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You're spoilt for choice this spring - from leafy florals to ladylike pastels - but if you can't decide what to wear, Lisa Armstrong has taken six themes from the catwalk and come up with some cool outfits for when the weather warms up.
BY Lisa Armstrong | 14 March 2012
First the good news: there are a lot of fabulous clothes around this season. And I'm not saying that because it's the kind of cheerleading expected from a fashion editor. Some summers come up with one trend and beat you round the head with it until you never want to see a peasant skirt/broderie anglaise top/gladiator sandal/or pair of skinny cargo pants that make your thighs look the size of Trinidad and Tobago ever again. This year, it's not like that. Allow me to introduce you to choice. From pastels to neon, lace to florals, floaty dresses to floppy masculine tailoring, comfortable flatforms to delicate looking sky-high heels, there's no shortage of it. And if colour really isn't your cup of tea, there's a monochrome option. And a tea-coloured one, come to that.
None of this is to say that, by July, a mono-theme won't have emerged on the streets. Last summer's was the pleated chiffon skirt, which didn't even originate on the catwalk but from the high-street chain Whistles. Back in January 2011, Whistles put 100 cyclamen-pink pleated midi-skirts in its Carrie Skirts - and saw the rest of the high street rush out its own versions.
This spring, in a satisfying display of upcycling, we see Prada doing a take on this trend: in the subtlest sugar almond shades…you pay your money and take your myriad choices. Mine would be to nip back to Whistles for the tribute of the tribute of the tribute, or to Topshop for its polka-dot interpretation - and wear it with a pair of Prada's incredible car-fender sandals, which, so far, haven't been replicated by the chain stores.
It's too early to say what this summer's sleeper hit will be, but the medium-range forecast looks good for printed trousers. There were certainly plenty of sightings in the front row at the shows recently. But there's still time for planning, list making and budget setting, which is half the pleasure of shopping. The high street is only now taking delivery of spring/summer looks. The catwalk pictures here present this season's six key trends, but they're meant to be guidelines rather than a mandate. Work round them loosely. Or let us work around them for you: we've been slaving for days to find the best individual pieces of the season.
By the time you're ready to invest, it should even be warm enough to wear some of your purchases. Take it from someone who has learnt the hard way: buying clothes to wear now is always far more satisfying than buying them to wear six months down the line.
Left to right: Jonathan Saunders spring/summer 2012. Jumper, £36, Topshop; topshop.com. Skirt, £25, Oasis; oasis-stores.com
Skirts are more decorative than ever. The jumper gets a make-over, too. Some are so fancy and shapely they're replacing jackets. So it's no longer just about the dress.
What to wear: a long jumper with a skirt is a cunning way to achieve a drop waisted look without having to splash out on a one-season only flapper dress.
Left to right: Marni spring/summer 2012. Trousers, £125, and top, £85, both Whistles; whistles.co.uk.
Leafy paisleys, black-and-white roses, 3D appliqués, in lace, chiffon and even rubber… eradicate all thoughts of milkmaid skirts and spriggy dresses. This year's florals might be beautiful and even romantic, but they're also bold, zingy and futuristic.
What to wear: ideally floral trousers - very now. But any floral item will look good if you can work in a flash of neon, metallics or even some clashing animal print. A dark background will add depth and ensure you can go on wearing this into autumn and beyond. Team with a neon, bright tote to add some punch.
Left to right: Louis Vuitton spring/summer 2012. Shoes, £210, Kurt Geiger; kurtgeiger.com. Shirt, £40, River Island; riverisland.com.
No sign of lace fading any time soon. Next winter's collections are full of it. One piece should easily suffice and while I hate to be bossy, never wear two pieces together unless they're part of an ensemble. More bossiness: either max out your budget on this one, buy vintage or be prepared to trawl the high street, which has a habit of producing some truly horrible cheap-looking lace. Not this shirt from Mango, though. It's a keeper.
What to wear: this shirt, with a trouser suit or patterned skirt, pastel cardigan and high-heeled patent shoe
Left to right: Peter Pilotto spring/summer 2012. Jumper, £480, Preen at my-wardrobe.com. Clutch, £231, D&G at stylebop.com.
African, animal or abstract, patterns remain a focus this summer. Clash away - once you start it becomes addictive - or demonstrate your restrain by lifting a black-and-white outfit with a zebra print belt or pair of shoes.
What to wear: a small printed bag or this Whistles top and trousers (and, yes, they look amazing worn together as a summer "suit").
Left to right: Prada spring/summer 2012. Blouse, £49.90, Massimo Dutti; massimodutti.com. Shoes, £60, River Island; riverisland.com.
While few of us can get away with mincing around like Betty Draper from Mad Men, a few elements from this trend work wonders.
What to wear: if you don't already own a pleated skirt from last summer, it could be that you're entirely resistant to this item's particular charms; agreed, there are issues relating to hips, and how big it can make them look. A slim straight or pencil skirt might be a more elegant option. Pastels are beautiful, but keep it sweet, rather than sickly, with a splash of black, white, midnight blue, coral or a short sharp shock of citrus. And don't stint on the killer heels.
Left to right: Roksanda Ilincic spring/summer 2012. Trousers, £248, See by Chloe at stylebop.com. Belt, £25, Kurt Geiger; kurtgeiger.com. Blazer, £34.99, Mango; mango.com.
So chic, so elegant and, in our climate, so pragmatic - what's not to like?
What to wear: any and all of it together, mismatched. Embrace this opportunity to wear wide, fluid trousers after years of skinny drainpipes. To prevent a sugar overload, limit yourself to one sherbet shade and mix with pale greys, white and taupe. The high street has some terrific pastel jackets this season. Look out for pale brogues, block-coloured flat sandals and velvet slippers. Nab yourself a pyjama-patterned silk blouse.