Looking for pieces to spruce up your spring wardrobe? Here are your ten key pieces.
While I was covering the couture shows this week (a major trigger for sartorial dis-satisfaction), a French colleague, one of those typically Parisian shoppers who buys sparingly and wisely, shared the following: when you get to the checkout, ask yourself three questions: Can I wear it now? Can I do without it? Will it make me happy?
How forthrightly Gallic. Back in puritanical Britain, where we've been distracted from clothes by debates about happiness versus contentment, we're still vaguely suspicious of the notion that stuff can make you either.
While I wrote that last sentence, by the way, the sun was shining so brightly that I had to locate my shades so I could read my computer screen, by which time the sun had vanished. Ooh, wait, it's out again, only this time it's brought a gale force wind, plus a slight tang of Arctic, with it.
The evidence all points to spring. Cue wardrobe discontentment. My winter staples are functional enough. But they're doing nothing for my morale. I could have sworn my clothes weren't boring when I bought them. But, as is the way, they've fallen into a fatal rut. Nothing to do with me, you understand, but they keep appearing in the same old permutations with the same old comfy-but-not-exactly-elegant boots.
This is usually the point at which irrational change-of-season purchasing kicks in. Dazzled by the novelty of going into a shop where there is actually some new stock, momentarily seduced by the subliminal "get it before it goes" messages they pump through the sound-system, you come out with a selection that will lift your spirits no end - in about four months' time, when it's finally warm enough to wear them.
This is no way to climb up that elusive index of happiness. It may be in the interest of retailers for you to buy now, wear later, but it's not in yours. By the time the climactic conditions are favourable, there's a high probability you'll already be bored with your new purchases - or, if you're like me, forgotten all about them.
All the signs are it's going to be a tempting season. But rather than diving in and buying some head-to-toe looks, it's better at this point to identify the warm outfits you can continue wearing from your existing stash and focus on a few items that will slot into the mix. Here are a few to get you started.
1. A colourful, properly designed cardigan: You've got the message: colour is king this year, and nothing lifts the spirits, or a tired old outfit, like a dose of coral, red, aqua… but note the caveat - a well-cut cardigan can stand in for a jacket. That's mighty handy this time of year, when jackets can be cumbersome - too bulky to wear under coats, not warm enough to wear on their own.
2. Cerulean-blue court shoe: They don't have to be cerulean blue. That's just my private obsession. Olivia Firth wore emerald ones to the Armani show in Paris and they did the trick. Any colour you fancy that would liven up a black pair of trousers, work with dark tights and clash (in a good way) with a bright skirt will act like Sanatogen on your wardrobe.
3. A brooch: Cost-effective, chic and, thanks to Prada, back in style. Transform a T-shirt or pin one to a string of pearls for an update on a classic necklace.
4. A blouse: One in silk will take you from day to evening. The high street will have plenty soon, or you can pay crazy money for a designer one. I'd settle in the middle for Equipment. Hedge your bets - buy two-tone.
5. A bright skirt: The challenge is to find one in a medium weight you can wear now with tights and later with bare legs. I've tried a few (knee-length, not mini) and loved them, but they all seemed to look best with bare legs. If you're set on a skirt, try it with black or dark grey, plain woollen tights, a clashing shoe and a tailored white cotton shirt.
6: A nice jacket. If you can't live without a jacket, this blush-pink one from Zara is an option to wear over jumpers with a black maxi or black drainpipes.
7. A belt: Lift that old Boyfriend Cardigan and make it more flattering, too.
8. Chanel's April Nail Varnish: A happy shade, if ever there was one, and the perfect transition between wintery goth colours and summer's pastel frenzy.
9. Polka-dot tights: move a dark outfit into spring with ease.
10. Coloured trousers: A certified way to get round the tricky tights issue. On some days, you can just about wear them with bare ankles and a closed shoe. Save the cotton jeans version for later in the year and find a cosy alternative.