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50 fashion questions you should be asking right now

Guardian Unlimited
50 fashion questions you should be asking right now

Stumped by spring's new clothes? Fashion expert Mimi Spencer has set up, a website dedicated to answering those conundrums of style that can keep a girl awake at night. Here, she explains what to buy and what not to wear this season

1. What colour should I wear?

It's a Crayola moment, so crawl out from that dark, comfortable place and get a load of brights. Fuchsia is the hottest colour to wear - it should feel like a stab in the eye - as seen at Burberry, Preen, Stella McCartney, Versace, Celine, Balmain, Giambattista Valli... are you still there? Well, you get the message. If heavy pink is not your bag, azure (aka ultra-blue) is a pretty close second, followed by canary yellow (best at Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren and Roksanda Ilincic - though you should scoop up the Miss Selfridge sheer yellow blouse, £30, or the French Connection banana- coloured dress, £130. Fast).

2. What shall we do with the drunken sailor?

Wait till he passes out and then nick his clothes. The nautical theme has bobbed up yet again. You'll have seen the sailor chic at Chanel, the anchors away at Sportmax, the yo-ho pirates at Jean Paul Gaultier. Stella McCartney even did dolphin prints, bless her eco-friendly socks. So, look out for wide-leg, button-front trousers (great at Urban Outfitters), stripes, brass buttons, naval-style jackets and maritime dresses (best at Gap). Or just head to Oasis for the striped jacket and white sailor pants.

3. What's the most ethical thing I can do this spring?

Three things: a) Take a load of old clothes into M&S and get a £5 voucher to spend on lovely new stuff. Marks & Spencer and Oxfam have joined forces to launch the Clothes Exchange, to get us to recycle our clothes. Customers making a donation of M&S clothes to Oxfam will receive a £5 voucher, valid for one month, to use with your next purchase (as long as it's £35 or more); b) Invest in TV presenter and all-round It Stick Alexa Chung's new skeleton jewellery collection for Made, the Kenyan fairtrade company, at; c) Say no to plastic bags. China is, so why not you?

4. Less or more?

Definitely more this season. And then a bit more. Gone are the days of a single, stark, chic dress being all you need to get through the day. This spring is all fiddle and faddle - overblown corsages, great regiments of cuffs marching up your forearm, important jewellery, complicated shoes. If you're debating whether to wear that Masai chest plate, we say, hell yeah.

5. How many shoulders do I need this season?

One! Have a look at the Roksanda Ilincic's yellow dress or a coral one-shoulder frock at Reiss, £159. Nice, eh? Or, if you want all of spring's key trends wrapped up into one tidy little package, buy the Oasis one-shoulder dip-dye floaty dress with corsage detail.

6. What kind of moment are we having?

Ah, good use of your fashion lexicon, my friend. Since you ask, it's a Biba and Ossie Clark moment. According to, it's an 'early 70s, Art Nouveau-ish-tripping off into the kind of tendrilly doodles girls used to scrawl on their bedroom walls after studying their hippie-romantic rock album covers' kind of time, as seen at Prada. Rather neatly, the Ossie Clark label is relaunched this year by fashion tycoon Marc Worth, with ex-Donna Karan designer, Avsh Alom Gur.

We're also having a Studio 54 moment (again!) - which translates as a late 70s sleek redux. You'll need high waistlines, great tailoring, high heels, silky blouses and bouncy hair, as shown at Michael Kors, Versace and Fendi - and as echoed at River Island, Jaeger and Topshop. It owes a lot to YSL - you'd do well to grab yourself a tux or a tuxedo scarf with a flirtatious fringe. A safari jacket would be a huge plus. Commune with your inner Jerry Hall: invest in a chic white trouser suit, a DVF wrap dress, a Lurex sweater, headscarf and aviator shades. New Look's grey waistcoat and trouser suit is a good place to start.

7. What are the wrong trousers?

None of them - they are all good to go. Wide-legged are better, but only if you are willowy and lanky. Coming up on the inside track, and certain to be a hit by this time next week, are cropped and skinny pants, as seen at Prada, £270. So, you can go ultra-wide, or tapered at the ankle, you can even wear those drop-bottom harem pants, as seen at Armani and Givenchy... This, dear reader, is a season of opposites - though don't try wearing them at the same time.

