Few trends have survived fashion’s stringent cycle of ins and outs the way military style has, and this Autumn/Winter, it gets reinterpreted yet again. ELIZABETH MATHEW takes a look at the new avatar of this classic trend that’s making another appearance on the fashion scene.

If there’s one movement that has made its presence felt in fashion at all times, it’s the military trend. Items of clothing that were originally intended to be functional wear - like the trench coat or the bomber jacket - soon evolved into statement pieces for the fashion conscious. The trend later trickled down to the streets, and sporting military insignia or camouflage prints became a style statement. Military uniforms as a fashion concept is believed to have started in Britain in the 1960’s when it was considered cool to shop at thrift stores where second-hand military clothing was sold. Fashion house Burberry were, in fact, the original outfitters of the British Army.

Sartorial significance

Not just men but women’s fashion too was inspired by the dress codes of the armed forced from different countries in a big way. The military trend is a great way to take an inherently masculine style and give it a feminine edge with a bit of detailing and fitted tailoring. Whether it’s the big, statement shoulders of the 80s, the metal embellishments of the 90s or even the aviators that every one’s been sporting lately, the military origin of these trends are hard to ignore. Even the classic pea coat, once worn by European sailors, and later the US Navy, has found its place on the runway this season.

Popular fashion accessories too find their origins in the frontlines of armies. The famous beret was once the staple of troops in France and Spain while epaulettes were once used to denote an officer’s rank, depending on the colour and material used. While the beret as an accessory has run its course, celebrities like Rihanna and Salma Hayek have used epaulettes in metallic shades to accessorize their outfits.

Earn your stripes

While elements from military dressing have inspired certain styles, the military trend has made quite a come back on the ramps for Autumn/Winter this year. Key elements of military style dressing, like clean, straight lines, dark colours and shades of olive and khaki, and metallic embellishments to name a few, have dominated the runways. Whether its Victoria Beckham’s fitted panel dresses in olive green and black or Stella McCartney’s classic army-inspired coats, reinterpretations of the military trend have dominated this season.

The trademark military style might be tougher to recreate off the runway but adding certain army-inspired influences can help you get the look. Shoes are a great way to incorporate this trend into your outfit and Christian Louboutin’s military themed boots are the perfect pick. Choose between knee-high boots in suede and leather with a line of tassels and gold buckles or ankle boots with block heels and embellishments and you can’t go wrong.

Armour of choice

The best way to get the military look is to sport a coat inspired by this trend and team it with varied outfits. So, if you’re going to invest in a coat this season, pick one that’s inspired by the military theme. Look for coats with a straight, structured cut and a statement collar. While colours like olive, beige and khaki are popular, don’t hesitate to go military chic and try lighter colours with the same finish. Embellishments are the best part of this trend – think large brass buttons, shiny gold buckles and studded lapels. Fitted jackets, nipped in the waist, with broad collars are a great way to go military while keeping things girly. A perfect example would be the classic pea coat with big gold buttons in a dark olive green from Burberry Prorsum’s Fall/Winter collection this year.

Interpretations of the military trend seen on the runway this season have differed from designer to designer but there were a few standout collections. Jason Wu took military chic to another level, using softer fabrics and touches of lace while keeping the sharp shoulders and metal embellishments. Marc Jacob’s inspiration was clearly visible in his military-meets-punk line for Marc by Marc Jacob where he accessorised his models with sergeant hats and combat boots. Victoria Beckham’s mastery over the military trend was clearly visible in her colour block dresses and military-inspired trench coats, which are available exclusively in India at Kitsch, setting the flavour of the season. Designer Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, also available in India exclusively at Kitsch, seemed to be thinking of the military as well but she gave it a feminine touch, using belts to cinch the heavy jackets at the waist and adding prominent shoulders to the silhouette.

To go the military way, skip the frills, ruffles and other fussy additions and keep things as simple as possible. The key to getting this trend right is to opt for clothes that are well-structured and tailored to perfection.

elizabeth.mathew@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on October 16, 2012)
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