For those emerging from lockdown and worried about how to reconcile the comfort dressing of the past 12 months with outfits suited to the outside world, Margaret Howell has the answer. In fact, Howell has always had the answer. The designer, who built her reputation on low-key, flatteringly boxy and comfortable styles, should be a go-to label for anyone with back-to-the-office anxiety.

This mostly coed collection took its cues from vintage Japanese and Italian military styles, and was a mix of sharp tailoring and soft edges: A knee-length coat with patch pockets and rolled sleeves was loosely belted at the waist, while a sturdy trench came with an A-line shape and welt pockets for understated flair.

Oversize and slouchy Fair Isle knits were made from natural, undyed sheep wool, and were soft enough to be tucked into waistbands. For extra coziness, Howell created felted wool scarves which she rolled and knotted jauntily around the collars of knits, military jackets and T-shirts.

By contrast, there was a strictness to the dresses and skirts with one black flannel midi dress inspired by a school pinafore, and sharp skirts with built-in belt loops or inverted pleats.

Rich (mostly) British fabrics, including Harris Tweed, corduroy, wool, worsted and flannel underpinned every silhouette, while the oversize shirts were made from yarn-dyed cotton. Colors were dark, rich and earthy.

Howell spared a further thought for all the workers out there, whether they’re returning to the office, studio, garden, kitchen or lab, and whipped up what might possibly be the most useful fashion accessory ever — a cotton “worker pouch.”

It tied like an apron around the waist, and had room for all the instruments of daily life — pencils, pens, paper, money, phone. It’s a chic, portable office for those who might be struggling with the idea of returning to the real deal. 

load comments