Style & error: Winter fashion ski-inspired wear
THE LOOK One woman tests the trends of the day.
TREND Stirrup pants.
WHO’S DOING THEM? Jil Sander did them for fall.
TRENDOLOGY The development of stirrup pants goes hand in hand with the rise of synthetic fabrics in the ’50s, and both were/are popular in skiwear. They reached a mainstream peak in the ’80s, along with other heinous trends such as pinstriped jeans and leg warmers.
TEST DRIVE I spent most of the early ’90s in a pair of thickly woven black nylon stretch pants. They had an industrial zip up the middle, from the crotch to the belly button, which made them look like wetsuit bottoms. Reminiscent of a tensor bandage, they were constricting, and therefore sexy, but had just enough give to permit the circulation of blood, oxygen and other necessities. As my friend Lorna says, they “streamline your mushy bits.” In her case, she was talking about Spanx, but it’s a fair comparison to what these stretch pants did for me. The fabric, however, had zero breathability, so I had to peel them off—usually after clubbing—redolent with sweat, nicotine and the ambient white haze that was periodically pumped onto the dance floor.
The stirrup pants at Jil Sander this season are an improvement, but I must confess that I’m not a fan of the stirrup silhouette; neither is my friend Laura Calder, the cookbook author and French Food at Home chef. “With that elastic strap around your foot, it looks like someone’s hiding under the floorboards trying to pull your pants down,” she says, adding, “You always have the sensation that your socks are bunched up.”
The JS pants still have the anchor strap, but Raf Simons modified the design so that the stirrup is threaded through a slot in the wedge heel of the shoe and fastened. This was a clever move on many levels: It solves the rumpled-sock sensation, and he has spared us the agony of deciding what shoes to wear. If you don’t opt for Simons’ custom-cut wedges, riding boots are, of course, entirely coherent with this look, as stirrup pants were designed expressly for the saddle. But what about, say, ballet flats? I wore Prada flats with the JS pants, and it was immediately evident that the combination was dysfunctional. “You look like a male ballet dancer,” said Laura. The verdict? The clunky JS shoes are ideal because they are functional and also mimic ski boots, which are, of course, the other sport that stirrup pants are associated with. In fact, I suspect that Simons was inspired by the opening ski-resort scene in the movie Charade, where Audrey Hepburn is wearing a Givenchy ski outfit and that fabulous short ski sweater with a ’50s cutaway collar. If you look carefully at his collection, he does the same thing in gorgeous technicolour.
This brings me to my last point, which is to never, ever, tuck anything into stirrup pants. A midriff-baring T-shirt will do, if you want to go for a racy look; otherwise, try a cropped sweater. Any old-school stylist will tell you that if you can determine whether a coin in the back pocket is heads or tails, the fit is perfect. While the outline of a quarter may be inoffensive, the bulge of a rumpled shirttail flatters no one. VERDICT 9/10.