other way around, sliding a few feminine touches into his men's wardrobe for winter. As always with Burberry Prorsum, the changes were rung through the outerwear - this time, those coats came trimmed with fur: sometimes an astrakhan collar, a classic overcoat detail for both sexes; sometimes a distinctly feminine mink tippet wrapped around the neck. A checked number was pulled in at the waist to bell over the hips, while a single-breasted wool caban had peter-pan collar, martingale and petite pockets below the waist. There was a sixties vibe throughout, but it was the sixties of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy rather than their male counterparts - likewise the accessories, oversized fur caps and hefty structured bags than could easily filter into the mens or women's department.
There was a compelling sexual confusion to much of the show - if the clothes weren't overly feminine, bordering on the fey, they swamped Bailey's waifish models, oversized sleeves, overblown checks and peep-over collars suggesting fragility, the idea of a young boy clad in his father's clothing. Ninety-percent of the show comprised those riffs on oversized/undersized coats - there were a few slouchy knits, long enough to look like tunics in Aran and fur, with gangly skinny-jeaned legs emerging and thrust into orthopaedic-looking, oddly covetable shoes that crossed a rubber galosh with laced brogue or tasselled loafer.
Halfway through, Bailey threw in a few resolutely butch moments - down coats, chunky shearlings, thorn-proof tweeds trimmed with hide - but they seemed like an effort to hide a limp wrist in an iron gauntlet. Maybe that was part of the problem - sometimes, this collection just didn't seem assured, or assertive. A young boy wrapped up in his grandmother's fur tippet will still get jeered by John Bull - and for all fashion's championing of transgenderism these past few seasons, that's something we've never really seen explored. Provocation through fashion, after all, is a great grand British institution too, and that was exactly the reaction Bailey's mix achieved - when it hit the right buttons. Ultimately, ambiguity was the name of his game - and, it seems, more often than not my reaction to this collection was just that.