Forget dresses, the all-in-one suit is the new look

Join the queue. Stand in line. Has there ever been a more fashionable reason to be doing just this?

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Join the queue. Stand in line. Has there ever been a more fashionable reason to be doing just this? What a week it's been for designer/high-street collaborations, or as the Americans call it, "high-lows"?

If you didn't make it to a global Gap store launch for the hotly anticipated Valentino for Gap, did you race to H&M to pick up Lanvin at once-in-a-lifetime prices?

If you came away from either potential fashion splurge empty-handed, did you ask yourself why? Perhaps you came to the conclusion that maybe you are simply not a "dress" sort of girl.

Don't panic. You are not alone. Karen Bonser, the head of design at Topshop, told me at the Arcadia spring/summer 2011 preview that Topshop is currently selling as many, if not more, options aimed at customers who are "not into pretty pretty" than the ubiquitous frothy or frilly frock.

"There's a huge feel for separates," said Bonser, "from leather shorts to ladylike blouses with our fashion-forward customers."

To give Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli (the designers behind the Valentino label) credit, the unlikely blend of gloriously feminine signature and Gap's no-nonsense ethos worked remarkably well, even when forged into combat-like trousers with ruffles.

H&M's Lanvin debut was reassuringly infused with ritzy Gallic glamour, but didn't include what's emerging as the unlikely star of the holiday season. Given the backdrop of all the dramatic offerings around, from feathered jackets to sheer gothic lace and leather, not to mention all the colour and texture, its easy to miss the best, and certainly the best-selling alternative to the dress: the all-in-one.

Even the search engine giant Google failed to spot this blast from the past in its fabulous new fashion site,, which uses fancy image-recognition technology and promises to revolutionise the way we will shop online, preferring instead to do such features as tried-and-tested celebrity get-the-looks starring Carey Mulligan and her lovely party frock.

By next summer, Bonser believes the playsuit, the shorter, strappier version of the long-sleeved all in one, will have entirely replaced the dress in our affections.

Better get some practice in, I hear you say. Part of the reason the onesie (as it's also referred to) is popular, according to the Wallis design director Clive Reeve, is because "a lot of women want to invest in something they can get a lot of use out of right now".

True, that Lanvin red net tutu is a scene-stealer but how many times could you wear it? One could also say the all-in-one is a no-brainer when it comes to working out how or what to wear to where. You don't need Google's team of fashion insiders to pull this one off, or technology to check out if you've got the right sort of figure (anyone can wear this).

You don't even have to worry about your arms (like this season's one-shouldered hit) because they are covered. As the name suggests, this is a one or perhaps two-stop fashion look.

Step one: put on. Step two: choose no more than three accessories. Heels, preferably strappy gold sandals or black courts; bag, something tiny but showy like a Judith Leiber; jewel (note the singular), such as a vintage scarab brooch pinned to a lapel, Solange Azagury-Partridge ruby-encrusted lips ring or one dangly earring (yes that trend is back). And you are good to go. As in go anywhere.

Like so many 1970s fashions - the maxi, fringed leather jackets, retro knits, hippie flares, platforms - on the surface they might look rock'n'roll, but on closer inspection, with the exception of platforms, they are about being casual, comfortable, louche and relaxed.

The onesie in its latest guise has been drained of colour and Elvis-like embellishment. It follows the clean lines favoured by Celine, and wide-leg shape Yves Saint Laurent deployed in his version of it. All in all, it scrubs up like new.

It might not be pretty as such, but it's glamorous, which isn't always the case in a dress. Even a Lanvin dress.

"Right now we are having a Jerry-and-Bianca moment," Clive Reeve told me. "Ask yourself: would Jerry and Bianca have worn it to boogie at Studio 54?"

The answer is, of course, yes. Perhaps the question Reeve should ask is: will real women too? But we know the answer to that already, don't we?