Should you have passed a shop window in the past few days, you might have noticed something surprising: bright colour on display. The sort of colour — canary yellow, cerulean blue — that normally puts in an appearance around June, when we’re gearing up for Mediterranean holidays.
Right now, when there’s still snow on the ground and no one is travelling further than Tesco, the message is: don’t wait for summer, be bold and go bright.
I love bright colour, but I’m also wary of it. Bright colour requires brilliant sunshine, doesn’t it? And ideally a tan if you’re pale-skinned like me.
Then again, I remember in the early 1980s wearing nothing but tropical colours, no matter what the weather.
Shane Watson takes inspiration from Victoria Beckham (pictured) for embracing this season’s brights trend
We wore turquoise pedal-pushers, shocking pink jumpsuits, and purple shoes. Those colours were as everyday normal as indigo denim. And if you were dressing up, you dressed up like poet Amanda Gorman did at Joe Biden’s inauguration, in a striking yellow coat and red hairband.
The truth is that we’ve fallen out of the habit of wearing bright colours.
We’ve got used to the seasonal cycle of autumnal shades, followed by pale blue and the dreaded ‘blush’, peaking in summer with juicy fruit colours, if we dare. Often we don’t.
For most of us, bright colour means a ‘pop’ of something in an otherwise sober outfit. Any more and we think we need bags of confidence to carry it off — plus we’re sure bright colours won’t go with anything.
We’re not going to get over this colour block overnight, but now feels like the time to try. Being locked up indoors has made us want to get the most out of our clothes.
I know I’ve been eyeing up a shocking pink cardigan (£185, essentiel-antwerp.com) when this time last year I’d only have had eyes for the navy version.
What our wardrobes need is some boldness, a shot of joy and optimism, and that’s what you get with bright colours.
The colours that stood out on the spring/summer catwalks were all the pinks and reds. Together they are the hot fashion combination — Victoria Beckham was pictured out and about in head-to-toe red and pink recently — but choose whatever bright colours work for you.
Brights: The new rules
- Wear different shades of one colour.
- Reds and pinks go together well now.
- Start with a bright top and a cross-body bag.
- White makes bright colours zing; black and dusty shades kill them.
And you don’t have to be able to see them from space. This is the first step to regaining our colour confidence: don’t feel you need to go for the dazzling shades, just aim for clean and fresh.
The easiest place to kick off is with a top. I’ve resurrected a bright blue Me+Em shirt, which looks good with the collar and cuffs poking out under a pale grey sweater.
Try the silk shirt in indigo (£125, meandem.com). Me+Em also does a forget-me-not-blue sweater that works well with jeans or ivory trousers. (Beware: putting brights next to black or dusty colours will kill their spark.)
J.Crew is still the best place to go for plain sweaters in 19 zinging colours (£101, jcrew.com). From there it’s a short step to a hot-pink shirt (£59, nrbyclothing.com) worn with an ice-pink sweater draped around your shoulders (£99, nrbyclothing.com) and maybe Me+Em’s straight-leg nutmeg-coloured trousers (£165, meandem.com).
With strong colour there is safety in numbers, so long as you abide by the colour-blocking rules: choose solid, head-to-toe colour, or different shades of one colour, or not more than two different colours at one time.
For example: wear a cornflower-blue wool coat (£249) over a turquoise jumper (£87.20) — that’s your two blues — with a tan leather skirt (£279, all whistles.com). Or put a violet denim jacket (£12.99, zara.com) with the same turquoise sweater and bright blue jeans (£50, mango.com). Of course you can introduce another colour, but this way feels right for the cool weather months. There’s time to ramp it up later.
If you prefer to start slow, there’s always the option of a cross-body bag in chartreuse (£98, boden.co.uk). Worn with a clashing top, of course.