April 16 2011
The current trend for bright colour blocks is one that I feel needs to be approached with circumspection. It looks wonderful on catwalks, where designers are mixing shades to their own prescription and can get the tones exactly right. Trying to do it yourself with a mix of new buys and existing pieces is not so easy.
In addition, most of us still have a wardrobe full of last summer’s gentle neutrals which now look pallid by comparison. But, as I have discovered, they can be your best ally, acting as a foil for a little of the new bright while they themselves are given an extra lease of life.
Having contemplated my selection of mid-wash denim, white, beige and grey separates, I went in search of vivid accessories to pep them up for spring. In Smythson (better known for leather-bound diaries and jewel boxes, but it does scrummy leather accessories too) I found the answer to my prayers – bright bags and belts with two well-judged colours, taking care of the tonal angle and far more interesting than just one shade, allowing me to put one plain neutral with it and not worry about blending near-miss shades.
The bags would be great for evening but proved too small for my working life. The belt, however, is an absolute corker – minimally plain and sophisticated with a contrasting buckle in stingray or enamel. Better still, it is reversible, providing an extra range of options.
There are three colourways – bright orange croc-effect with turquoise stingray (third picture; the boldest option, which I chose), green with tonal enamel buckle (first picture), and lemon yellow with white enamel (second picture). All reverse to ivory. At £275 (£250 for the green one) it’s a little pricy for a belt, but its effect on my wardrobe has been electric. So far I’ve tried it (orange side) with a denim A-line skirt and grey silk trousers, and the ivory side with a matching crepe dress and a navy dress. It’s encouraged me to pull out nearly-clashing turquoise and green jewellery to go with it, and it elicits approving comments every time – not just for the belt, but for the clothes too. Never have I been able to say so honestly, “Really? This old thing?”