Wednesday 9 March 2011


Winter seems so interminable in London that I can hardly remember the last time I wasn't all rugged up in layer upon layer of black, like a woolly Matryoshka doll.

But now the thermometer is making a concerted effort to stay above zero, I start to long for new clothes. I want something that shows I've cottoned onto the season's new themes and trends, without being achingly fashion forward. I’m also not temperamentally disposed to buying an entire new wardrobe of clothes each season, even if I had the money to do it, which I don’t.

I won’t be able to face the vogue for bright colours until the summer – the spring light feels too weak to take it. Nor will the white thing work for me, since I travel everywhere by tube and bus and have skin the colour of skimmed milk. But I do rather love the way that designers have re-interpreted stark white by way of a Dulux ‘Natural Hints’ colour chart. I like white when it strays as far as buttermilk, or blush or a very pale camel. One might suspect it of not being white at all, but – whatever – fashion is all about the nuance.

The purchase of the scarlet dress pre-Christmas has turned me into something of a Bastyan zealot. Now in its third season, it’s an incredibly wearable label - I love the way the designs are cut for real women: if you have great legs but are less than keen on your tummy, there are lovely skinny trousers to team with embellished tops, and empire line dresses which work as well over trousers as with opaques and a great pair of heels. Or if, like me, you’re a pear rather than an apple, the dresses are incredibly flattering, with signature draping in just the right places.

Anyway, here are a few of the things which I’ve been admiring lately because they combine my kind of shape with a nod at the colours and trends of the early spring season.

Blonde leather dress £395
This butter-soft leather dress is a bit of an investment piece, but looks so beautiful.

Zip belt dress £220
I love the versatility of this dress: it's a cool update on the LBD, and is exactly the kind of thing that could take one from work to something more interesting in the evening just by adjusting the front zip at the neckline. I know we're supposed to move away from black for the S/S 11 season, but it's just so easy to wear.
Fine leather jacket £395
This jacket would be tremendous over the dress - its skillful cut gives one a nod to rock-chick chic without going the full Joan Jett.

Twisted drape jumper £130

I'm more inclined to knitwear than tailored jackets over dresses - and this is soft and modern without being too informal. Our office is so incredibly cold on a Monday morning, I'm always on the hunt for a chic cover-up.

However, the bottom line for me is that, when it comes to new clothes, a party dress trumps work-wear everytime. Esquire's 20th Birthday party at The Berkeley's Blue Bar was the perfect setting for this rather sophisticated navy Bastyan dress. Although it's very fitted (bless you, Spanx), the front of the dress is designed to gather and drape in a way that manages to conceal rather than reveal, thankfully, and the underwired camisole you can see is a separate piece, which adds some structure. Mind you, people did keep whispering that they could see my bra, so either they were fashion ignoramuses, or I need to work harder on how the dress drapes over the camisole.

The bangles I wore with it are actually coral rather than red, and were an impulse buy from Marks and Spencers (I think they were £8).

Bastyan Cowl-neck lace-cami dress £195

NOTA BENE: I've just noticed that Bastyan is offering a 20% discount on the S/S11 collection on their website - good news for my wardrobe, bad news for my bank balance....