Lauren Laverne on fashion: see-through plastic

Hans Christian Andersen's tale of the emperor's new clothes is often used to mock the artifice of fashion.

How unfair. After all, there are no actual clothes in it. It's really more an illustration of the importance of speaking truth to power, or a handy example of the phenomenon of pluralistic ignorance. It is synonymous with fashion, though, which lends a pleasing irony to a trend that is – if not entirely invisible – at least transparent: Perspex. From Burberry and Gucci to Chanel, the summer runways were agleam with the stuff, and the look has hit the high street. 

That this unyielding material is being mooted as the pinnacle of chic during the hottest season, when the human body is most liable to create condensation during close contact with non-porous surfaces, might seem absurd. But before we mock, let us remember the words of the Wu Tang Clan's RZA, who correctly observes in The Tao of Wu that: "It's harder to make the glass than break the glass." Thus I entreat you to embrace the invisible and to salute the bravery of those who perspicaciously proposed this preponderance of Plexiglas (perhaps it's the trend you have been waiting for! Good news, if so – none of it will be biodegrading any time soon). 

How to wear it? There are two ways to style this look: to give a witty, space-age edge to minimalist pieces (as at Givenchy), or with a retro feel (Holly Fulton teamed plastic with gingham, raffia and daisies). Think about your existing wardrobe before selecting a couple of pieces to mix in. 

When it comes to footwear, opt for clear heels, not straps, and go for a chunky shape. This avoids the extremely unchic hazards of foot welts, tiny shoe-clouds, or wearing something that might be described as "a bit Spearmint Rhino".

As is so often the case, the easiest way to dip a toe into this trend is with accessories. Clear-framed sunnies look great and Perspex jewellery is an art form of its own these days. Topshop and Oasis have some great pieces, but there are some good independent jewellers, too, such as Alexis Bittar's lucite collection and Northern Irish designer Rachel Mck.

Plastic bags are in this season (not the kind you pay for at the till, sadly). At fashion week, dandy types were seen to pop bright scarves inside oversized, transparent shoppers to add a little something and keep their contents private, but if your handbag is more junk drawer than mag spread (me too) smoked or coloured Perspex is a better option. Gucci's Aristographic clutch is red-carpet chic with a price tag to match and Lulu Guinness – whose opaque Perspex lips clutches were a bestselling signature – is definitely worth checking out.

So there you have it. Plastic has gone posh. If you choose to indulge you can enjoy the remarkable adaptability of these pieces. Invisible stuff goes with everything! Maybe that emperor knew what he was doing after all…

Follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenLaverne

Powered by article was written by Lauren Laverne, for The Observer on Sunday 5th May 2013 07.07 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010