8. Am I tailored and tight or loungey and loose?

Both. Tailoring is still pivotal this season, but you need to relax. Really.

9. What's the top jacket for spring?

Shove your swing jacket to the back of your wardrobe; that whole triangle shape has collapsed like a house of cards. What you need now - and I mean need, because this little belter works just as well with jeans as it does with dresses, shorts and miniskirts - is a down-sized boyfriend jacket. If you can afford it, bag a classic designer version from Stella McCartney or Yves St Laurent. River Island has nailed it on the high street.

10. Are sheer tights really in? (Groan)

Yes, but you can ignore fashion dictates. That's why it's all such fun.

11. What's the biggest 'stayer' of the season?

If you want to rely on what you've already got, rootle around in the nether world of your closet and surface with a trench coat. This is a permatrend, a wardrobe staple, and it has been knocking around for so long that you simply have to have one. If you want the updated version, get yours in electric blue from M&S Limited Edition, £69.

12. What's the top print for spring?

I'm always perplexed by our wish to wear exactly the same print as everyone else. I'd rather buck the trend, which is why I shan't be wearing any star prints this spring. I won't buy the YSL-style star-print blouse at New Look. I won't pop into Topshop for the black star-print dress which has already sold out several times over. I say: No to House of Fraser's Therapy star-print dress, £35; stop it to Kate Moss at her birthday party, wearing Chanel's starry chiffon affair; and absolutely no way to the River Island star top. You can though.

13. OK, heels: wedge? platform? flattie?

Remarkably, the platform heel remains the foundation for your feet this summer. This means you probably already own a pair. If you don't, stomp off to Gap for the £55 wooden-soled platforms designed by Pierre Hardy (he does Balenciaga's shoes too). If platforms don't appeal, the important factor for footwear this spring is a general mood of frivolity and nonsense. Your heels must be surreal. They're all curved and sculpted, inspired by the goings-on at Prada, Miu Miu and Marc Jacobs.

14. Do I really have to wear knee-high socks?

Nope. Next question.

15. So do I need to take out a second mortgage for shoes?

No, the high street has some mad styles that the fashion editors are already putting their names on. And you, too, should consider purchasing some seriously nutty shoes - try the leather, wood and metal platform at Faith, £70 - or the tan, beige and blue leather plattie sandal at Aldo, £70. If you want the toned-down version, pick up a pair of cone heels at Kurt Geiger or, our favourites, a brilliant pair of red and black patent cone heel courts, £60, from Topshop. If your shoes aren't remarked upon by strangers, you're missing the point.

16. What should I buy right now, today?

I'd get a silk corsage - one of those flower ensembles that sits smugly on your lapel. They'll be ubiquitous as soon as the Sex and the City movie hits the screens, so beat the crowds and get yours now. If you're looking for more ouch-hot style tips, watch Gossip Girls, the tale of three New York fashionisties. It starts on ITV2 next month.

17. Is tie-dye really hot?

Yes, but do please call it 'ombre', the fashion world's word to describe colour bleeding or dip-dyeing. It's set to be a huge trend for spring, having appeared on the catwalks at Luella, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Alberta Ferretti and Jonathan Saunders. Prada's also done it on handbags (those crazy dudes). What you don't want is the 'I've-been-to-Womad-and-it-rained' look, and don't, please, do it yourself in the bath. We're loving the dip-dye Minnie Mouse heels with bow-tie at Topshop, £75 and New Look's dip-dye maxi dress, £35. For something a bit more flash, go for Massimo Dutti's one-shoulder dress, £89.

18. I fear sheer is here

Yes, it's back - the most ludicrous fashion idea since the emperor got a new suit. Sheer was shown all over the shop at the collections - best at Alexander McQueen, Chloé, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Jil Sander (where there were fetching clouds of puffed net). The way to wear it is in fine, gauzy layers, trying your damnedest to keep your nipples under wraps. If you're in confident mood, you could always drop the layers and go for broke; you'll be needing a washboard stomach to achieve this look, mind. And a contract with Select models.

