Take one Peter Pan collar, double it, add to an otherwise low-key outfit. That is a failsafe formula for fashion this spring. The outsized version of the girlish white collar has been coming up on fashion’s inside lane for a while now. In Paris, chic girls carrying baskets for handbags wear blouses like this to brunch in the Marais with vintage high-waisted jeans. I’ve never been to Copenhagen, but from what I see on Instagram, it seems to be wall-to-wall influencers wearing them with black leather trousers and high-heeled mules. And the trend was confirmed earlier this year when the Chanel haute couture show featured extravagant white collars on almost every look.
For the past few years, fashion has been flirting with a cosplay take on modest dressing. The “pilgrim” collar – working title; may not resonate this side of the Atlantic; watch this space for terminology updates – is the latest meet-cute as this longstanding crush rolls on. Modesty cosplay began with hemlines getting lower. Then the polo neck became the new standard-issue knitwear neckline. Then cult eveningwear brands such as the Vampire’s Wife embraced the covered-up dress, making a feature of its modesty with frills under the chin and at the fingertip-grazing cuffs. The pilgrim collar, which takes looking coy and chaste and turns it into something extra, is the new frontier.
I’m into the look, because a white collar always makes an outfit pop. But I definitely have notes. It seems to me that there are two problematic adjacencies. First: the pilgrim collar is twee-adjacent, which means we need to style it in a way that makes it distinctly non-tradwife – see this ancient pair of Marks & Spencer leopard high heels, from the depths of my shoe cupboard. Leopard may be a neutral these days, but it still has enough bite to offset the prissiness of this collar.
Second: the collar is costume-adjacent. If you wear it with bright colours or rich fabrics, it can take you very quickly into what I call the Amazon Bestseller World Book Day Costume school of fashion, and I do not mean that kindly. So, I’m wearing it with an old pair of Topshop jeans to dial it down. Done right, the pilgrim collar can fancy-up your spring wardrobe. Just don’t let it turn into fancy dress.