Who can forget the seduction scene in Tony Richardson’s 1963 film Tom Jones, when Tom (Albert Finney) enjoys an outrageously sexual feast with Diane Cilento, lasciviously devouring every known aphrodisiac before rushing headlong into the bedroom? For fashion folk, there was added frisson in Finney’s voluminous white shirt: the lustiness and degage elegance of its frills and pleats catching the eye. Upper-class men, not normally considered to be in the vanguard of either fashion or sexiness, took to it like ducks to water. The fashion photographer Lord Lichfield led the way, followed by a few aristocrats who thought that a floppy shirt with bishop sleeves would lend them much – needed credibility. Two decades later came the new romantics, and, to my memory, Adam Ant was one of the few straight males ever to pull off the look convincingly (and he was the son of a north London schoolteacher).
Despite sartorial mishaps, the big shirt prevailed, not just as a male fashion statement, but, more enduringly, as part of every woman’s wardrobe. Romantic blouses with high-sculpted collars, extravagant bows and billowing sleeves have become part of the lexicon of dramatic elegance used by many top designers most successfully and consistently by Gianfranco Ferre, the Italian master who has made them one of his trademark looks.
For winter 2005, they came back again. Finely pleated, heavily ruffled, inset with lace, they were part of the trend towards covered-up elegance. Donna Karan did some of the most beautiful, and expensive, but cheaper versions soon arrived on the high street, ready for an 18
th-century bedroom romp at Christmas.
(First published September 2005)

Frilly Shirts
First Image
Prince: King of Frills