When are clothes just clothes?
In the past 12 months, fashion has punched above its weight, becoming all things to all people. It's been the megaphone through which to broadcast your feminism to the world (Dior), a source of carefree joie de vivre in strangely fraught times (Chloé), pointed social commentary (Vêtements) and a reminder of the good old-fashioned joys of sex (Saint Laurent).
Fashion has been pure, unadulterated escapism one minute, and a hard dose of reality the next.
But sometimes – or most of the time – a woman just wants to know what to wear to work. And this, my friends, is where utility comes in.
Let's call its latest incarnation Utility 10.2.1, because like your operating system, this idea isn't entirely brand new. It's been tweaked and refined and tweaked some more.
Fashion has long loved a khaki safari moment, a good stiff shirt, or a skirt with pockets, and spring has that in high supply. The story here, though, is that the trend has let go of the stuffy seriousness of seasons past and added a sense of humour. Because, hello, it's spring! The new utility is a little more light-hearted and conceptual and a little less, well, practical.
Consider Marni's ivory and pastel dresses, made functional with larger-than-life strap-on pockets, as big as medium-size handbags. They're useful enough to let you go about your day with your hands and shoulders free – and yet esoteric enough to confuse every straight man in your office.
If you like your function and fashion to be a little more balanced, and therefore civilian-friendly, look to Bottega Veneta's perfectly controlled trench, lightened up with extra-large pockets and an extra dose of buttons. Or on the high street, try Topshop's twill jacket and shorts in army green – again, with massive pockets.
But don't overthink the styling. Take that trench and wear it with your favourite worn-in jeans or style the aforementioned dress-and-bum-bag-combo with your easy, backless slippers (never heels), and you're winning. A pencil, wiggle skirt? No thanks. A roomy midi with plenty of room to breathe after lunch? Yes, yes, yes.
This is where we are with workwear now: clothes that boast standout details but ultimately let you just get on with your day without a lot of hassle or fuss. Clothes that look like you've put in a lot of time and thought into what you wear, but free up your mind to focus on the bigger things.
And that's the most appealing aspect of the new utility, because 2017 has given us more than its share of big-picture, global dilemmas to wrap our heads (and our bum bag) around.