Fashion: The Compliments of the Season ; Want to Know What to Buy for Your Winter Wardrobe? Susannah Frankel Spots the Trends and Picks the Winners from This Season's Catwalk Shows. Photographs by Chris Moore

Article excerpt

IF THE spring/summer season was characterised by more uniformity than is strictly necessary - there are only a certain number of hippies/gypsies/peasants, flounces and frills that a girl can take - autumn/winter sees a return to a more individual way of dressing. Even where the big status labels are concerned, harking back to tried and tested signatures appears to be the order of the day rather than anything as whimsical as a fashion trend. The prevailing mood is more quietly beautiful than it has been. The new millennium was heralded by a deluge of flash trash - the kind of paparazzi- courting, flesh-revealing clothes that few in the real world would ever be likely to wear - but from hereon in, subtlety is key. White has been superseded by black as the colour of the autumn/winter season, knitwear is (weirdly) so hip it hurts. Revivals include everything from the Twenties (Chanel, Blumarine, Lanvin), to the Forties (Martine Sitbon, Prada, Paul Smith) with a whole heap of Seventies and, of course, late Eighties and early Nineties thrown in. Confused? Well, don't be. Perhaps the greatest thing about fashion in our modern age is that the concept of prescriptive dressing is about as dated as foot-binding. Instead, dip into what the world's greatest designers have to offer, taking from them what you will. Above all, remember that no one cares whether your trouser silhouette is just so last season, or whether your bag matches your shoes. Dress for yourself and rest safe in the knowledge that style is the footprints we leave behind.

UTILITY

Harking back to Katharine Hamnett and her contemporaries in the late Eighties/ early Nineties, this sees a welcome return to chic, discreetly stylish clothing with its roots firmly in functional dressing rather than meaningless embellishment. In other words: lose those embroidered butterflies, ladies, and lose them now. There's no place for chintz in this particular world. Instead, embrace influences from sportswear, though never overt, and military clothing, ditto. Wear a boilersuit if you've got the front. But most importantly, think cool, urban and understated and do so with pride.

ORGANIC KNITS

Big knits in neutral colours and innovative textures are one of autumn/winter's most clear-cut stories. Nicolas Ghesquiere at Balenciaga created wool dreadlocks, sprouting from the fronts of jackets or as tendril collars. Dolce & Gabbana travelled the Clint Eastwood route with a huge luxurious poncho with giant fringing. Stella McCartney's outsized cable-knit sweaters in gorgeous fondant hues are eminently desirable, as are Helmut Lang's warm knitted dresses. …