When I was working in fashion but paying New York rent, the easiest way to be chic on a budget was to limit my wardrobe to timeless, perfectly tailored white shirts paired with sharp black trousers.
After all, as Coco Chanel once said: “Black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.”
And with the late, great Christian Dior equally enamored by black (he single-handedly convinced more than half a century of designers that a little black dress is essential to a woman’s wardrobe), it’s no wonder it remains a favourite for evening, applauded for its ability to slim the silhouette and offer instant glam.
My excuse for remaining chromophobic was for the sake of my wallet, but the truth is I was scared of colour. I rebuffed countless suggestions (usually from men) to give brights a go, declaring that I lived a colourful enough life. But my resolve began to weaken when Phoebe Philo came on the scene at Céline and pioneered head-to-toe navy blue.
I found myself pairing navy with black, then started to stray from black altogether. Suddenly, it was too late – a fondness for mustard took hold, quickly followed by a craving for oxblood, Kelly green, zingy daffodil and, finally (quelle horreur), in-your-face fuschia.
But as I’ve opened my mind to these popping hues, I’ve come to understand something Oscar de la Renta noted: “Women think black is the most flattering colour, but they’re wrong.
Pink adds a cosmetic-like radiance and warmth. Black drains the skin of colour; pink delights the eye.” He’s right: the right bright, even the smallest pop of it, can shave off years. Still, when it comes to a season as colour confident as this, it pays to exercise a modicum of caution. Read on for some guidelines.
Eager to taste the rainbow of hues coming your way this season, but unsure where to begin? Accessories offer a simple way to dip a toe into the new colour trends. Start by adding a bold yellow or green sandal to your all-black ensemble, or switch your fail-safe black handbag for a bold steel blue or khaki version.
Consider a silk scarf your best ally too – a fuchsia or red one tied around the handle of your bag is an easy enough entrée for any beginner.
OK, slowly does it. We’re not suggesting full colour immersion until you feel ready to take that plunge. Make friends with your fear by keeping either the top or the bottom half of your look basic black. Or, if you think you’re further along on your journey to colour recovery, ’70s-style blossoms against a black backdrop are a wonderful compromise.
They were coming through in uniquely loud shades at Balenciaga, but are just as delightful in slightly more hushed blues and purples, as seen in Lonely’s romantic dresses, this summer’s must-have.
The colour wheel has been turning at full speed since navy blue’s moment alone in the spotlight. These days, expect everything from play-it-safe pastels to intense, vivid hues, the palest cornflower to an electric Yves Klein or lapis lazuli blue.
Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo and Boss have all been dipping their brushes into blue, and Mary Katrantzou paired it with her signature optical-illusion prints. Wynn Hamlyn’s slouchy, zip-through jumper or knit skirt and top will carry you straight through those cooler summer nights and into autumn.
From lemon to fluorescent, yellow is also having its day in the sun. Dries Van Noten recently used primrose on monochromatic pieces and in the form of flower-like prints on black and white staples, Emilio Pucci showed calf-length dresses, and Alessandro Michele’s ruffled dress with poet sleeves was pure sunshine.
But thanks to fashion’s full-on ’70s flashback, one that’s showing little sign of abating, mustard has been splashed all over the runways too, and seen locally at Ingrid Starnes. And while you probably haven’t given it a second thought since your childhood when it was paired with brown and orange (shudder), you’ll find it surprisingly flattering on its own.
Experiment with mustard in different fabrics as well: silk, velvet or chiffon can all add subtle depth to this strong shade.
Diana Vreeland once claimed to have spent her life pursuing the perfect red and Audrey Hepburn believed there was a shade of red for every woman. Balenciaga (via Demna Gvasalia’s unexpectedly awesome disco pants) and Céline (in the form of a diaphanous evening dress) both chose to bring out the very brightest version – a red that can only be described as flaming.
At Christian Siriano’s Spring 2017 show, everything from sunglasses and headwear to evening dresses and heels were rendered in this flamboyant shade. Oscar de la Renta followed suit with siren-like cocktail dresses and eveningwear.
Nom*D got in on the action too, backing a black check with an extra-bright crimson. Sure, it takes confidence to stand out in a colour this loud (and you may have to leave the disco pants to the catwalk models), but take it as a sign that it’s time to retire as a wallflower. If you feel yourself resisting, perhaps keep your look neutral and use the colour as an accent instead.
There’s no need to feel as if you’ve been shoved into the middle of a chorus line of flaming red, Kelly green, acid yellow and Pepto pink. For a masterclass in colour pairing, take a look at Céline and Emilio Pucci, where combinations of mint green, wine red and bright crimson, or light turquoise, acid yellow, coral red and lilac, fell immediately into the so-wrong-it’s-right category.
As fashion’s bravest, Iris Apfel, said: “If your hair is done properly and you’re wearing good shoes, you can get away with anything.” But if you’re not feeling as adventurous as all that, think back to how Yves Saint Laurent paired red with pink in the ’70s, or take a more current tip from Michael Kors and combine fresh green with electric blue.
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