19. What, exactly, is a tea dress?

It's the dress you'll be wearing in a month or so, mark my words. The tea dress is one of those oddities of style - it has filtered into fashion speak without a specific nailed-down meaning. You can take it to be a chiffonny, floaty, printy sort of dress, cinched at the waist, with a run of little buttons up the back, and perhaps a puff of sleeve - the kind of dress you'd wear to picnic with teddy bears in the woods. Find your inner girl and take her out to tea. Look for delicate feminine patterns, tiny buttons and a knee-length hem. Wear it now with thick tights and a cashmere cardigan, then go barelegged when the sun finally emerges. Miss Selfridge and Topshop have the best selection on the high street, though New Look's chiffon rose dress may well be the one to bag, £28.

20. Where's my waist?

High. Sigh.

21. What's the top high-street buy?

I would rush straight out and buy the Marimekko prints at H&M when they arrive in store. This is a collaboration with the Finnish textile house which specialised in bold, graphic patterns in the 60s and 70s (Jackie O was a big fan). Now H&M has raided the archives to produce vintage-look tops and dresses, in store from April.

22. Which bag?

Ah, now you're talking. The terrier-like eyes of the fashion pack are currently trained on Loewe, where Stuart Vevers, late of Mulberry, is now ensconced. If you want to queue for an It Bag, it's still the Anya Hindmarch Lautner (go and have a swish around her new flagship stores on Sloane and Bond Streets). Or you could go for a vanity case, as seen at Louis Vuitton. On the budget tip, take a look at River Island's new bag collection. Let me tell you: You. Are. Going. To. Love... the PU woven trim bag, £39.99 (see

23. The fashion ed's best buy??

Aldo's platform sandals, £70.

24. OK, but what about a truly bonkers bag?

You could go for the DIY Fendi Baguette, which comes with its own set of Pantone marker pens so you can decorate it yourself in an idle moment between ignoring your credit-card statements and worrying about your debt mountain (it's £615). The other key element to remember is that evening bags are generally finding themselves out in daylight; the clutch and the evening envelope are very much lunchtime options, despite their obvious handicap in the usefulness department. The most dishy right now are the Jimmy Choo Magazine clutch bags, designed by artist Richard Phillips. They're called Riot and Nuclear and cost £295. Personally, though, I'm jonesing for a Prada Illustration bag. Aren't you?

25. What, exactly, is a Glamazon?

Whoever she is, she's back. This season, it's not about the ingénue, or the hippie boho - no, the woman of the moment is unbelievably glamorous. She sweeps into a room, great clouds of chiffon and organza billowing in her wake. If you had to put your finger on it, your finger would land on Lanvin.

26. What label will make me look, like, totally cool?

Chloë Sevigny's new line for cult New York boutique Opening Ceremony, of course. Chloë, intuitive style guru and inventor of many a controversial red-carpet ensemble, claims the clothes are 'mix-and-match, day-to-night... something quirky, something different'. Her personal favourite? A pair of gingham trousers!

27. Should I truffle out a ruffle? Or are they just awful?

Oh do stop with your word games. Ruffles are the unlikely decorative choice this season, as seen at Christopher Kane, Burberry, Giles and Lanvin. So I suggest you prepare to flounce. Miss Selfridge has gone big on blouses (the cream ruffled raw-edged silk one is jolly nice, £40), but if you want to hit this one running, go for a flamenco ruffle dress. If you could have it all, it would be from Burberry, but I'd settle for a chiffon ruffle dress at Topshop, £65. Or the multi-ruffle tiered skirt, £45 at Warehouse.

28. I've heard the toga is back! True?

Well, silk jersey was draped in a Grecian manner at Preen, Aquascutum, Versace, and Gucci, where things got very I Claudius. The asymmetric, fluid draped mini dress at Hermès was, fittingly enough, divine.

