How to wear... the power polo
Smart layering is the key to mastering transitional dressing, writes Meadhbh McGrath
Who would have thought we'd still be wearing polo-neck knits in April? Thanks to the unseasonably cold start to spring, we're stretching out our transitional wardrobes that bit longer, and with more rain and cool temperatures on the way this week, the must-have piece for the unpredictable weather is the power polo.
Raf Simons' spring-summer collection for Calvin Klein was oddly prescient: polo necks were layered under Western shirts, while at Louis Vuitton, Nicolas Ghesquiere melded the past and the future by styling ornate frock coats and dresses with sporty striped polos and trainers. They were rendered in dazzling monochrome sequins at Celine, while Balenciaga paired them with lingerie slips and 70s-inspired florals.
The message was clear: the much-maligned 'turtleneck' is back on the fashion agenda. On and off the catwalk, Victoria Beckham has been the biggest champion of the power polo. Whether tucked into a pleated maxi skirt or underneath a floaty shirt or dress, she's been able to give her spring pieces a bit of extra mileage.
If you want to get a head start on spring's breezy asymmetric skirts and wrap dresses, just throw on a polo neck. Happily, the autumnal 70s palette of rust, burgundy and earthy greens that was so popular last season is holding on for spring - and popped up on next season's catwalks too, so the look will take you through the year.
Black, navy and white polos make for easy wardrobe staples. Whether you opt for a ribbed knit, fine wool blend or a lightweight cotton, make sure you choose one opaque enough that you won't be worrying about a visible bra.
And while old-school fashion rules dictate busty women should avoid turtlenecks, we say there's a polo for everyone. You want a fit that's not skin-tight (and draws the eye straight to the chest) but not too chunky (leaving you looking like a block), and go for one with a shorter neck for a more flattering fit. Make sure you give the look definition: stick with versatile black and wear with a high-waisted skirt, trousers or belt to accentuate the waist and balance out the bust.
As well as playing a supporting role in our wardrobes, the polo has come into its own, as demonstrated by Meghan Markle who has been wearing them at many of her royal engagements, from a chunky white knit with slim cigarette pants to a sleek black version with high-waisted, wide leg trousers. For a chic early-spring look, take your cue from Meghan's low-key pairing of a plain black polo with a neutral cotton midi skirt and suede knee boots.
For work, a striped shirt gets new life worn over a ribbed white polo, while a navy roll-neck merino jumper gives grey suits a cool, contemporary edge. Style with crisp white trainers or navy courts for a simple yet sophisticated workwear update.
If you're feeling a little intimidated by this season's Western trend, try layering a fine white polo underneath a rodeo shirt and black jeans - a Calvin Klein-approved styling trick that keeps the look clean and modern.
Polo necks work well for evening too, particularly if you prefer to cover your arms or décolletage. Tempted by a slip dress? Layer one over a thin polo - ideally in a vivid colour. A slouchy knit provides a stylish juxtaposition for a dressy skirt with a slit and helps keep proportions in check - at a recent event, Charlize Theron smartened up a plunging gown by teaming it with a black polo neck.