Fashion: Utility style takes a no-nonsense approach

Bomber jacket, �55; jeans from a selection, at Topshop.
Bomber jacket, �55; jeans from a selection, at Topshop.
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For the modern woman who means business, the utility trend cannot be bested. Stephanie Smith on how to wear it and what to look for.

In a season becoming alarmingly characterised by frills, ruffles and flounces, it is a relief to welcome the clean lines and practical style detailing (often in khaki and desert sand tones) that we have come to know as utility style.

Utility shirt, �32; denim skirt, �32; colourblock bag, �36; boots, �70. All at Next.

Utility shirt, �32; denim skirt, �32; colourblock bag, �36; boots, �70. All at Next.

Utility dressing fuses fashion with function to create pared-back, contemporary clothing and accessories, often, though not exclusively, inspired by military uniforms and combat gear.

Each season we get new interpretations, and this year’s new utility look has taken on a sophisticated and feminine appeal without losing any of its essential minimalism.

On the catwalk, Versace summed up the feel for this spring and summer with a super-sleek and relevantly elegant single-breasted jacket-style mini-dress, cinched in at the waist with a brown and black webbing belt, worn with sturdy black peep-toe platform heels.

Burberry, meanwhile, of course has its trench coats and this season smart military-style pea coats with gold braiding and crested buttons. In its Burberry Brit range there are simpler military-style pieces including a wonderfully wearable and flattering D-ring belted shirt dress in army green (it’s £450 at Net a Porter).

Khaki zip slouch bag, �35, at Wallis.

Khaki zip slouch bag, �35, at Wallis.

Take a look also at Burberry’s beautiful huge buckle belt bags for this spring and summer, inspired by an officer’s shoulder bag, with regimental detailing referencing the trench coat. There’s a small oblong version and also a square shape, in smooth English suede and house check cotton, woven at the Burberry mill in Yorkshire.

If you buy one key utility piece, this spring and summer, you would do well to opt for a simple tunic or shirt dress, with or without pockets, sleeves and belt but preferably to mid-thigh in length, and in a deep khaki green, or a nude sand beige.

Don’t feel obliged to wear it Beyonce-style with gleaming bare legs and teetering heels (unless you want to). Instead you could experiment by teaming it with skinny jeans or with a longer skirt under (try a tapered A line in a slightly different utility tone) or with cropped wide-leg trousers, bringing an oriental edge.

On the High Street, head for House of Fraser’s Gray and Willow collection (the drop drawstring waist dress featured here is a perfect urban utility piece), while Marks & Spencer has some excellent key designs, including an olive green leather D-ring wrap skirt. Later this month, look out for two military trench-style coats and a gold-button nautical-style jacket (with wide-leg trousers) when M&S releases its Archive by Alexa collection of 31 pieces picked out by model and presenter Alexa Chung from the company’s archive (which is held at the University of Leeds).

Utility skirt, �30; RI Studio blouse, was �25. Both at River Island.

Utility skirt, �30; RI Studio blouse, was �25. Both at River Island.

Consider too the green bomber jacket featured here by Topshop, a versatile season must-have, while River Island has some outstanding pieces to mix and match in clean lines and rich earth tones.

As sponsor of Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, Tesco’s F&F has donation stations for unwanted clothing for charity shops at its Extra stores at Leeds Seacroft, York Tadcaster Road, Barnsley, Batley and Bradford.

Meanwhile, M&S stores across Leeds and Bradford are looking for people to join the Spark Something Good campaign, which will see M&S employees takie part in a week of volunteering from April 18 to help community projects, including Simon Marks Court, in Leeds. On Monday, there will be a sewing workshop at the Trinity Leeds store with Making for Charity, creating personalised care bags for patients having cancer treatment to carry medical equipment in. Register to volunteer and find out more on www.neighbourly.com/mandsvolunteer,

TKhaki tunic, �69, Gray & Willow; black double strap crossbody bag �60, Label Lab. All at House of Fraser.

TKhaki tunic, �69, Gray & Willow; black double strap crossbody bag �60, Label Lab. All at House of Fraser.

Autograph utility duffle bag, �109, Marks & Spencer.

Autograph utility duffle bag, �109, Marks & Spencer.

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