In which I officially launch Crotchwatch

Another fashion piece, written last year:

Rules are made to be broken, that’s how the old adage goes. And so it normally is in fashion, where rules like ‘blue and green should never be seen’ and ‘steer clear of horizontal stripes’ have been broken with such regularity that they now exist only in quaint 1930s books and the occasional WI meeting.

We start kicking against clothing regulations early on in life with school uniform, rolling our waistbands over and making our ties short and stubby as a low-maintenance way of sticking it to the Man.

Then later it all becomes a bit more relevant, when we stop earning house points and start earning style points. Fashion rules are thrown at us from all directions, each with the promise it will deliver that magical word, “flattering” (and those even more magical ones, “thin”, “young” and “almost a bit like Scarlett Johansson”).

I say they’re thrown from all directions, but of course it’s largely whatever direction Trinny and Susannah happen to have been standing in – though they’ve fallen off the radar in recent years, to this day I still hear them shrieking “Deep Vs! Three-quarter sleeves! Put DOWN the polo neck!” every time I go shopping.

But this is all a very round-about way of bringing up a delicate topic. Which is, not to beat around the, um, bush or anything: crotches. Crotches seem suddenly to have risen to new prominence in our society, and I think they need attention. No, hang on, the ISSUE needs attention. The crotches need as little attention as possible.

The problem began about four years back, when leggings made their triumphant return to our wardrobes. It was an unlikely lycra renaissance for a generation who remember our mums in them not so long ago, but leggings managed to be one of the most dominant trends of the noughties. Their appeal was based, initially, on coverage; thicker than tights, we could wear long tops as ‘dresses’ and pelmets as ‘skirts’ without shame of reproof. They were the get-out-of-slutty-free card. And they were warm to boot.

But their service to us was part of a fashion deal – to avoid making the same mistakes our mothers did, leggings had to be worn with more caution this time round. The unspoken rule, or at least so I understood it, was this: we had to keep the crotch covered at all times. Whether with tunics, dresses, shorts or skirts, leggings had to stay layered beneath things. It just made good sense. I thought we were all agreed.

Apparently not. For all of a sudden, across the nation, hemlines are rising and crotches are emerging. People are wearing leggings with t-shirts. With blouses. With cropped tops even. Whether it’s deliberate fashion anarchy or just that everybody has forgotten the rule, I’m not sure. Or perhaps it’s because, in these times of recessionista thrift, we can now pass off three millimetres of clingy spandex as “trousers”, like they used to make birthday cakes out of hat boxes in the war. Perhaps.

Either way, I feel something needs to be said. It’s one of those rare looks that is as unappealing on short and tall, curvy and skinny alike. Not that I’m electing myself as the anti-crotch front, running around the streets handing out aprons to protect women’s dignity – if the crotch-bearing is a conscious act, I have no right to interfere.

But somehow I don’t think it IS conscious. I think something has wandered off course somewhere in the grand scheme of trend development, and we need to get it back on course. So I’m going to say it once more, in a very loud, clear voice, and then sit back and hope it takes some effect. Ahem . PUT. THE CROTCHES. AWAY.

(I’d like to apologise for the number of times I’ve had to use the word ‘crotch’ in this article. But it could have been worse. At least I never said ‘cameltoe’)