Katie Trotter: On being polished and poised

Prim and proper like Pippa and Kate is fine, but don't bank on this look lasting.

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Poised, polished and appropriate - all words to describe this summer's latest trend. Not the most exciting, of course, but then again neither are the Middletons. But before you write the look off as uninspired or unobtainable, take a minute to think things over.

Think for a moment of a world free of unsuitable high heels and uncomfortable strapless bras. Think of a world free from Spanx, spray tans, neurotic layering and the general everyday slog. Instead think of a risk-free life, a self-assured one of composure and dignity of manner. Think about long walks in the park without the fixture of a permanent grimace. Think about ease and finesse, of stolen glances with a romantic stranger across afternoon tea. Which, come to think of it, sounds like an altogether rather appealing version of life.

So how do we achieve this? Well, for a start, poise is not so much a style as it is an art, and despite what the punters may say it's one that can, in fact, be learnt. The number one rule is modesty. It may be obvious but hemlines shouldn't rise above the knee and décolletage must be kept well under wraps.

When it comes to footwear think the unthinkable - practicality. Poise doesn't wobble or flounder or throb. Platforms are out (too risqué) as are straps as thin as dental floss (too sultry). Instead opt for a midlevel heel with a built-in platform.

Stick to heavier fabrics that keep their shape. A good test is to roll your dress, jacket or trousers into a ball and hold it tightly for a minute or two. A garment that will hold its shape should not wrinkle on unravelling.

If you are going to invest, choose a well-fitted jacket as this will be a key note to work around. Another trick is to go with one "flash" item; a smart YSL tote bag sets the mood for the rest of your look, even if you picked it up in the discount basket at Marks & Spencer.

It's also important not to appear too severe - one sharply tailored garment per look should be enough. Not everything has to be high end - the key is to mix and match. Look to midlevel brands such as Jigsaw and Reiss for cut and quality. No one apart from you will know the huge topaz rock on your finger is made of glass.

Hair and make-up should be neat and unassuming, and accessories should be kept simple. You want to look like someone who cares enough about your appearance to look good - but not so much that you are superficial.

As I said, this isn't quite what dreams are made of - not exactly a fashion moment. Which perhaps is the point. It's a brave (and I predict extremely short) attempt at anti-fashion. So enjoy it while it lasts.


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