Monday, 17 August 2009

Say No to Navy

It is Monday morning, and it is raining. You stand in front of your wardrobe, the clothes bleary through sleep clouded eyes. You are running late, having pressed ‘snooze’ one too many times. Cue today’s uniform: black trousers, black patent courts, black cardigan over an almost blue shirt, silver jewellery (because it goes with everything), and of course the black leather everyday handbag. Grab an umbrella, and you’re set to go.
Looking around me on the tube, my heart sinks. As if the recession and English rain wasn’t enough to send you over the edge, the sea of surly faces floating above black suits can surely only lead to depression. And what about the suit wearers themselves? Spending all day dressed like death can hardly be that uplifting.
So why do we British insist on wearing black? It is appropriate for a place of work. Perhaps, if you work in a funeral directors. But for a day in the office? Is there really such a need to look so sombre, creativity constricted by that dark navy jacket? There is the issue of being taken seriously, of course. No one wants to be laughed at by their colleagues for a ridiculous outfit. But an adventurous choice can similarly bring respect, and show you are not a woman to be messed with. Black trousers and pastel shirts can slip into the background; Gucci’s vermillion and admiral blue suit is for a woman to be reckoned with.
As a remedy to recession gloom, this summer designers offer us blocks of pow wow colours. Tangerine and Candy Pink pack a punch at Richard Nicoll and ice cream shades brighten the catwalk at Josh Goot. With so many designers and high street shops jumping on the rainbow wagon, there is no excuse for a dull wardrobe. You can build up an outfit the way you would play with Lego, stacking the bright blocks together. Rose trousers, buttercup t-shirt, an orange jacket. Like Lego the colours can be deconstructed, played with.
These bright colours often hark back to childhood; Crayola wax crayons, powder paints, Disney films and party rings. Like an old teddy or the perfume your mother used to wear they can remind you of a carefree happiness and a security that now seems enviable.
Not only are these shades just downright fun, but they are flattering too. Have you never noticed that people remark how well you are looking during the summer months when the colourful frocks come out of hiding? Why reserve colour only for the brief summers, instead of using it to add a healthy glow when you need it the most? Head to toe black washes out tired skin. Just think vampires and you will see what I mean.
I cannot leave the house without wearing at least two bright colours, preferably more. The bigger, the bolder, the brighter, the better. Perhaps I resemble someone who has been hit by a rainbow, but that is fine by me. Colour equals happiness - I can feel my mood visibly lifting when I pull on a multicoloured outfit or sling a pink bag over my shoulder. There is so much doom and gloom around, so why not dress with a touch of humour? Perhaps pink and orange might not co-ordinate in the same way as a lovely palette of bland neutrals, but they look like sweeties and make me smile so it is hard to resist.
Step aside Gordon Brown, I think I have found the solution to the current economic crisis. Banish the black skirts and trousers along with recession depression. ‘Say No to Navy’ would be my election slogan. No more sensible shades and sensible black shoes. Instead, opt for colours that make you smile. How can you fail to feel cheerful when dressed head to toe in fuschia? Imagine a tube journey surrounded by smiling people wearing every candied shade imaginable. You can’t help but smile back, and arrive at work with a spring in your step. Happiness and confidence must be proportionate to productivity, so the lilac Luella coat hanging prettily on the back of your chair is in fact the key to success. (The price tag is, therefore, completely justifiable).
Paintbox brights shout defiance and confidence. And in today’s climate I think we could all do with a little bit of sunshine yellow, candy-cane confidence.


  1. Lovely to see more of your writing Libby, go for it!

  2. Hi Libby
    Like your new blog.
    Sometimes I'd love to say no to the corporate black I'm forced to wear, but it does make getting dressed easier !
    There is also the question of being taken seriously aspect that you mentioned - I've found from experience that the sombre colour (and more importantly wearing a jacket)definitely work.
    Keep up with your writing. x