Spring Refresh

carolyn asome coat rack

What can I tell you about clothes at the dawn of 2018. That you had better get in there quick. T.S Eliot wasn’t joking when he said April was the cruellest month. Although he possibly wasn’t talking about the crushing realisation that anything you have vaguely coveted in the style glossies has probably sold out.

Not that I’m counselling you to buy a whole new wardrobe in February mind. No one but no one (unless you are an oligarch’s moll) buys an entirely new wardrobe each season and certainly no one I’ve ever met with an iota of style. Still, we all want to buy things that will add vim and verve to our existing wardrobes; a few judiciously on pointe items that will make everything else sing -and believe me they don’t hang around. Don’t underestimate the keen eye that is required for changing proportions and attention to detail detail detail although just as important is whether any of it actually suits us, an easily overlooked fact in the race to bag the latest trend.

On the subject of trends, that doesn’t feel a very modern way to shop either. I’m not sure anyone over the age of 27 shops in trends. Rather, the women I know who possess the ‘otherness’ of real style (think Sofia Coppola) are incessantly tweaking the building blocks of their wardrobe. Not for them the chopping and changing: boho one season, ardent minimalist the next. Although just to confuse matters too, personal style that is stuck in the confines of so called ‘good taste’ or a reluctance to step out of your comfort zone eventually ceases to be either personal or stylish. Blazers, trousers, skirts –they are nearly always ‘in’ but how do you wear them so that they look relevant? Read on for the items that will give your wardrobe an instant refresh.

  • The (trench) coat for four seasons in one day

Yup, after three years, they are still going strong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the trench coat is without doubt one of Planet Fashion’s Duracell bunnies and it’s not hard to figure out why: what else works well over a pair of jeans or (paper bag trousers, more of which later), your office suit and yet still manages to add an ‘edge’ to a cocktail dress. It’s the best trans-seasonal buy for when ‘four seasons in one day’ weather is the norm. Heck, for anyone canny enough to wear it over a Uniqlo goose down gilet or shearling alternative, it would see you the ‘dreak’ days of February too.

Again, they have been endlessly reinvented: spliced and diced with the addition of maximalist detailing, patent inserts, ruffles, trims. Find them doubled layered , half-coat, half-cloak at Celine, or shredded at Loewe. Wanda Nylon’s vinyl effect is high on my lust list although given its not insignificant price tag, I’ll be checking out anything by the fantastic Belgian designer, Sophie d’Hoore, the wallet friendly Finery version or Topshop for a bargainous, £79.

  • Check mate blazers

Few items date as slowly as the perfect blazer so as investments pieces go, this one’s a goodie. Forget what you have ever felt about blazers reeking of the ‘gin’n’jag’ set or not working with big boobs because if you find the right one (single our double-breasted, it doesn’t matter), it will confer an instant snappiness and breezy elan to your outfit.

It is classic enough a wardrobe staple that three Italian fashion editors were moved to set up a label which centres on the many permutations of a blazer. Blaze Milano is the style maven’s blazer label of choice and their collaboration with Matchesfashion.com this season is rather delicious. However, if you find them too long on a petite frame, try Caramel London, Joseph and Harris Wharf London. Herringbone is still very now but for spring, when a lighter weight fabric might be called for, a grey or a Prince of Wales monochromatic one feels very de nos jours. It’s perfect with boyfriend jeans and loafers as it is teamed with a crisp white shirt or roll neck to wear to work.

  • It’s all in the (paper) bag trousers

Wide leg trousers with cinched waists may be the shape of the season but unless you are a giraffe and plump for a bit of height (block heel ladies, never spindly ones with these), they are not always the easiest to get right. My money is on the paper bag style which defines the waist and is not too baggy on the leg, an updated version of a 7/8th style which is particularly good for the vertically challenged. A pair of burgundy patent paper bag trousers from Isa Arfen, tapered so that they reveal flattering glimpses of a bare ankle is what I’m coveting this season but find similar (more affordable) versions at Masscob and Whistles.

  • The not so pencil- pencil skirt

Before you suppress an eye roll that Planet Fashion is trying to shoe horn you back into the very item that five minutes ago felt too ‘ Melania-ish’, the good news is these pencil skirts are less hoiked in and distinctly un-business like such is their predilection for layered sheer materials, load it on embellishment and plastic discs mashed with sequins. The longer length (resolutely some way below the knee) also helps avoid those sexy librarian clichés.

Thankfully these pencils are more louche than labour intensive and as Miuccia Prada apparently said backstage, more combative rather than ‘come to bed’. Which means sky high stilettos are out and kitten heels worn with a natty pair of socks (velvet ones at Alex Eagle or studded in jewel paste at Raey) are in. NB the sock thing is a way adding glam without having to leave the house with lashings of bag hardware or a cacophony of jewellery.

  • Vertical stripes

Can you really imagine getting through a whole summer without wearing stripes? Nope, me neither. The difference is, vertical is where it’s at this year. Forget all you have read about vertical stripes making you resemble a clown, because these are the quickest way to look spring fresh and possibly the most democratic and inexpensive. Try candy coloured or blue stripe shirts and / or swooshy to the floor matching or slightly mismatched skirts for a day or evening look that I promise will frequent the smartest of parties this summer. Stripes are everywhere and the good news is that there’s something for everyone whatever your budget.

  • Ditsy florals on nearly everything

Okay so I said no one stylish shopped in trends but this one (think vintage attic wallpaper beloved by labels such as The Vampire’s Wife) is really worth considering even if you’d consigned them to the ‘only for six year olds’ folder. Obviously I’m not suggesting you leave the house in a 50s Stepford ditsy floral dress although Lord knows there are plenty of gorgeous dresses about. Think of them as an accent to sombre colour palettes or very tailored get ups whether that’s a duster coat over a workaday suit (check out what Alessandro dell’ Acqua has done at Rochas) or block heel brocades to lift a pair of navy trousers or a pair of jeans. It’s the chicest, not to mention fastest way to add now-ness to your wardrobe.

  • Rust versus cream

I love the decadence of wearing cream, especially in February when it’s a two finger salute to meh weather, dirty tube seats and my four year old’s grubby hands. I’ve written before that I know my cream coat (s!!) are dicing with a chocolate –smeared fate but it’s worth it for the ‘ta-dah’ factor that they bestows on an outfit. Except this year, there’s a shade that is vying for even more attention. Rust might not be an obviously appealing colour (it’s certainly way lower maintenance) but it’s one that is quickly gaining momentum. It is punchier than camel or even caramel yet works on nearly every skin tone as well as looking painterly and very of the moment when teamed with lilac or navy. What are you waiting for? Go forth and experiment.

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