Sunny Intervals

ANYA BURGON extols the joys of trooper chic: waterproof clothing that’s no longer frumpy or plastic.

anorak anya burgon catwalk coat parka rain

‘Sunny intervals’? Always read the small print. ‘Light rain forecast for 1600.’ The first drop falls as you leave a lecture and realise you have forgotten your umbrella: there’s no option but to jump on your bike, and pedal fast.

The wetter season that greeted us in all its glory during first week proved that wishful thinking would not suffice wardrobe-wise. I resolved to prepare for times like these in advance. Some of us have no option but to cycle to lectures, for like, ten whole minutes. This constitutes a voyage. Reviewing the treasures on one’s clothes hangers for such expeditions on a crisp autumnal day, is one of my favourite fashion pastimes of the year. Those days qualified by small print, however, present problems. Importantly, cycling restricts the use of the umbrella. And unlike the enviable few, I don’t look edgy with smudged mascara. I see girls shake the Atlantic Ocean from their shoulders with a flick of the hair and a giggle. Not me: I’ve wasted a blow dry. Getting caught in the rain is never going to be like a wet T-shirt contest. It’s going to be shit.

This year, designers have had their heads at the drawing board to harmonize designs with the BBC forecast. At last. Outerwear is big, and turning our rainy day luck around. The autumn/winter collections were sprinkled with rather shiny ideas for wet wear, with the recent spring/summer shows following suit. In taking the practical path this season, splashing through puddles won’t be your only joy: a peer down at your modish reflection first will be equally gratifying.

Variations provide something for everyone. Yves Saint Laurent’s ideas for the cold season are sinister things. These promise not only to protect from the rain; they’re combative. In stark contrast, Jil Sander’s spring show boasted anoraks in blocks of green, yellow, red and purple to tie in with the season’s emphasis on colour contrasts. These relied on the light-heartedness of the waterproof, be it parka or cape-esque. The former looked its farmhouse best in the collections of Margaret Howell (and were just that teeny bit closer to being affordable). Both are longstanding trends guaranteed to survive the transition into fashion’s Spring.

The Albino show featured several girlish Macintoshes with belts, paired with improbable high-heeled sandals for a torrential downpour. Unfortunately, such optimisms remain the property of the catwalk. Nevertheless, the waterproof no longer means frumpish dressing and plastic bags, but trooper chic.

Of course there is another explanation for this fashion-turned-practical phenomenon. They don’t really think it’s practical, do they? Or read the BBC forecast. Oh well. When wearing the aviator jacket, no one suggests we aviate. In similar style, forget the connotations: when it comes to the waterproof, it doesn’t even have to be raining. But if it does, you’ll be smug, won’t you?