As I write this post after nearly a two-month hiatus, I am staring out of my window onto a hazy and shimmery late autumn day in Switzerland, hills covered in auburn and golden foliage with an occasional dark green patch. I have just returned from Australia where temperatures had already soared to 40 degrees C and, as I am unpacking my summer clothes, I find myself in-between seasons or entre-saison as they say in French.
We know that fashion loves seasons – so much so that it actually forces us to think of spring and summer collections when we are just getting out our winter woollies, or choose winter boots when all we want to put on is a bikini. Finding an appropriate wardrobe outside of those clearly identified seasons is therefore slightly awkward and is becoming more so due to our increasingly unpredictable climate.
So how do we handle the capricious weather and master the rules of dressing for the right season? And do we actually know which season each of us belongs to for the purposes of choosing the right colour palette? Here are my top five do’s and don’ts as well as a practical guide to seasonal colour analysis.
Do: Separate summer and winter wardrobes
Although knee-high boots in summer and hot pants in winter are becoming more acceptable, I do abide by the rule of having two distinct wardrobes for summer and winter, which are thoroughly cleaned and carefully stored in suitcases when not in use. This makes your clothes last longer while the discovery of stunning – yet somehow forgotten – pieces while unpacking your winter wardrobe feels like Christmas came early.
Don’t: Shy away from summer colours in winter
White is only for summer? Nonsense! One of my best buys ever was an off-white cashmere blend winter coat. I really dread the sight of black and charcoal invading high streets and shop windows at the arrival of first morning frost. Whites and pastels should not be banished until the return of spring; they have a natural place in our winter wardrobes: just think of a crisp winter morning when the sun casts pink, lavender and pale blue shadows on the snow.
Do: Invest in great trans-seasonal footwear
A great pair of boots or pumps will take you through the most of the year, at least in Europe. To do this, it must fit extremely well, be versatile and durable, and enhance the appearance of your pins. My favourite pair of boots is faux-suede black pull-on knee-high boots that go so well with skirts and dresses as well as trousers. Ankle-high boots are another good option as they suit multiple styles. Remember, biker and ugg boots do not fit this bill.
Don’t: Splurge on one-season wonders
So the funnel neck oversized coat is in the hot trend this autumn-winter season? Who cares if it doesn’t suit your shape! Unlike fast-fashion knock-offs that will burst at the seams as you’re toasting the arrival of 2015, a great winter coat is an investment piece which will take you from season to season without looking dated. I would recommend investing in two quality winter coats: one for ‘normal days’ and one for special occasions – like an invitation to a posh Christmas party at the (now sustainable) Ritz.
Do: Update your wardrobe with funky accessories
Accessories is one area where you can experiment guilt-free. A faux-fur stole? Check! A pair of funky fair-trade mittens? Anytime! A vintage velvet capelet to match your red-wine-colour nails and lips? So very chic! Cleverly put together accessories make the outfit, and there is a great deal to be learned from our mothers and grandmothers on the right way to tie a scarf, or choose a chapeau that complements your features.
Which season are you?
I was recently surprised to learn in a conversation with some friends that almost none of them knew which season they were colour-wise. What I considered common knowledge — that each of us is either Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn — was absolute revelation to them. So I thought it might be worth to remind ourselves the classification made famous in the Colour Me Beautiful book by Carole Jackson. The Four Seasons theory helps identify colours that suit you best and avoid costly mistakes when buying clothes and makeup. Here is a quick recap – courtesy of Wikipedia.
The colours from this season are clear and icy, like a winter’s day; always with subtle blue undertones. To name a few: hollyberry red, emerald and evergreen, royal blue, magenta and violet. Winter inspires pictures of winter berries, pine green conifers and black and white huskies racing through snow.
Spring colours are clear and bright, just like the colors of a spring day imbued with the golden hues of the sun. The colours of this season are truly like a spring bouquet of flowers enveloped in bright spring green leafy foliage: red-orange and coral tulips, bright yellow jonquils and daffodils.
The colours of this season are muted with blue undertones (think of looking at the scenery through a dusky summer haze). Late summer blossoms, a frothy ocean and white beaches are seen everywhere. Baby blue, slate blue, periwinkle, powder pink, seafoam green and slate grey are typical Summer colours.
Autumn colours are virtually indistinguishable from the rich, earthy colors of the season for which they were named. They are as golden-hued as a fall day, and it is impossible to mistake them for any other season. Typical colors from the palette include pumpkin, mustard yellow, burnt orange, brown, camel, beige, avocado green, rust and teal.