Lisa Armstrong's fashion review of 2011

From eyebrows to lowbrow, Lisa Armstrong reviews the year in fashion.

BY Lisa Armstrong | 21 December 2011
Clockwise, from top left: Kate Middleton in her Alexander McQueen wedding dress; male model Andrej Pejic; Versace for H&M; and Kate Bosworth sports dip-dyed hair Photo: AP/Rex

Did somebody say recession?
Not luxury brands such as Hermès, Mulberry and Burberry which have had stellar years. Nor Prada and Michael Kors, whose IPOs this year generated them billions. Not Jimmy Choo who sold out again - for £550 million. Not the makers of false eyelashes (sales up by 396 per cent on 2010, thank you Made in Essex and Little Mix). Not Versace for H&M, either, which sold out almost everywhere in three hours. Tickets of the Alexander McQueen Exhibition in New York broke all records: by popular demand, it was extended. FitFlop passed the ten million market, and are on target to ubiquity next year, courtesy of Christopher Kane whose spring/summer 2012 show features flat, comfy crystal-studded sandals. Stella McCartney's spotty voile stretch dress acquired a waiting list as long as Kate ("Look at my breasts in this, and did I mention I'm going commando?") Winslet's Oscar nominations. So successful was this dress it might have killed off knicker sales for ever, were it not for a certain maid of honour who sent sales of bum-booster pants and stockings soaring by 842 per cent, just in Debenhams. In breaking news, Kate Middleton's appearance on Monday night in ass-sculpting Alexander McQueen will quintuply that, ending the economic slump and leading this nation to glory once more.

Fashion Awards 2011
Reasons to be cheerful in 2012
Flappers galore (thank you Downton , The Artist, The Great Gatsby …and a zillion catwalk spring/summer 2012 shows), H&M and Marni's collaboration; J Brand's ready-to-wear debut; even more colourful clothes, and yet more pleats and prints, tummy-concealing peplums; pretty pastels; more luvvie quotes and clothes from Andrea Riseborough, star of W.E ., the style evolution of Harper S Beckham…

Harper Seven Beckham Photo: Rex
Je ne regrette rien, unless you count the cost
So, a man walks into a bar….you couldn't make up what happened next. After the March film release of his racist tirade in La Perle, a frankly so-so-looking watering hole in Le Marais in Paris, John Galliano's fall was swift and steep. At least it kept the front pages busy: his successor at Dior still hasn't been announced. Balmain, the briefly hotter-than-Hades fashion house, lost its designer, Christophe Decarnin, to a nervous breakdown not long after; his successor is Olivier Rousteing. The house is currently hovering at the tepid mark. Hannah MacGibbon lost her job at Chloé to a change in direction. Her successor is another Brit, Clare Waight Keller. Balenciaga almost lost three front rows of VIPs when the benches at its show in September buckled. It couldn't have been their combined (non-existent) weight. Was it extreme heat or fumbled seating plans? Miraculously, its head of PR did keep his job.

Balenciaga's Amazing Collapsing Bench...can anyone make out what Anna's face is like?
Fashion gets political
Fashion was on splendidly loopy form every time it engaged in topical debate this year with wondrously entertaining results. Kanye West's sudden solidarity with the anti-capitalists at Occupy Wall Street was inspired, given the $2,000 Balmain jacket he wore. As an attempt to distract attention from his less than rapturously greeted catwalk debut in Paris in October, it was the equivalent of a heap of junk bonds. Vivienne Westwood at Occupy London and Lily Cole on the student march were more convincing. Clearest demonstration of why fashion should stick with dogs rather than dogma was considerately supplied by American Vogue with its glowing profile of President Assad of Syria and his wife Asma, just as the Arab Spring kicked off. Then there were the moments when fashion found itself in the political maelstrom despite itself. The London Riots put trainers firmly back on the map of desirables and Slutwalk ignited a genuinely worthwhile debate about the consequences of dress.

Did I really wear that?
Yup. They did. But they had a reason. Nigella's burkini was a poignant comment on the forensic scrutiny and withering scorn devoted to women's bodies on (a point weirdly not documented on Cheryl Cole's five cans of spray and 89 packets of steroids a day hair was a blistering attack on hyper inflation. Lady Gaga's hoola-hoop-dress was a scathing indictment of the fact that she hadn't been mentioned in the press at that point for an entire 36 hours and Princess Beatrice's loo-seat hat was a cry for help. But dear reader, you and I were not entirely infallible this year, sartorially speaking. Do the words plastic and tiara ring any bells? Sales at Bridal Tiara shot up by 465 per cent during Royal Wedding Week. Somebody was wearing them. But we had a reason too: alcohol.
Worst dressed 2011: the 25 worst outfits of the year

Joy, as we pawn off what we won't miss: nude shoes, peep-toe platforms, black, massive X Factor-style shoulders, fluoro, fruit prints - we've moved on to Hawaiian. Tears as we contemplate those whose absence we sorely feel: Amy Winehouse, master embroiderer François Lesage, Demi Moore's dainty curves, Elizabeth Taylor, Loulou de la Falaise (Damn! This one passed me by!), Shane Warne's old teeth and carbs (please can we have some in 2012?)

Shane Warne Photo: Rex

Here come the brides
Never before in the annals of anything have so many celebrities sashayed up to the altar in the same year. What giveth in the nation's spiritual journey? Hard to say, because all anyone cared about, obviously, was the big fat gypsy frocks. Wowzer, a bride had to fight for her 15 minutes this year. Kate Moss's Galliano bias-cut slip caused bitter divisions (and that's just on The Telegraph 's fashion desk). Was it ravishing or recycled old rope ? Lily Allen's vintage frock was cute - although by ensuring she was heavily pregnant, she cleverly placed herself beyond objective criticism. Nancy Shevell wore an elegant Wallis Simpson-inspired dress designed by her stepdaughter Stella McCartney, a deed that spoke louder than any headline, since the previous Lady McCartney, one Heather Mills, was not granted the designer's attentions. Zara Phillip (in a dress designed by her grandmother's couturier, Stewart Parvin) and Charlene, Her Serene Highness of Monaco (Armani) were classic to a fault (the fault being there wasn't much for a critic to sink their fangs into). But while every single bride is unique, special and utterly deserving of our undivided attention, let's face it, only one got it. And, like all well brought-up brides, the Duchess of Cambridge didn't let us down.

Shamefully fascinating
A never-ending parade of spookily well-dressed and self-possessed teens, from Hailee Steinfeld, Chloë Moretz, Elle Fanning, Dakota Fanning to Elizabeth, the youngest Olsen; Lund's sweater; transgender model Lea T and boy-girl wonder Andrej Pejic; Adele's wondrous eyeliner; Lady Sybil's nurse's hat; nail art; Peaches Geldof's bonkers weight loss; Shane Warne's facial waxing; Harper Beckham's collection of grey tights…it was an intellectually taxing year.
2011 best dressed list

The fashion world was rocked to its (Pilates-honed) core on an almost weekly basis during 2011. The two most notorious moments by far were, we're proud to say, home-grown. Firstly, Samantha Cameron attended a royal wedding without a hat. Then, Tulisa almost wore a passable dress on The X Factor (to be scrupulously accurate about this, there was a cream ruffle attached to about 100 other cream ruffles that was quite pretty one week). Normal service was rapidly resumed with the most execrable styling yet seen on a show that has shown an awe-inspiring knack for execrable styling. More appalling even than the clothes however, was Tulisa's failure to identify an Aretha Franklin song, and her failure to recognise what a failure this was. The fashion world was even more affronted by this failure vortex than it was by the clothes. That's really shocking.

Sam Cam's no-hat show at the royal wedding Photo: Getty

Body part of the year
From Pippa Middleton's bottom to Rooney Mara's pierced nostrils, to the Duchess of Cornwall's putative scousebrow, 2011 was the year mono-body-part culture hit pay-dirt. While controversy raged over Abbey Clancy's, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's and singer Lana Del Rey's ("We haven't had them done, honest") serpent-stung lips, hair grew so big that, like the Weimar Republic once did, it threatened to upset the delicate geo-political balance of Cheryl Cole's career. Even its (dip-dyed) tips had their moment. Award for the most diva-like behaviour from a body part? A tie between Kelly Rowland's now-you-see-it, now-it's-missing-in-action beauty spot and Tamara Mellon's nipples, which had a starring role in the Jimmy Choo perfume ad (so risqué only French Vogue ran it), before waltzing off with their owner who left Jimmy Choo in November.
Lisa Armstrong's fashion review of 2011 - Telegraph