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How to dress like a grown up with Shane Watson: Trust me, this is the year cord gets cool

All we are saying is give cord a chance. Apologies to those of you who run for the hills at the mention of corduroy, but I’m not giving up yet, for three very good reasons.

One: cord is one of those fabrics that has altered beyond recognition since the corduroy of your nightmares; it’s now a soft, light, ribbed material, with a bit of stretch in the mix, nothing like the chunky sort that makes you look like Babar.

Two: you’re assuming it’s unflattering (see Babar), but it’s no more so than denim and I would argue that dark cord trousers can be more flattering, maybe because if you wear cords a little loose in the leg (the only way to wear them) they look relaxed and easy, whereas denim can look bulky.

Stylish: Sophie Raworth pictured in a cord dress, leaving the BBC studios after presenting her first Sunday Morning show which has replaced The Andrew Marr Show

Likewise, I love a corduroy jumpsuit (my old Me+Em one is as light and soft as barely ribbed Lyocell), but you’d never catch me in a jean jumpsuit.

And reason three: those of us who love cord know that it adds glamour in the same way velvet does, but, because it’s harder wearing and doesn’t make such a statement, it’s much more useful.

Those are the big reasons why you should give cord a chance, if you haven’t already, and now, for the still apprehensive among you, here’s how to make sure it always works . . .

First of all, keep it tailored and the smart side of smart casual. There’s a tonne of casual corduroy in the shops — shackets are everywhere — but the whole point of cord is its capacity to make your regular clothes look more natty. Likewise, if you avoid floppy, loose-fit throw-ons, you won’t accidentally veer into country casual territory.

Bella Hadid seen leaving the La Detresse launch party during New York Fashion Week in February 2020, wearing a teal co-ord corduroy trouser and shirt set

Bella Hadid seen leaving the La Detresse launch party during New York Fashion Week in February 2020, wearing a teal co-ord corduroy trouser and shirt set

Talking of fit, relaxed is one thing (good); baggy is another (not good). Your cord trousers should be high-waisted, snug on the hips and either wide-leg (never skinny), bootcut or flared.

Saint Laurent’s brown corduroy suit for spring comes with bootcut trousers, which tells you which way the fashion girls are leaning.

For something similar, try Wyse’s brown cord flares (£180, wyselondon.co.uk), which are slim enough to count as bootcuts, or AllSaints’ chic wide-leg style in Bordeaux (£97, allsaints.com). Marks & Spencer also does good relaxed wide-leg cords (£25, marksandspencer.com) — perfect for wearing to the office.

Olivia Wilde sporting the new trend once again, in a tanned mustard colour, in Los Angeles

Olivia Wilde sporting the new trend once again, in a tanned mustard colour, in Los Angeles

Wyse also has single and double-breasted cord jackets (£220 and £210, wyselondon.co.uk) to match their trousers, in several colours including cranberry and navy. The great thing about a cord suit is you can fancy it up with a bow-neck blouse, play it straight for work with a roll neck or a plain shirt, or wear the pieces separately.

Aspiga also has jackets and matching straight trousers (£205 and £125, aspiga.com) though its chocolate wide-leg trousers (£125, aspiga.com) have just the right amount of slouch and look like they’d quickly become your favourite pair of (not) jeans.

If in doubt, always get the suit; you can wear it with a T-shirt and white trainers in four months’ time.

Olivia Wilde donning a red two-piece cord set, at the Booksmart film premiere in Los Angeles

Olivia Wilde donning a red two-piece cord set, at the Booksmart film premiere in Los Angeles

The other thing about cord is it works well in a colour. I would hesitate to wear a pair of coloured wool trousers, but coloured cords are nearly always cool (although I’d leave reds, pinks and all the pale shades to the youth).

Even so, I’d go for a blazer over trousers every time. I can think of nothing in my wardrobe that has given me as much good service as my & Other Stories blue double-breasted blazer.

I can’t count the number of times it has punched up a pair of jeans or saved a safe pair of black velvet trousers from looking dull. This season & Other Stories has a single-breasted jacket in ginger (£120) which is shaping up to be the cord colour of spring.

The other popular cord item of the moment is a plain dress — three-quarter sleeved with a tiered hem and a high-ish neck. The BBC’s Sophie Raworth wore one to present her first Sunday Morning show (£220, aspiga.com), but they’re not for everyone and you need to wear them with trainers or stompy boots to dial down the prairie girlishness.

I haven’t mentioned cord jumpsuits (of which there are many) because I haven’t yet had a chance to try them on, but Usisi Sister’s Edie jumpsuit in olive green (£295, usisi-sister.com) looks like it might ruin my resolution to steer clear of jumpsuits in 2022. That’s the power of cord.


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