It’s not always simple to define “relaxed”, in terms of fashion or style.
Actually, it’s rarely simple. After all, one person’s relaxed might be another person’s formal. For some, a typical Dress Down Friday ensemble might consist of smart black jeans and a cashmere sweater; for others, it’s practically pyjamas.
It’s tempting to say that dress has become increasingly casual, certainly for the working environment, but that’s not entirely true. In some ways, it has become more dressy, with sparkle, embellishment and statement design such as cutouts and unusual tailoring all now perfectly acceptable at the office, whereas once you might have seen such details only for party and special occasionwear.
Boundaries have been crossed over and over again, back and forth, from work to weekend, nightwear to party wear, while exercise-inspired wear is seen pretty much everywhere.
Fashion loves to borrow and adapt. If something looks good and feels even better – say, a street-style hoodie, although you could argue that jeans are the best long-time example – we don’t want to wear it for weekends only. So let’s smarten it up a shade with a chic design touch, or a sleeker-looking fabric or richer colour, or let’s mix it in with more formal tailoring, and there you go –an edgy look that’s also comfortable and easy to wear.
A consequence of all this style bending is that we now look for multi-tasking fashion pieces that work for both dressed-up and dressed-down outfits.
Comfortable glamour just about sums it all up, and luxurious, oversized knits are a great starting point for the new versatility.
This season, look out for roomy sweaters, cardigans, tunics, gilets and throw-overs with shapes and details that elevate them from a simple piece of knitwear into something special and subtly attention-seeking.
Tie waists, fluted sleeves, scoop necks, collars with unusual stitching – all these are elements which lift and add interest.
Having said that, fabric is even more important, so choose fine wools and cashmeres, giving softness and luxurious texture, with easy pieces that look as good with your jersey jeggings as they do with a pair of neatly tailored cropped trousers, slim or wide-leg.
Look out too for oversized jackets (the White Stuff one featured here with quilting detail is ideal) and versatile shirts.
As ever, it’s all about layering, but the proportions have to work for your frame. Unless you are six foot and angular, a chunky, boxy top and billowing wide trousers will not look elegant, although they might look quite cute if you strike it lucky. Play around with a variety of lengths, fabric volumes, cuts and textures to see if you can hit the right note. Otherwise, it’s always safer to team a longline top – perhaps a cardigan or a wear-out, tunic-style shirt – with slim-leg jeans, trousers or leggings.
Turning to jeans, the choice and variety of style, cut and treatment is remarkable, and confusing. Even faded and frayed jeans are no longer purely for casual wear. At least, not when they are beautifully detailed and immaculately cut, like the Next ones featured here. Add heels and a chic blouse, or a soft-pink cashmere fitted sweater, and you’re good to go pretty much anywhere – not a formal dinner, but almost anywhere but.
Accessories too are becoming ever more multi-purpose. Witness this tote bag with cross-body sporty strap, perfect for when you’re on the move at speed, or need your hands free, and a great alternative to the smart rucksack.
By choosing pieces that translate from home to work to playtime with ease, you’ll save valuable time. But always go for quality first.