29. Which label am I about to love?

You and the rest of the style world. It has to be Halston. The first catwalk show for this rebirthed label was last week - and you'll soon be able to watch Halston: The Movie. Think wow dresses and the kind of outfits that demand a Martini on a silver salver. Or sneak off to Topshop and buy up Richard Nicoll's designs. He's set to be the toast of this London Fashion Week.

30. If I buy one thing tomorrow, what should it be?

You need a print. Florals were all over the catwalks - few designers forgot to do them. Some of the best were at Stella McCartney and Balenciaga. Look for abstract prints (as at Sportmax, Gucci, Chloe, Fendi, Lacroix and the rejuvenated Aquascutum); illustrative prints (as at Miu Miu) - or the delightful faerie queen prints, hand-painted at Prada, Roberto Cavalli and Dries van Noten. The season is feminine to a fault, so get used to these romantic, painterly strokes. Get ready to waft.

31. How do I disguise a big bottom?

Have you thought about a false moustache and a pair of comedy spectacles?

32. Do I really need a new dress?

The short answer is yes. If you don't fancy the tea dress, the options are many. The most forgiving replacement for last summer's smock is the cocoon dress - at Aquascutum, Gap, and at Reiss. For ease, go for a knee-length jersey dress - it could be draped, it could be straight. Whack on a belt and a chunky necklace and you're done. If you have to pick The One, make it Christopher Kane's bodice-fronted, full-skirted dress at Topshop £85.

33. What about skirts then?

Aha. It's all about puff. You should float on a cloud of fabric, a bit like the models did at Dolce & Gabbana. Whatever you go for - frilled like Luella's, perhaps, or the Wonderland Red Queen at Giles - the idea is that your skirt is a statement piece. It's no time to hide it under the table; get out there and dance.

34. Can I get away with a miniskirt?

If you have to ask, you already know the answer. Trousers can be very nice.

35. Which designers make clothes for the larger figure?

Ooh, there was someone. Hang on, let me think. Erm. What was his name? No, it's gone. Can I get back to you on this one? In the meantime, I suggest you put down that packet of chocolate HobNobs.

36. What's the best news about spring fashion?

It has to be the secret return of the boot-cut jean. You know you loved them. You know they loved you. Well, here's the scoop: 18th Amendment boot-cuts are the jeans to snaffle up - £165 at The waistband is high, which is what marks them out from their long-gone hipster cousins.

37. What does tribal/folkloric/global mean? Are they just a bunch of words?

Yes. It's really all the bits and bobs that fashion editors didn't know what to do with when they got to the end of editing their catwalk reports. New Look has even made a dress out of all the off-cuts - see its 'folk' dress with pailettes and fringed hem, £38.

38. Which addiction should I see to this season?

Ditch the lip balm. It is a pernicious and addictive vice. Help yourself at; says the site 'our primary purpose is to stay free from lip balm and to help others achieve the same freedom'. Mwah mwah to that.

39. What is 'It' Jewellery?

Anything you can spot from the doorway, when it's seated at the back of the room. It matters little what 'It' is - pearls, beads, crystal, chains, jet, jade, the lot - just make it big, bold and beautiful. Go for cuff on cuff (as seen at Marni and Pucci), stacks of bangles, a host of brooches. And if you're lost for inspiration, go chav and wear pikey gold hoop earrings like Amy Winehouse.

40. Where should my belt be?

In the middle, cinched tight, in the manner of, erm, Amy Winehouse. From there, your skirt can swirl or slink; you choose.

41. Leopard print - vulgar, no?

Maybe, but it's biggish news this season, so you must find a way to wear it. Generally speaking, tarty 'n' trashy fabrics work best when fashioned into prissy pieces. This is how they are rendered chic. See PPQ's knee-length A-line leopard-print skirts for further details.

42. Nails: blue, right?

Yes. Chanel's Blue Satin is already sold out and going large on eBay.

43. Will I wear a jumpsuit?


44.Handbag: massive tote or little clutch?

Actually, it's the massive clutch - as seen at Chloé and Fendi. For a smaller, cheaper but equally woo-hoo alternative, go to River Island for the metallic or fake-snake clutch, £24.99. While you're there, pick up the multi-coloured 'