Spotting the recurring themes in high-street pieces that achieve the elusive "expensive-looking" status is a favourite pastime of mine (niche, but useful for my job). What strange alchemy has to occur to ensure that something affordable appears high-end? I wondered. What shapes, colours and fits have to combine to create an item that rivals big-name designers?
Well, as you can imagine, the answer isn't straight forward. It's almost impossible to apply a universal rule, however, each season, there tend to be particular motifs—be it a silhouette or fabric—that particularly stand out to me. This season, it has to be pleated fabric.
Sometimes referred to as "plissé" (French for "pleated"), this isn't necessarily a trend that would stand out in a lineup of fashion trends as opposed to say, big collars or platform shoes. Rather, it's a far more quiet, but by no means any less transformative, style. Take a long-sleeve cotton top (so far so basic) but create it in a finely pleated fabric, and voilà—it suddenly looks 10 times more premium.
With nods to Issey Miyake's iconic Pleats Please line, plissé possesses a timeless elegance that can be applied to anything from shirts and skirts to dresses and trousers. I particularly love sustainable brand Esthe's green plissé blouse, which will look so chic when styled with a pair of beige-coloured trousers. This is also a style that you can easily buy secondhand, and I've included a few pieces below to get you started. Keep an eye out for '80s blouses and '90s midi dresses, in particular. Scroll down to see and shop my full edit of pleated summer buys.