Back to School

What’s your favourite time of the year? For me, it’s got to be cold. Maybe it’s because I spent the first eight years of my life in a country where a Snow Day means that it’s -25°C outside (not that there’s been a light sprinkling of sleety slush), but the arrival of Autumn and Winter fills me with utter delight.

Summer isn’t for me – I can’t deal with the heat, unless it’s heat on a sun lounger by a pool or beach. At home, I’ll strip down to my underwear to stay cool. I can’t think about fashion in the Summer. I love the idea of it, really, I do. Acid brights, little floaty dresses and denim short shorts seem great in theory. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if I had model legs. Alas, the shortest I can go is a conservative just-above-the-knee, and I find that skirt/short length has a positive correlation with perspiration rate.

So there I am sweating through July, when – joy of joys – August brings with it a glimmer of hope: The September Issue. And that’s when it all starts. Suddenly my gym sessions fly by because I’m preoccupied with thoughts of wool skirts, opaque tights and leather boots. I daydream about all the layers I’m going to wear: crisp white shirts under thick knitted cardigans and heavy wool coats.

Going back to school in September used to signify the turn of season – leaving the house a couple of hours earlier than my usual holiday wake-up time used to make it seem like the climate had ceremoniously changed overnight. My mum would stop me at the door and send me back upstairs to put some tights on (“But Muuummy, I wore a dress yesterday, and I was fine!”).

More than the turn of season, going back to school also signified new starts. A new diary and pencil case, new exercise books and new teachers; another chance to neaten up your handwriting, join more clubs and do your homework as soon as you get home. Sure, the novelty soon wore off, but I approached each new academic year with the same enthusiasm as the year before.

These days I don’t go ‘back to school’, but September will always be associated with changes and transformations. It also announces a return to structure, routine, lists and timetables, and this is reflected in my tendency to drift towards sharper, more structured tailoring. In my search for new additions to my A/W wardrobe, I discovered a skirt that was wonderfully reminiscent of my old school uniform, but with a very welcome twist…

Jersey T-shirt, £89; asymmetric skirt, £55; leather clutch, £89 (all COS)

The asymmetric detail turns a dull, businessy, formal skirt into an incredibly versatile piece that I can see forming the cornerstone of my winter wardrobe. What to pair it with? The possibilities are endless. Here are my picks:


[wear blouses and shirts tucked in]

Blouses (left-to-right): Whistles Colour Block Blouse, £125; Reiss Sugar Blouse, £120; Marc by Marc Jacobs Disco Silk-Satin Blouse, £250 at Net-a-Porter 

This one deserves a line of its own:

Stella McCartney white silk charmeuse satin Angela blouse, £435

Those cuffs…*sigh*…


Shirts (left-to-right): ASOS Blouse With Broderie Trim And Pleats, £30; Zara poplin shirt, £29.99; Christopher Kane PVC gel-collared cotton shirt, £585 at Net-a-Porter 


Sweaters (left-to-right): Hobbs Chandler Sweater, £79 (wear with a white shirt underneath); Reiss sheer insert roll neck, £89Missoni ribbed wool-blend turtleneck sweater, £260 at Net-a-Porter 


(on top of shirts and blouses)

Cardigans (left-to-right): Brora cashmere Aran cardigan, £339; Jaeger camel hair short rib cardigan, £199; Tory Burch Simone fine-knit wool cardigan, £185 at Net-a-Porter

or the student budget versions:

Openwork Cardigan, £25.99; Cable stitch cardigan, £25.99 (both Zara)


Mango button T-shirt, £22.90Sophie Hulme for ASOS Matte Sequin T-Shirt, £85; COS striped top, £45


Metallics (left-to-right): Topshop speckle leather trim top, £28; Acne moma metallic leather patchwork top, £770 at Net-a-Porter; Lanvin Chinese lamé T-shirt, £785 at Net-a-Porter


Shoes: whatever takes your fancy. Brogues will look just as good as heels, depending on the occasion and your pain tolerance. Wear your look with conviction. If you’re going for librarian chic, do it all the way and do it with confidence!

Jewellery: I’m a huge fan of huge necklaces. I’d wear one of the white shirts (buttoned up to the top) with something like this…

Necklaces (left-to-right): Marni acetate and vinyl floral necklace, £175 at Net-a-Porter; Marni crocheted wool and chain bib necklace, £195 at Net-a-Porter; Mango braided necklace, £49.90Mango wood necklace, £29.90

…one day I’ll go all minimalist ‘less is more’ Jil Sander (maybe).

Belts: Cinch in thick knitwear. Exercise some restraint if you share my passion for necklaces. Otherwise, a grey sweater/cardigan + this beauty from COS (only £10!) = sartorial heaven.

Et voilà! Fix up, look sharp.


Book: My Favourite Dress

I realised fairly recently that what I love about magazines is the visual side. That may sound obvious, but it’s more than just the photoshoots and pretty clothes. I love the layouts and the fonts. I love the way that the same content – photographs, text and illustrations – can be infinitely rearranged and reconstructed to portray and evoke different themes and emotions. I love the thought and imagination that goes into every single page to make it look new and enticing and inspiring.

Since coming to this understanding, I’ve been constantly searching for magazines and books to feed my hungry eyes. One of my most resent purchases is a book called My Favourite Dress by Gity Monsef, Samantha Erin Safer and Robert de Niet.

I was sucked in by promises of ‘lavishly illustrated’ pages; ‘a must have for any fashionista’. The book wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, though. Perhaps my expectations are too high (after all, there aren’t many ways in which you can present a photograph of a dress along with a blurb from its designer explaining why it’s their favourite), but, after reading some beautifully-curated blogs and magazines, it just seemed a bit bland and lacking creativity.

Above: the inside cover of My Favourite Dress: notes from designers explaining their choices.

If you read my post about my visit to the V&A, then you might remember that I fell in love with the silhouette of Giles Deacon’s Pacman dress. As I mentioned then, I love the cinched-in waist and A-line skirt – I think this shape is flattering on pretty much anyone, and I was glad to see the shape again in Deacon’s favourite dress. Deacon’s blurb also exemplifies the fact that you really can find inspiration absolutely anywhere: the aptly named Car Wash gown below was (obviously) inspired by car wash brushes! Always keep your eyes and your mind open.

I also liked Alber Elbaz’s blurb (below). I like that he sees all women as equals and designs accordingly. Fashion shouldn’t be reserved for those with money, fame or influence. Fashion and, more importantly, style, has nothing to do with those things. It’s about how you convey your personal taste and express yourself with your clothing (and you don’t need to be shopping on Sloane Street for that).

Now, more than ever, we are being encouraged to experiment with the season’s trends, to mix them up with our favourite vintage and high street pieces (or to wear head-to-toe runway if you’re Anna Della Russo, and it makes you happy!). In this month’s ELLE, Susie Lau of Style Bubble says that “bending to the way people expect you to dress is not half as fun as pleasing yourself with your own style”. She couldn’t be more right. Enjoy dressing up, and turn to Vogue and Elle for inspiration – they aren’t rule books.