There comes a moment in every woman’s life when it’s more prudent – not to mention far more elegant – to conceal, rather than to reveal.
So I know I won’t be the only woman on the wrong side of 40 to welcome the latest sea change in the fashion world.
Gone are the low-cut tops and the acres of flesh of recent years. Now what we have instead are ankle-skimming dresses (preferably with long or three-quarter-length sleeves), midi skirts, Downton Abbey-esque high-neck blouses and a general air of demureness.
Charlotte Kemp knows she won’t be the only one to welcome this new modest fashion trend
It’s a look that has even been paraded on the red carpet by the likes of Oscar nominee Alicia Vikander, and fellow actresses Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, in conservatively-cut gowns which, at most, show a glimpse of shoulder.
The ultimate ‘new modesty’ mascot, though, has to be the Duchess of Cambridge, insists celebrity stylist Alex Longmore, who has dressed the likes of Jodie Kidd, Jerry Hall and Claudia Schiffer.
‘You only have to look at Kate Middleton in her long black lace Alice Temperley gown to realise that she oozes sex appeal in the most subtle of ways,’ says Longmore. ‘Celebrities used to dress revealingly to get noticed – now it’s about dressing without the flesh factor.’
Independent fashion and retail analyst Sandra Halliday, editor of trendwalk.net, has noticed a similar style shift in the High Street, too.
‘After years of baring more than we dare, now the cool thing to do is to cover up,’ she adds.
But there’s more to this trend for covering up than just gaining street cred. It’s a sign that fashion brands are finally wising up to the huge spending power of stylish, older customers who want to follow the latest trends.
As a result, ‘modest wear’, as it’s been dubbed, is one of the fastest-growing fashion sectors.
‘Older women feel more comfortable and confident in clothing that is sexy, but which shows the right amount of flesh,’ says Gemma Holmes, creator of Odyl Design (odyldesign.com).
And it’s significant that the key trends for this spring can all be worn by those of us with less-than-perfect bodies.
‘Part of the reason labels such as Mint Velvet and retailers such as John Lewis, Reiss and Next are doing so well is because they allow women to be ‘on-trend’, but not ‘on-display’,’ agrees Halliday.
Huge advances in manufacturing techniques – in particular, the rise of laser cutting – have helped to make lace mainstream.
This is an area where Marks & Spencer has excelled: a black lace top with flattering underlay and long cut-out sleeves was one of its winter bestsellers.
Once you hit a certain age, it’s as much about realism as it is about modesty.
THE HIGH-NECK DRESS
THE ANKLE GRAZER
THE WAIST ENHANCER
THE SHEER SLEEVES
THE LACE LAYERS
THE KNEE HIGHS
Styling: Barbara McMillan. Hair and make-up: Julie Read. Fashion assistant: Zillah Rauter