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Trousers are where it’s at this autumn


This article is taken from the November 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

Death gave me trousers. Before my parents began their unseemly exits, I had rarely countenanced such matters, preferring skirts and slink. But, then, shit, bile, and pus hit the fan and suddenly I was spending the majority of my time sleeping on trains or in hospital corridors, requiring practicality for hazmat and survival purposes. Goodbye, Rita Hayworth; hello, Radclyffe Hall.

This autumn, trousers are where it’s at, the whole fey milkmaid smock thing finally being vanquished

Or, in fact, Jenna Lyons. For I’d rock my trews Noughties-style à la the former J. Crew designer, fitted (Gap) cut-offs with a mannish jacket and some sort of heel. It got me through. Since then, I have marginally expanded my repertoire to include Stories Flared Cotton Trousers (classic lean bootcuts, £65, &, plus summer’s jauntily serviceable Asha Crop Culotte by NRBY (£79, And that’s it: any proficiency at an end.

Awks, then, that, this autumn, trousers are where it’s at, the whole fey milkmaid smock thing finally being vanquished. As m’learned friend, the Times fashion guru Harriet Walker, has observed, trousers were the uniform of this September’s catwalks, off-stage still more so than on: “Wide-leg, baggy and cropped; skinny flares, chinos and cargo pants; tailored, leather and jeans. So many jeans: white, blue, black; tucked into tall boots or rolled to show off a chunky bovver … You might have heard the phrase ‘vibe shift’ — well, here it is.”

Given my limited abilities in this field, I consulted Clare Hornby, 53, creator of Me&Em, a brilliant British brand with a globally-renowned genius re slacks. When Me&Em launched in 2009, it was its strides that had women falling over themselves to get involved.

And, still — despite the glories of its cuts, wit, easy elegance, plush textures, sporty detailing, layering genius, versatility, accurate sizing, thrill-inducing monthly roll-outs, and all-round reasonably-priced, eco-conscious, entirely ageless insouciance — it is its pants that predominate.

Its Palazzo Pant (£59, formed its first foray into trouserdom and remains a best-seller. Made from modal (a bio-based material created by spinning beech-tree cellulose, no less), it boasts a roll-top waistband. This can be deployed to shorten the style by up to 7cm, expand over a pregnant stomach and/or large lunch, or to hoist-up to under one’s bra to provide another layer while flogging one’s off spring to heat one’s home.

Throughout Me&Em’s staggering subsequent growth (currently at 250 percent per year in the States), this wider shape has remained fundamental to its DNA. Hornby herself makes a winning poster woman for the style, assuring me that she is a squat 5’6” with short legs, while miraculously resembling a lithe and leggy 5’10.

This, my friends, is #trouserpower, and I want in. Yet, how to manage the issues of cut, length and proportion that fox we novices, given that they must fit at waist, hip, thigh and foot/ankle?

Westbourne Grove branch super-stylist Raffaella Granocchia lines up several options, working her way analytically through them. We immediately identify the issues: stuff that I can perceive with frocks, but have never been able to get my head around with slacks. My high-waisted, hourglass physique requires high-rise styles lest I appear rotund.

Flat (rather than pleated) fronts will also work best in this context. While tapered ankles may look classically cool on the Grove’s young staff , however on my midlife ass classic reads as conservative, aka Marion from Accounts. I emerge with the can-this-really-be-me edgy Herringbone Pinstripe High-Waisted Super Wide-Leg Trousers (£225): Italian-tailored, exquisitely fluid Oxford bags that shrink one’s middle as they exaggerate one’s lower half, and so nattily Gene Kelly a girl could swing off lampposts. No less joy-inducing: they are recycled and machine washable.

Next, Raff puts me in the Luxe Flared Wide-Leg Trouser (£195), a Charlie’s Angels flare in a scarlet that the goth in me yearns to resist, yet can’t. They look fabulously toy soldier with August’s sell-out navy Italian Wool Military Jacket (£350). As for juxtaposing them with the brand’s positively orgasm-inducing Pleated Silk Organza Necktie Blouse + Cami in Pop Purple (£250), nothing could appear more contemporary.

The Relaxed Straight Man Pant (£175) in black makes for a more quotidian slice of trouser action, a modishly low-key, loose leg to kick through the glass ceiling. Given that any professionalism on my part was only ever fictitious, I’ve also ordered the Italian Fine Cord Man Pants in electric blue (£195), because their extreme beauty makes me want to weep.

I now don’t know who I am, in the best of all possible manners.

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