me I was in the shops the other day, just looking. Except I wasn’t just looking, I was actually getting a good feeling. In Cos, I gave a sneaky squeeze to a tasty-looking cozy down coat, as if tasting the ripeness of a peach. Taking a short cut through John Lewis, he was stopped in his tracks by a delightful display of cashmere knits in juicy orange and melon hues that cried out for a stroke. Can anyone walk past a bunch of fluffy sweaters without feeling a rush? I definitely can’t be trusted to keep my hands to myself.
So, as I was browsing through H&M, in my cloud-soft Ugg boots, obviously, it struck me that even the handbags were crushed. My favorite, light as air on its thin chain strap, was so padded and padded you could use it as a pillow, so I gave it a cuddle. I used to act like a kid in a candy store whenever I walked into a fashion store; these days, I’m more like a fruit junkie at a greengrocer, squeezing everything in sight for what’s not only in season, but deliciously ripe.
Fashion has gone soft. Sharp tailoring is out and soft edges are in. To see this change in its most dramatic form, just take a look at the coats around you the next time you walk down the street. What I still think of as a proper coat: wool, a defined silhouette, button closure, has become a minority option, obscured by endless shots of quilted outerwear.
From chunky North Face quilted coats for teenagers to practical and clean quilted vests for school mums and stylish lightweight belted coats with diamond or onion quilting that look stylish over a trouser suit for the office. it’s a soft coat for all these days.
And squishiness now has designs in the rest of your wardrobe. The cult Bottega Veneta Cassette bag that won Instagram a couple of years ago has a lot to answer for. You know the one: a grid of plump, buttery-smooth squares, oversized from the brand’s classic leather fabric, that looked as delicious as a plate of ravioli. The soft bag — Vogue called it the “comfort bag” — is everywhere now, from handbags you can squeeze under your arm to squishy clutches you can squeeze like a stress ball.
Shoes have also lost their edge. This season’s party shoes have cushioned soles instead of pointed heels, soft marshmallow tubes instead of cheese wire ankle straps.
It used to be a lie that had to be suffered for the sake of fashion. It was taken for granted, at least by women, that there was a balance between elegance and comfort. That feels old fashioned now. The sweater-wearing days of confinement, when clothing became a blanket of comfort rather than armor, left a legacy of near-zero tolerance for clothing that didn’t feel right. To which the only sane response is: hooray. The world seems to be getting more tolerant with each passing day, which makes the new fashion priority of comfort immensely joyful.
But being this fashionable, of course, it can’t be all sensible and practical. Soft fashion isn’t just about how it feels, it’s about comfort as well as aesthetics. Ironically, part of the appeal of soft, padded fabrics is that they read as cozy and padded even if you’re shopping online and can’t feel the fabric. Comfort soothes the eye as well as the body.
This season, Loewe shoes are adorned with partially deflated rubber balloons. At Moschino’s most recent catwalk in Milan, cocktail dresses came with inflatables for the pool: a life ring inflated at the hem of a dress, a beach ball as a purse. Silly, yes, but it makes you smile. What feel-good fashion is all about.
Model: Shazeeda at Body London. Hair and Makeup: Sophie Higginson using Bumble & Bumble and Medik8. Coat: 66north.com. Bag: from a selection, demellierlondon.com. Jumper: samsoe.com