London catwalks show off demure but powerful woman

Tue Feb 24, 2009 1:37pm EST
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By Kylie MacLellan and Catherine Bosley

LONDON (Reuters) - Designers at London Fashion Week greeted the global economic downturn with collections that veered toward conservative necklines and tailored cuts accented with a few splashes of sparkle.

Vivienne Westwood's unruly schoolgirl-inspired Red Label collection was the notable rebel in a series of shows that have reined in the lavish excesses of the past few years.

"Nobody does what I do," Westwood told Reuters after the show, which featured bold tartans and her trademark cleavage-baring corseted dresses.

But many, including Betty Jackson, Maria Grachvogel and Christopher Kane, kept necklines high and stuck to more timeless, wearable pieces they felt would weather the financial storm, with an emphasis on the demure but powerful woman.

"There's definitely conservative necks but conservative everything...the bodies are very covered up," said Lisa Armstrong, fashion writer for the Times newspaper.

Along with high necklines there was also a strong focus on shoulders, which tended to be wide and square in the 1980s power dressing style that has also appeared on the New York catwalks this season.

Designer Julien Macdonald showed blazers with exaggerated shoulders that curved upwards while retail chain Jaeger incorporated the power shoulder into boxy, cropped jackets, coats and dresses.

"The big shoulder pads from last season are not going away," said Anne-Marie Curtis, fashion director for Elle magazine.   Continued...

<p>Models present creations from the Bora Aksu 2009 Autumn/Winter collection during London Fashion Week February 24, 2009. REUTERS/Stephen Hird</p>