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Getting round a woolly issue

Jess Cartner-Morley
Saturday November 4, 2006
The Guardian

Sweater dresses look so easy. Cosy, one-step, non-iron winter dressing, with no tight waistband to give you away when your 4pm KitKat habit starts to show. Don't be fooled. It's a fashion honeytrap. Whereas a tailored suit may look scary on the hanger but, like a true friend, will help you show your best side, a sweater dress will heartlessly highlight your potbelly to all and sundry.

By respecting a few basic rules, however, you can make a sweater dress work for you. Get it right and you will feel as pleasingly cosy as a hot-water bottle in a fluffy cover. (Get it wrong and you will look as wobbly and rotund as said hot-water bottle in said fluffy cover.)

First: length. Contrary to what you might think, longer is not better. Knee-length is the longest you should ever go; a bit of (opaque-clad) thigh is best. You should look a bit like you're wearing a long sweater - possibly your boyfriend's. This is crucial, because it is from this that the sweater dress derives the air of smug, loved-up weekend-mini-break sexiness we're after.

Second: texture. If your figure is less than thoroughbred, chunky knits are much more forgiving than fine wool; if the mere thought of a chunky wool dress makes you feel hot and itchy, go for fine wool but with pockets, or big buttons, or a decorative tie-belt, or all three - anything to distract from the saddlebags. (Don't, however, go for fluffy, angora-esque fabrics which, far from making you look strokeably kittenish will, in fact, make you resemble a giant hairball.)

Third: if you get home with a dress you had hoped made you look like a moody French actress and discover that it makes you look like a large knitted apple, do not despair. Get a big belt and cinch it tight. Not the comfort-blanket dress you had in mind, maybe, but at least your KitKat secret is safe once more.

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Ooh the kit kat secret... Kit kat my sweet friend of yore.

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Checking out time

Jess Cartner-Morley
Saturday November 11, 2006
The Guardian

I should have learnt my lesson when it comes to rubbishing trends. I seem to recall totally trashing puffballs and then shamelessly skipping around in one later in the season. Certainly I was vociferously "anti" skinny jeans at first, only to backtrack with indecent haste and start muttering about "straight leg rather than drainpipe" shapes within a matter of months. Truly I am wasted on this fashion lark. I should have been a politician!

Nonetheless, this season has thrown up a prime example of a trend just crying out to be scorned: tartan. If you are wearing tartan you are clearly trying to prove something. Either (a) that you are Scottish or (b) that you are very, very fashionable, even more so than people currently wearing mustard-coloured knitwear.

In each case I suspect that you are trying to prove it to us because of some lingering insecurity on the subject yourself. But I digress. The wearing of tartan this season - among the non-Scottish, that is, do keep up - is intended, I can only suppose, to prove to the viewing public that you have read all those Hot New Season Trends supplements that come with autumn glossies. And read them, moreover, right to the last page, where they put all the kooky and unflattering trends that only the chronically easily led would even consider. Film buffs quote obscure dialogue and hang out at early-evening screenings at the NFT to prove they belong; this season, fashion buffs wear either tartan or huge rocking-chair wooden platform shoes. (Or, heaven forbid, both.)

My problem with tartan boils down to this: frankly, you'd look better in almost anything else. Oh, and before you check-free mates think you've got away lightly this week, one more word. Houndstooth. This is tartan, but in black and white. Herringbone, yes (skirt); houndstooth, no. And that's my final word on the subject. Probably.

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