This season, fashion is presenting an alarmingly united, frilly and flouncy front. Flower-strewn dresses, waterfall ruffles, beading, bows and acres of chiffon all come under the banner of the new femininity, which might be expected of Marni, say, or Chloe, but when Viktor & Rolf and Comme des Garcons start piling on the chintz, something rather more pernicious is afoot.
So, is this really a modern way to dress? Certainly, it is one of the more radical about-turns in recent fashion history. Just a year ago, bowing down to the power-driven sexuality of the Eighties was the only way to be seen to be dressing. Even six months ago, Gothic Victoriana, with its dark sexual undercurrent, and that Nineties stalwart, androgyny, were both the order of the day. Now, though, we're expected to trip about town resembling nothing more than a flock of urban nymphs and shepherdesses. Sex, in particular, only enters the picture in a proud-to-be-passive kind of a way. For summer role models, then, think Tess of the D'Urbervilles, rushing through meadows shrouded in pretty, pastel-coloured froth. And we all know what happened to her.
Safe in the knowledge that fashion is one of the world's more dangerous addictions - an illness, even! - let's take this one step at a time. Firstly: flower-strewn dresses. Simply ask yourself, when was the last time you saw a grown woman looking even remotely cool in one of these? Cameron Diaz, perhaps? But then, face it, you don't look like her.
Next: waterfall ruffles. These are, admittedly, lovely to behold at the plunging neckline of the pre-pubescent. Anyone else is likely to resemble the archetypal pub landlady. A scattering of beads is acceptable, admittedly, although there are those who might argue that given the overall maximal effect of the season, it's hardly necessary. Bows are more problematic, particularly when those in question are more dressed-up dolly than Belle de Jour. …