Burn the black dress
The sunny weather has blown a hole in the dark of winter, so it’s time to follow suit with a splash of colour in our wardrobe. And this season, more really does mean more. DEIRDRE McQUILLAN, Fashion Editor reports
It’s June! Time to look on the brighter side when it comes to summer fashion and the holidays. Colour is the story of the season, a trend that seems set to continue right through to the autumn, judging from the recent catwalk shows in London, Paris and New York.
It broke out spontaneously in our summery spring a few weeks back and suddenly made black out of sync with the sunny mood that livened up city streets – making macs and umbrellas redundant for the first time in years. It was no coincidence that Matthew Williamson, that prince of colour, was the star of Dublin Fashion Week.
There will always be the reassurance, the hard edge, the flattery and seriousness of black, but there comes a time in every style-conscious woman’s life when she opens the wardrobe, looks at a packed rail of clothes and knows she has nothing to wear and black isn’t the answer. It’s something men just don’t understand.
She may look at a great little black dress that she’s worn countless times on countless occasions, but suddenly she’s tired of it and needs to leave it on hold and think about something new. This is when adding colour to your life carries a double meaning.
Nobody does colour better than John Galliano at Dior and his show was the show of the season – outstanding for its sensational colour saturation.
Not every woman wants to wear a shocking pink dress with flying panels, matching fur and a coolie hat, but the effect was extraordinary and if it only served to encourage us to think about a skirt in a vivid colour or a suit with a bold 1940s edge, the show had cast its glamorous spell. Ripoffs are already on the move.
Some bright colours can overwhelm and need a steady hand. Take yellow, for example, a danger area best left to life-jackets, although its tones can cast a flattering light on tanned flesh and yellow patent sandals make great flashpoints to a summer outfit.
Metallics are another option: verdigris bronzes, steely brocades, silvered tweeds or gold-flecked linens add modern lustre to fabrics and accessories.
I’ve seen silver and gold quilted bags unadorned with hardware that don’t make loud sartorial or brand statements but lift a summer city outfit. A metallic trench or chic parka can look appealing with pale cashmere sweaters, and are also great for travelling.
Travel broadens our colour spectrum. If you’re one of those who draw the line at fluorescents and neon (try the new Perspex accessories instead), an alternative route into colour is through prints and pattern.
Recently, four major fashion shows – from high street to haute couture – took place in Dublin over the space of one week. What they all had in common was flamboyant print and decoration. Louise Kennedy’s hand-embroidered Indian beading is becoming more refined and elegant each season, as her colours get hotter and progressively sari-like; while Jen Kelly opted for exotic south sea island prints for his slim silk dresses. A-Wear’s show was a melange of colour and pattern, zany stripes and border print dresses, complemented by bags of similar exuberance.
John Rocha stands alone in avoiding colour and print, but his creamy silks are rich in handworked décor. ANIMAL PRINTS – LEOPARD AND ZEBRA in particular – seem to have a visceral hold on fashion, and this season is no exception. A little chiffon leopard print shirt or tunic is enough to sharpen up black trousers; and the effect is totally different with white jeans.
It’s the same with zebra print; try it on shoes or with a bag for a graphic statement. A leopardskin print mac or trench coat will make you stand out in a crowd anywhere, particularly if sported with dark sunglasses. There’s even luggage in zebra print by Jasper Conran at Debenhams.
Much has been made about the trend for the long summer dress, mainly due to celebrity endorsement, but it hasn’t hit the streets yet with any force.
The long printed kaftan shouts holidays and makes a stylish cover up, but it’s hardly the number you’re wearing on the school run or to the office.
Trapeze and wrap dresses tend to flatter the flat-chested, and mini-skirts and shorts flatter those with long legs, but tunics enhance the most awkward shapes, a gift to most women whether worn over jeans or with leggings. And if you have to stick to black, try mixing a little swing jacket with a black and white print dress.
Fashion editors get bombarded with dictatorial pronouncements about trends: what’s hot, what’s cold, but predictions can be dangerous. One designer, for example, will confide that he or she can’t sell suits while another says they’re all the clients want. What’s important in the long run isn’t a trend, it’s wearing what suits you best; knowing what does and doing it with confidence is having style.
This summer make it a colouring season, but brighten up the outlook your own way.