How to dress: statement skirts

Pringle 1815 Fringe Skirt

The whole point of fashion is to look up to date rather than old-fashioned.

Fashionable is just another word for modern, really. Fashion deliberately makes modernity tricky to decipher by including a few random elements – leather fringing, or 1930s Shanghai, or ankle-strap shoes – that are there to make the whole process more exclusive. A bit like modern passwords making you include a numeral and a capital letter. It keeps out the hoi polloi.

One of the key fashion passwords, if you will, of the past few years has been to mix up the formality levels of the top and bottom of your outfit. So instead of wearing a tailored jacket with matching trousers, you wear a blazer with jeans, which signals smart without looking square. I mean, duh. But in 2013 there's a new twist on this smart-with-casual equation: it has been turned upside down. Whereas previously the formula centred around a fancy top half and a dressed-down bottom half ( for a festival look, that might be a pretty Isabel Marant-esque top with cut-off shorts), the newest take on this is a dressed-down top half with a sharper bottom half.

The trend started earlier this year, with the emergence of the sweatshirt-plus-pencil-skirt as A Look. This is the 2013 version of the silk blouse with jeans: a classic smart-casual combination, with the ingredients upended. As the year has gone on, other trends have fallen by the wayside after their six-week stint in high street windows, but this one has gathered strength. A statement skirt with a casual top is a simple, modern look. For summer, it can be a Dior-esque full skirt with a good-quality cotton T-shirt; for autumn, it might well be a simple polo-neck sweater with, say, a kilt. (Yes, a kilt. More on this another day.)

To keep up, we need to rethink the quick-hit shopping trip. Most of us, when looking for a fast fashion update, instinctively look for a dress, or a top we can wear with jeans or a jacket. But this is a route to looking old-fashioned, not fashionable. Instead, zero in on a statement skirt. The world keeps turning, and right now it's upside down.

• Jess wears prom skirt, £48, T-shirt, £16, Shoes, £65,

Hair and makeup: Tonee Roberio using Mac Cosmetics.

Powered by article was written by Jess Cartner-Morley, for The Guardian on Friday 2nd August 2013 16.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010