Full steam AHEAD

By | July 18, 2012

The Edwardiana trend harks back to a golden age of travel and technological innovation —so you can embrace a demure neckline without abandoning your smartphone, writes Harriet Quick
It s quite a spinning-top experience trying to simultaneously cast your eye into the future and the past, but thatwhat fashion is demanding of us right now as we retune our views, attitudes —and bodies —to one of the most intriguing trends of the coming autumn/winter season: Edwardiana. Fashion never likes to be too historic-specific, preferring to gild and etch all sorts of materials and references together, but this current study comes with the chuff of steam trains, a whiff of Penhaligon, the rustle of leg-of-mutton sleeves and the flick and flack of long tailcoats in the background.

Rather than picking up the tempo of the underground club scene (wherethat?), designers have been taking trips to country houses to look at tapestries and damasks; architects have been poring over Edwin Lutyens; interiors whizzes researching the finer arts of engraving and wood carving. After a brilliant summer of sensationalist effects, this new, more refined, luxurious and studious cast to fashion (high necks, immaculate tailoring, button boots, luscious velvets and tweedy riding jackets) looks very compelling.
When looking for cues, let s not ignore Downton Abbey. With an estimated 12.1 million Britain glued to yearChristmas special, surely fashion would be daft to ignore the rip-roaring success with some sartorial fanning and feathering, beaded column evening dresses and livery included? Well, yes and no. Taste-and style-makers tend to have their own antennae that work in an instinctive, pollen-gathering way. Tuning into one, albeit brilliant, Upstairs, Downstairs saga that reached its peak in late summer 2011 would be a) derivative and b) costumey. Yet the series no doubt helped trigger a global interest in the taste and manners of pre-First World War English aristocracy. Downton s love of crystal glassware, exhaustive supply of pudding bowls and the soothing effects of valet brushes in moments of moral turbulence should not go unnoticed either.
But back to our own wardrobes. What to propose? Ita moment when Burberry s Christopher Bailey seems absolutely in his element. With his inbuilt fascination with Britishness, Bailey swooped over the era, reappropriating poachers’pocketed tweed jackets, quilted field coats, driving gloves, heeled brogues and, rather charmingly, a black umbrella topped with a metal foxhead. has been around for 156 years, but ita very young team, very young culture and a very innovative company. We talk so much of the physical and digital worlds merging, I wanted the collection to celebrate the merging of town and field and country.”And that fits nicely with more than half of us aspiring to live in the wilds of the English countryside, as far from a Tesco Metro as possible, yet remain in cyber-face connection. Those Burberry pockets are definitely big enough for a brace of smartphones and quail.

The romance of the steam train gripped Marc Jacobsheart —travelling at speed through the English or French countryside, packed with crocodile hatboxes and valises owned by a magical cast of passengers wearing very wide coats and trousers and high hats in sparkling jacquards. Louis Vuittons recreation of Marc Jacobsfantasy train —the centrepiece of the show, with models disembarking one by one-cost a staggering ?5 million. The figure a would no doubt make the Locomotive Trust rather queasy. was a feel of the turn of the century,”says Jacobs. a number of decades were there —the Sixties, Seventies, and their references to a romantic past. The train recalls a period filled with literature and thoughts of a better life.”Not much time for pondering when aboard the St Pancras to Stratford International link (journey time: seven minutes), but in terms of wardrobe news, Jacobsempire-line tunics layered over flared trousers are most attractive.
The eradressiness, and its decorative language, appeals to our current mindset —King Edward VII welcomed progressive thinking, technological advance and dressing well. Where the Edwardians had the thrill of telephones and motorcars, we have tablets and MiG aircraft; history has a zig-zag path, but in fashion its the romance, detail and cut that now count.

Giles Deacon found himself poring over family photo albums of the eccentric Messel family at the Brighton Museum, as well as turn-of-the-century Etonian uniforms, and all manner of curios at the V&A. struck me most in the Messel collection and various country homes I visited was the beauty and timelessness of things —the workmanship in the carvings, the tapestries and, in a broader way, the expression of noblesse.”What emerged via these threads was an eerily beautiful collection held in the carved oak interior of the Worshipful Company of Stationers in the City, with a rather studious muse at its core. Deep collars appeared above slim-cut tailcoats, while silks were printed with a burnt tapestry effect, and rich metallic lace cut into evening dresses. became fascinated by historical garments, fabrics, textures and prints, and also in the historicism of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. But I wanted that to be not only romantic, but worldly and married to modern technology.”Designers want to zip and button us into new silhouettes, seducing with mind and eye. From Balenciaga, Nicolas Ghesquierelame drape dresses top high-neck chiffon blouses, ingeniously merging the historic with the avant garde.

From Alessandra
Rich, who looked to painter Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), high-necked lace gowns with elbow-length sleeves; from Ferragamo military tailoring and ghillie shoes; and from Fendi, some sweet button-up boots. Your first stage might be that new raised neckline, the second a tweedy shooting cap, the third a crystal choker… and yoube off on a journey.
And donlet the aspidistra down. All manner of Edwardian decorative effects are emerging in our homesteads. The young, witty, British designer Lee Broom unveiled a cut-crystal light bulb at the recent Salone del Mobile, on a mahogany set based on an Edwardian pub bar. Architect and product designer Ben Pentreath is attracting a keen following for carefully considered wares from his own store near LincolnInn Fields, as well as big-scale projects including grand private houses. In his eclectic range, find plaster sconces, engraved glasses and, yes, Edwardian pudding bowls. the big, brassy buildings and schemes of the Nineties and Noughties begin to look a little out of touch with the times, it is a pleasure to rediscover people who for a long time have been working in the shadows with traditional materials and craftsmanship,”says Pentreath. things enduring have an authenticity —qualities we appreciate when times are tough.”But the historical thread is always meandering, never too reverential or cast in aspic.
High necks, a flourish of lace, tailed coats and buttoned boots —sprinkle a bit of Edwardian potpourri over your autumn/ winter wardrobe.