World War II Britain first gave us utility clothing and it’s now a cool, calm and very collected way to dress. Having a recent resurgence, it has returned for 2019 in bold and brave designs.
Fabrics and tailors back then were in short supply, so it was all practicality in boxy-shaped canvas. Clothing stayed safe in natural colourways from neutrals to navys, tans to uniform whites – we still keep this purposeful austerity, a nod to more sombre times.
Manufacturers were encouraged in the ‘40s to forgo flair and create for utility value. Shoes were chunky and sturdy. Garments became a swiss-army-knife of the wardrobe – functional not impressionable. However, this season it’s totally turning heads – with designer pieces from Fendi to Hermes marching down the catwalks.
New rules say playfully contrast – a silky shirt under a khaki jacket, a feminine ‘40s pencil skirt with a miltary shirt. Even bulky boots look swish, polished to the nines and boiler suits, worn just with nonchalant attitude and hands in pockets, just rocks. Combat trousers are thankfully a more flattering looser cut than the solider version. Fabrics are from cotton drill and denim to luxe leather and canvas – it’s sturdy on the streets.
Utility has morphed into a clean-cut, functional edgy style that milks all the practicalities such as big belts with purses and attachments, cargo pants and patch pockets, detachable hoods, rows of chucky zips, and oversized pockets to hold our XL phones. Symmetry has flown out of the window too. The aim is to have fun playing combat while dressing to code.