I’ve been quite terrified about stepping out into the real world again, the one that features people I should probably attempt to look professional around. Most of what I call my proper clothes are at the very least a year old, and I work in fashion, which operates in dog years. When I turn up for a meeting, are people going to laugh out loud? On the other hand, I don’t want to buy a whole new post-Covid wardrobe. So what to do?
Looking for some pointers, I turned to three well-dressed personal stylists whose clients include TV presenters, barristers and C-suite executives, for their advice on emerging stylishly from hibernation.
“A pair of wide tailored trousers is not a huge leap from trackie pants and pyjama bottoms,” says Anna Berkeley, a former buyer at Selfridges who now works as a stylist for mostly female professionals. “They’re a good way of easing yourself back into ‘real’ clothes.”
You may already have a pair of loose, tailored trousers in your wardrobe. If not, there are plenty in stores right now. Berkeley adds: “Lots of my clients are all about colour at the moment, which is a change from pre-pandemic. They feel like they need cheering up. Arket has some trousers in good bold colours — lilac and bright green” (from £89, arket.com).
Berkeley says she has been re-wearing a pink trouser suit from Joseph bought at Bicester Village. “The trousers work with an acid-yellow T-shirt or knit, but pink will work with grey, white, black and navy — colours you probably own pieces in already.” She sends me in the direction of a pair of fantastic pink denim belted paperbag trousers from La Fetiche (£460, lafetiche.com), though they are so long there is no escaping the fact that they will need a heel or a trip to the tailor.
For those who want to stick to flats or just fear being drowned in trouser fabric, Jacquemus has a high-waisted, cropped, wide-legged style in canvas and silk (£585, matchesfashion.com). For fans of more neutral colourways, Cos has a high-waisted, wide-legged tailored trouser in beige (£69, cosstores.com), while Australian brand Oroton offers a fluid pleat pant in pale saffron (£300, oroton.com).
When braving the voluminous trouser, Berkeley advises caution with the cut and shape of what you wear with it. “If you want to be really ‘fashion’, you can wear more volume on top, but your figure may be swamped. I like it better with something more controlled.” Try a T-shirt, loosely tucked, or one of the new knit polo shirts — Plan C (£460, brownsfashion.com) has some good striped versions.
“A spring coat pulls everything together and solves the problems of weather and of day-to-evening dressing,” says Annabel Hodin, a London-based stylist whose clients include professionals and celebrities.
The post-lockdown coat, whether a medium-weight wool, a trench or a take on the parka, must have one thing, according to Hodin, and that’s slouch. “That’s the look of the moment. Slouch is luxury, no scrimping on material. Even if you’re petite, a little fitted coat like the Queen used to wear isn’t going to do the job right now.”
The ultimate purveyor of the right kind of slouch in Hodin’s opinion is The Row. “It does the right proportion. Even if you don’t buy from there, it can be your inspiration.” The brand’s Dilona cashmere, wool and silk coat fits the bill (£3,960, mytheresa.com, entirely out of my budget but, please, feel free), while Max Mara’s wrap coat in beige (£850, maxmara.com) and Max Mara Studio’s wool cashmere and silk in ivory (£815) ooze similar nonchalance. A trench is another option, but Hodin says no to any colour other than a spin on beige, and it must be a roomy style.
Under your coat, top-to-toe one-tonal colour is the “most modern” way of dressing, says Hodin. “It’s elongating and lends more presence. I wear top-to-toe cream or a cream-beige mix, all black or all navy with a coat in navy, black or a powdery pastel. Powdery makes you feel wonderful and is much more useful than bright.”
With the exception of Acne Studios, most brands and buyers seem to be playing it safe by stocking only neutral coats this season. But for a more casual look, Hodin likes the quilted coats of varying lengths and (powdery) colourways by British brand Marfa Stance (from £595, marfastance.com). “They’re really fantastic, not a predictable parka, more like a car coat. The pale yellow you could wear to work over a shirt,” she says. “It’s all about going for relaxed impact.”
Stylist Therese Bassler, who works with male and female executives, celebrities and media figures, including Clarissa Ward, CNN’s chief international correspondent, has no hesitation in recommending white jeans as the only style update you need post-lockdown.
If that rings alarm bells, banish notions of the unforgiving stretchy noughties look in bright white. “Good denim houses are now doing rigid white denim with a tiny bit of stretch for comfort, in great cuts,” she says. “They tend to be in softer, off-white shades.”
Bassler has 70 female clients and says, “I have yet to find one who doesn’t look good in a high-waisted, straight-cut, ankle-length jean.” She recommends Khaite’s Vanessa style (£290, khaite.com) for those with a longer leg and its Vivian (cropped with a mini-kick flare, £290) for the shorter leg. Or Totême’s high-rise twisted seam in ivory (£200, matchesfashion.com) or J Brand’s Alma style (£215, harveynichols.com). “I don’t like high-street jeans because they don’t have the lifespan,” says Bassler.
She says that white jeans are a good investment because they will work with so many pieces already in your wardrobe: “I like them with a white Oxford shirt, tucked in loosely and sleeves rolled up.” She suggests wearing with an almond-toed ballet flat such as Manolo Blahnik’s Listony (£575, selfridges.com) or Aquazzura’s Maia flat (£420, aquazzura.com) and a black blazer. “Or, as the weather is cool, pull on a beautiful oatmeal or ivory cashmere jumper [I like &Daughter’s Rooska lambswool crewneck, £285, and-daughter.com], black loafers or white trainers. For evening, change the shirt to black silk from Equipment (£230, harveynichols.com) and some pearl earrings from Alighieri or, much more affordable, the Coco’s Drop style by Saint Kojo (£25, saintkojo.com).”
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