As the festivities approach, Stephanie Smith seeks out enchanting looks to take you all the way through winter and the party season.
Question: Is it fashionably acceptable to dress head to toe in black again this winter? Isn’t it all getting a bit, well, predictable? Answer: Fashionably acceptable to dress entirely in black? Of course. Not only is it more than acceptable, it’s practically a requirement if you want to stand out for all the right reasons.
Indeed, there is a great deal of bold statement colour about for autumn/winter 2016, but that’s part of the problem. Colour for the season is distinctive and really rather seductive – spicy mustard yellow, warm aurora red, enchanting forest green, tempting rich purple and a palette of blues from sky to sapphire.
Irresistible, so much so that the possibility of finding yourself standing next to someone in the exact same shade at a formal or party gathering is pretty high. Evening events are in danger of looking like a tin of Quality Street this season – we need black to keep a sophisticated balance.
Because sophistication is exactly what it’s all about. And opulence. That’s important too.
Making sure that luxurious texture is integral to every special event look is an effective way to up the “posh” factor. Buy the most expensive looking black suede knee-high boots you can find, and a leather biker jacket, sleek, not bashed up.
A note on fabrics. Elie Saab sent down the runway black lace and chiffon gowns of all lengths, from swishy translucent thigh-split floor-length to shorter tunics, teamed with black leather and suede outerwear and accessories. Many black gowns were embellished, flecked with gold, dusted with sequins and crystals, sometimes more heavily encrusted with glistening beads.
There is also a lot of black velvet about too, seen at Topshop Unique on Seventies-inspired trouser suits. Again it’s an opulent look, not dandyish as in recent seasons, but knowing and confident. And always sophisticated.
There is also a distinctly Gothic mood, but again with added elegance. Burberry’s last London show was an after-dark affair, which saw Cara Delevingne wear a look by the British heritage fashion house, of a black tulle plunging tunic dress with cape detail, black tights and lace-up pointy shoes. It’s an ensemble that could have gone bat-shaped, but she pulled it off, as she always does. If she has a Halloween party to go to, it really ought to get another showcasing.
Another strong trend with black for this season is strong, sculptural shapes, often oversized. As part of its minimalist Kin collection, John Lewis has partnered with Norwich University of the Arts, renowned for its pattern cutting teaching, on a range of statement evening gowns designed by its graduates. The results are remarkable and entirely covetable, teaming detail with pared-back design – quite a feat.
Meanwhile, for the upcoming party season on the High Street, there is plenty of black shot through with metallic thread or embellished with sequins (tiny ones are best).
Mint Velvet is the place to go for luxe understated sparkle looks, and there is a new store opening in Ilkley next month.
Remember, the look is classy, considered, refined. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear sparkle; it just means it should glisten intriguingly, rather than shine too brightly.