Trend report: The new demure

JOSIE STEENHART
Last updated 05:00 08/10/2017
Christian Vierig

The look of 2017 is notably more demure than that of a decade ago.

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In the last year or so, I've noticed my fondness for looser shapes, midi-length skirts, higher necklines and tops with sleeves has been on the rise. 

To be honest I'd put the penchant down to age, not enough exercise, too many snacks and glasses of wine, and it's probably that too, but according to Jess Cartner-Morley's recent piece for The Guardian, "modest dressing" is also distinctly now a trend. Love it when that happens.

"The look of 2017 is notably more demure than that of a decade ago," says Cartner-Morley.

"Hemlines have dipped a crucial few inches, from just above the knee to just below it. A collar up to your chin is the norm. Party dresses have sweeping sleeves, rather than plunging necklines.

Gosia Piatek from Kowtow says she's always loved and been drawn to a more conservative aesthetic, but confirms that it doesn't have to look frumpy. Image: Kowtow.

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"For the simple reason that you are engaged with fashion, you have become a modest dresser," she concludes.

It's true, I am, and assumedly, if you're reading this, so are you, so let's get behind this one.

So why are we dropping our hemlines, buttoning up our blouses and putting a little more skin stylishly off show?

As with many fashion trends, the foundations are undoubtedly political, not necessarily as overtly as wanting to shield our bodies from grabby orange hands (but maybe a little), but as a way of taking back some control over the ways we express - or keep to - ourselves.

Gosia Piatek from Kowtow says a conservative design makes the wearer look more chic. Image: Kowtow. 

Victoria Beckham, one of the undisputed style queens of the universe, recently spoke of looser silhouettes as putting "the power back into the hands of the wearer rather than the observer."

This doesn't by any means require you to cover up from head to toe, don sack-like garments or dress like a Victorian spinster aunt or a nun, it's more just an acknowledgement that showing self-confidence doesn't need to be about showing off your "assets".

"Demure dressing is at its best with a subtly subversive twist," says Kate Sylvester, who does the 'new demure' so well. "A high neck and longer hemline needs a bold lip or tough jacket for balance."

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Staple + Cloth founder and designer Sharyn Condon says she's loving the season's shift to a more demure look.

Kate Sylvester says demure dressing is at its best with a subtly subversive twist. Image: Kate Sylvester.

"A longer length skirt, layering a dress over a pant, a fluid, flattering drape over the legs, a feminine detail on a sleeve and for us a renewed attention to the waist. You immediately feel elegant."

The new demure is all about being stylishly in control, feeling comfortable and dressing for yourself - whether that's looser fits, midi or even maxi length dresses and skirts, longer or puffed sleeves or buttoned-up or high-neck tops (but not all at once).

Gosia Piatek of Kowtow says she's always loved and been drawn to a more conservative aesthetic, but confirms that it doesn't have to look frumpy.

"Styled and worn the right way I think it looks elegant, understated and classic," she says.

Rachel Easting from Twenty-Seven Names says loose fit clothing feels so much more relaxed than the short dress lengths. Image: Twenty-Seven Names.

"I wouldn't design something short, low cut, backless and figure hugging - I would normally only integrate one of these into a garment, not all at once - a conservative design I believe makes the wearer look more chic."

Kate Sylvester's take is that "demure dressing is at its best with a subtly subversive twist. A high neck and longer hemline needs a bold lip or tough jacket for balance."

Rachel Easting of Wellington-based label Twenty-Seven Names says their looser fits and longer lengths have been inspired from recent trips to Japan, where more demure and less form-fitting fashion is the norm.

"There's something really freeing about wearing longer lengths and we find that loose fit clothing feels so much more relaxed than the short dress lengths and tighter-fitting styles that were popular when we started," says Easting.

- Sunday Magazine

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