Leather doesn’t have to put you in a sweat

Forget about “faux” leather or “pleather” and go for the real thing; it will look, feel and fit better and last a lifetime.

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I’ve been skirting around the subject of leather for a while now in the hope that it might fade away, but I’m afraid it’s a sticky little one – one that always seems to swing back into fashion. The problem is that leather, generally speaking, makes even the most coltish of figures appear a little more, well, cart-horse. Let’s face it, one has to be fairly svelte to carry off the look.

While a spray-on leather number may look great on Chloë Sevigny or Alexa Chung, pause for a moment and try to visualise it fitting into real life: don’t forget, these are megastars with a team of stylists around them making them look great 24/7. Most of us, despite our best wishes, do not have that. What we need to do is arm ourselves with a bit of background knowledge.

Firstly, forget about “faux” leather or “pleather” and go for the real thing; it will look, feel and fit better and last a lifetime. When it comes to the feel of the fabric, the softer the leather, the better.

The A-line skirt and the pencil skirt are a good starting point this season. You will need to work out which style works best with your body shape – an inch or two below the knee is a safe bet. As with all skirts and dresses, make sure that they are lined, as without a good-quality lining your skirt will not fall correctly. A full A-line skirt can look wonderful, but you need to be tall for it to work, as the sheer amount of volume needs to be offset by length, so tread carefully. Try pairing with a super-soft mohair jumper to balance the toughness of the leather. A classic round-neck version with a simple print can make things a little more playful and less austere, although make sure that the overall feel is relaxed so that the look appears feminine.

For evening, a tie-neck blouse with a layered necklace tucked into a leather pencil skirt will add instant drama. If you are looking to be a tad dressier, for dresses, the shift is the most practical, especially in the searing heat. Don’t fret if you have a curvier shape, as there are shift dresses that are cut with a slight nip at the waist to create a better overall line.

When it comes to trousers, try combining three-quarter leather trousers (look to the French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld for inspiration) with a simple, crisp white shirt, flat loafers and minimal jewellery. Keep the rest of your outfit simple; a longish silk jacket over a simple vest works well and stops the look from heading toward the dreaded mutton-dressed-as-lamb territory. Try experimenting with mixing your fabrics: a leather cuff on a good-quality top is a great alternative, making it much easier to wear for daytime. If you are bigger in the bust, then avoid a tightfitting biker jacket; instead, go for a loose, soft leather that nips at the waist – you don’t want a jacket to sit on the widest part of your middle.

When it boils down to it, there are really only two ways to wear leather well. One is in the demure way – little and often; flashes rather than pieces. The other (not for the shy among us, I may add), is to go all out head to toe in a body-con figure-sucking dress. What we really have to look at is size and cut, not age. Common sense should tell us that if there isn’t enough fabric above the knee, then the skirt is probably not so suitable. Remember, it’s not an age thing; it’s a style thing.

Finally, avoid pairing leather with statement shoes, animal print or anything with sequins that could possibly have the whiff of a late-1990s cougar. Anything that screams “come hither” is to be treated with much deliberation, for, in leather, the rest of you will do the talking.

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