Licentiate Column 14/02/12: Splat into Spring

Miranda knows the score.

Guess what, everyone? It is now spring. Yes, really.

This is the point where the weather changes from rain, floods, bitter cold and the ever-present prevailing winds to rain, floods, bitter cold, prevailing winds and fifteen minutes of sunshine every second day. It’s not so much a silver lining as an aluminium foil lining, but we’ll take what we can get.

Fashion week is starting in London and the whole industry is going about its biannual process of renewal. Which trends do we dump? Which do we adopt? It hardly seems to matter when the weather rarely changes.

Last year was an unusually temperate one in Britain and Ireland. Hot and cold spells were harsh but fleeting – the rest of the time our isles were cloaked in a grey fug, temperature solidified somewhere in the teens. It’s this strange circumstance that has had far-reaching consequences in places we wouldn’t normally bother looking, like in our local high street stores.

Every spring, the same trends are trotted out by merit of their association to the season, usually pastels and floral prints. This fact is so widely known that when Meryl Streep (as caricature-scary magazine editor Miranda Priestly in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’) sarcastically drawled “Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking”, a million lovers of a frankly not-great film chuckled knowingly.

Something has happened this year. No florals. No pastels. The ground is not barren but it has lost its fecund quality. We have prints, but they are geometric and abstracted. Pastels are more likely to be worn on the nails and no other part of the body. Everything is a little bit off-kilter, a little more jarring and apocalyptic. I like it. It shows that there’s still an element of chaos in the world no matter how hard we try to mould it to our liking.

Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter trends exist for a several reasons. 1) To make people feel hopelessly inadequate about being up to date so they’ll buy more clothes, making retailers and suppliers more money. 2) Because, in Winter it is (supposed to be) cold and in Summer is is warm (or so I have heard) and people need two sets of wardrobes for two sets of weather systems.

The third reason is the most common-sense, but the least obvious. Spring trends emerge even when we don’t particularly want or need them because human beings can’t live without progress. We always have to feel like we’re heading towards something. Spring is the time we slough off our insulating winter shells and emerge, if not as butterflies, then as moths with the best of intentions.

The best approach to Spring trends is to tread carefully. Only buy what you need, and don’t feel obligated to bare your legs just because it’s almost March. Spring into Spring by all means, but don’t push yourself – it’s far too easy to Splat into Spring instead.

Licentiate Column 01/11/12: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

What I think I look like in pajamas. The reality is more heffalumpish. Pic by Nina Leen for LIFE

Are you cold? I’m cold. I’m bloody freezing. My toes have turned to icy nubs that jolt me awake in chilly shock whenever I shift about in my sleep. Two hot water bottles and the occasional hot port have no alleviating effect. The fuzzy pink Penney’s pajamas I discovered in the airing cupboard make me a little warmer, not that that’s any consolation to the people in hot countries who slave away (in some cases literally) to make us our cut-price winter warmers.

I have taken to working in bed. The pajamas stay. I lump on brightly coloured shawls, hats and jewellery – the jewellery is a smokescreen to make me believe that I am making some kind of effort. It’s like aspirin – I don’t know quite how it works, but it really does. I look like a person who has gone on a gap year to Peru and decided that the locals know where it’s at, wardrobe-wise.

I think that this is perfectly acceptable. I still get my work done, I get to stay warm and no-one sees me looking like an ersatz bag lady/Olsen twin. It’s not my priority to look nice, or even presentable, when I’m at home by myself – the priority is to be cozy or, as a friend of mine who lives in Copenhagen says, hygge. ‘Hygge’ is a great word. It may even be a cozier word than ‘cozy’.

When I step outside the house, though, I am less ‘hygge’ than ‘hyggledy piggeldy’. I have yet to master the gentle art of layering that comes so easily to tall, sylphette women and less to to shortish, vaguely lumpish ones with, y’know, curves n’stuff.

Still, we shall struggle valiantly on, trying to strike that balance between beguiling and well-swaddled. Until the average person’s social life revolves around wearing pjs and never, ever going outside, we will have to spend our time socialising, running errands and attempting to have some semblance of a romantic life wrapped in several layers of fuzzy fibres, making a person look like a less jolly Sta Puft man.

It’s not a lot to ask to want to look both presentable and be warm during the wintertime. Here are a few tips.

1) Take care of your bod. Your face is the one part of your body that will repeatedly be exposed – and the elements we are exposed to are harsh ones. Take your multivitamins, change to a richer moisturiser as the weather will dry out your skin and invest in a few hot oil treatments for your hair. A healthy, glowy person wrapped in a soiled blanket will look better than an unhealthy sniffling one in Burberry.

2) Embrace technology. More specifically, embrace the new generation of thermal underwear, which adds no bulk but is still soft, breathable and snuggly warm. Best of all – it’s available in most high-street stores.

3) Proportions are key. Wearing a lot on top? Keep it slim on the bottom. Skinny jeans (with thermal leggings underneath) tucked into mid-heeled ankle boots will nicely balance out whatever millefeuille duvet-like concoctions we can come up with.