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Fashion victims prepare to go back to the future; Black is no longer the new black, waif-like models are being replaced by girls with J Lo curves and the city's fashionistas are shopping with a vengeance. Emma Brady joins the crowds for Clotheshow Live.

I t's official. Aliens have landed -looking fabulous, obviously -to encourage mere mortals to splash out on futuristic fashions.

Dozens of Amazonian models strutted out to give nearly 5,000 people a 'close encounter' with Planet Fashion at Clotheshow Live at the National Exhibition Centre.

If the designers have their way next season, we could end up looking like extras from Bar-barella or The Matrix, with thigh boots, chain mail and tight vests being the wardrobe of choice.

The Sixties and Eighties also seem set to continue influencing High Street trends, with animal prints and formal glamour remaining popular too.

But one of the biggest stories owes a lot to Vivienne Westwood's pioneering work with Malcolm McLaren as their pirate look is set for a revival two decades after it emerged during the punk rock/New Romantics era.

Certainly the message being sent out to the masses at the event is that fashion rocks -with decadence, detail and attitude all 'must have' accessories this season.

Hilary Alexander, fashion editor of the Daily Telegraph, predicts a return of girly dresses, flirty skirts and romantic tailoring next season.

She said: 'I've been particularly impressed by the vision displayed in the college catwalk shows so far this year.

'Acid bright wedding dresses, jeans and mini-skirt combinations and a lot of inventiveness -but this will take time to filter on to the High Street.

'In the meantime I think the pirate look will be very big next season, simply because it's such an easy look to put together.

'By summer it'll be cool to be a girl, it'll be cool to have curves, and there'll be lots of sheer fabrics with bows and ribbons on everything.'

But the fashion expert admitted she did frown upon the shoppers who bought into this year's Eighties revival.

'I really hope we've seen the last of the Eighties revival because I think that was a real mistake, so I hope that will peter out by next summer,' added Hilary.

'In terms of the new black, well, being pretty is the new black, whether you're a boy or a girl.'

The other essential is a healthy bank balance and sturdy feet, as the biggest queues of the day quickly built up at cashpoints in the complex.

Some of the most popular stands were French Connection, Cosmopolitan, Playboy and Phunky Fish accessories.

Elsewhere relaxing facials, manicures or a glass of Champagne provided a welcome break from some hefty retail therapy.

Nearly 200,000 people are expected to shop 'til they drop at the NEC during the six-day extravaganza which opened last Friday.

But celebrity hosts Tara Palmer-Tompkinson and Big Brother winner Brian Dowling both admitted they would not have time to pick up a few designer bargains.

Tara, who wore a bright orange mini skirt and dripped in faux diamonds, said: 'From what I've seen it's all very futuristic and funky, but I do really love all the Sixties stuff, I just wish free love would become fashionable again too!

'I've never been here -to Clotheshow or Birmingham -before and I'm loving it, so hopefully I'll be asked to do this again next year.

'I don't think I'll get any chance to do any shopping while I'm here but I'll be making notes so I can pick up outfits later.'

Brian added: 'There's a real Matrix feel to all this and I quite like the dominatrix inspired stuff in the finale, I know that sounds quite racy but it does look fab.

'The main reason people come here is to have a good time with their mates, do a bit of shopping and pick up a few tips. I can't believe I've not been here before.'

By the end of a hard day of shopping, socialising and being pampered, the happy hordes head for home.

Lisa Parkes, a housewife of Sutton Coldfield, said: 'I think of this as my Christmas treat, but I'm going to come back tomorrow with some other friends. It's just a great day out -you just can't beat a good day of shopping.'

lClotheshow Live is at the NEC until Wednesday.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 8, 2003
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