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  • wore in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, with a Peter Pan-collar shirt underneath and a polka-dot scarf tied jauntily round her miniscule waist. Prim, sexy, demure and naughty all rolled into one – the way that in a perfect sugar-and-spice-and-all things-nice world, ladies should always dress, don’t you think?

    I could watch those ’50s movies by Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Sirk, John Ford, Elia Kazan and the like over and over again, for the clothes alone. Isn’t that the reason why fashion keeps harking back to that decade (interpreted so well this season by Preen by Thornton Bregazzi, Valentino and Vivienne Westwood Anglomania), because the silhouette is so easy on the eye, not just for men but for other women, too?

    The emphasis for ladylike style right now is on two key skirt shapes: the sleek pencil (see the black dresses by Stella McCartney and Roland Mouret) or the full midi (Bottega Veneta and Oscar de la Renta both do great versions). Beware, though,

    if you are going to opt for a pencil skirt, the waist still has to be severely nipped in.

    Yes, it is all about the waist (it is the shape of you rather than bare skin that is the focus for this particular look). So, if you are not blessed with Scarlett Johansson’s proportions, go and get yourself some Spanx immediately. (I have said this before, but the feeling of being nipped in and corseted feels perversely empowering.)

    Of course, you can reveal a little bare skin, but only a little. Perhaps via off-the-shoulder straps or a hint of cleavage (in which a discreet pendant might nestle). The idea is to allure, not overwhelm. If you are really edgy, a sliver of midriff atop a nipped-in waist is equally appropriate. If you are fairly trim on top you might

    “It is the SHAPE of you, RATHER than bare skin, that is the focus for this particular LOOK”

    consider a full black midi by Bottega or Erdem with Stella McCartney’s daisy-print bustier, or a black pencil skirt (try Theyskens’ Theory) with a black and white halter top by Peter Pilotto.

    Diane Kruger, Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes are three women who all nail this look if you need any inspiration. Then there is Miranda Kerr, for whom Oscar de la Renta’s dreamy black striped faille-and-lace frock with nude lining was surely made for. Sigh

    If I could only dress in just the one designer, it would have to be Oscar de la Renta. If Oscar is that little bit too ‘waisted’ for you, at least look up his embellished minaudières; perfect in which to pop your kiss-proof lipstick (“It stays on you”, as the Hazel Bishop advertisement from the ’50s went, “not on him!”).

    Continuing on this trajectory, I am thinking that going blond, as in that pinky shade Kim Novak sported in Vertigo, could actually work if one dared. But I may be getting carried away. The ’50s, as an era, tends to have that effect.

    How to do

    ladylike style

    pair luxe knits with a pencil or full midi skirt for instant polish


    Hug every curve in a timeless, second-skin LBD.


    A full, ’50s-style midi skirt is subtly sexy.


    Complete the look with chic silk-satin pumps.

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