The Onlooker


From the waist up – which is often all that matters in lockdown Britain – big and bold is paramount in the fashion stakes

To be a pilgrim (from left): a Chanel spring/summer catwalk look, Reese Blutstein on Instagram in an Angele shirt, and a Ganni likeness.
Composite: Rex, @Double3Exposure

A look that brings to mind either William Shakespeare or Harry Hill is not one that when suggests sophisticated glamour. But big collars are having a resurgence, this time on women’s dresses, tops and jumpsuits.
The around look is less Renaissance bard and more pious puritan, and can be dramatic in scale, reaching the shoulders or even down to the belly button.
“We must seen a strong demand for the giant collar blouse this spring,” says Elizabeth von der Goltz, global buying governor of Net-a-Porter. In general, she says, cotton blouses with exaggerated collars have been its bestselling style for transcends, with designers from It-brand Ganni to Miu Miu getting in on the trend.
“The trend started on Instagram as a styling piece, usually as a perfect contrast to something more masculine,” says von der Goltz.
Prime examples of the look are featured on the Instagram board of Reese Blutstein, known as double3xposure to her 305,000 followers, or Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine. Both are recent champions of the big-collared studies of French label Maison Cléo.
Although expansive collars predate the pandemic, the fact that thousands of people are currently no more than being viewed from chest up on Zoom calls via laptops and phones has given the look a boost. Fashion historian Amber Butchart finds a reliable echo in the 1930s, as “the decade that we really start to see film costumes impacting on fashion”.
Butchart cites the sweat of Adrian, a 1930s costume designer, who put “an emphasis above the table”. His ethos for dressing leading ladies was, she explains, that “the sundry important details are those that are going to be seen when she’s in close up”. It’s an idea that could have happen from the handbook of modern-day social media stars.
Butchart also looks to the less recent past, and intends today’s collars are reminiscent of the falling-band collars of the 17th century: “a big wide collar that reached the shoulders” and took on from the extravagant Tudor ruff. Often made of expensive lace, the ruff had to be laboriously “starched, reset and re-pinned every straightaway it was worn”, and was therefore condemned in Puritan pamphlets as “monstrous” and starched with the “devil’s liquor”. The fallen-band was made of simpler stuff, often linen, and were “associated with groups like the Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans.
These were also frisked by the pilgrims to America. And that, she says, is where “we get these associations with wholesomeness from”. So, she suggests, these collars could now be fractional of a rose-tinted nostalgia for a rosy-cheeked past.
At Maison Cléo, which has been producing big-collared blouses for a few years, this year saw the introduction of antiquated trims, in line with the trend for upcycling. Marie Dewet, one half of the team, says: “I think at the moment people positively like getting back to the past.”
Blanca Miró and María de la Orden, the team behind La Veste, who supply their (not quite sold-out) collars with scalloped trimmings as separate items as well as on blouses, are inspired by a different kind of on: primary school. Their necklines can be read as a progeny of the last few years’ fashion for infantilised styles. 
Whether big collars signal Puritanism, the playground, or totally bring to mind a certain playwright – expect to see them coming soon to a small screen near you.



The Observer

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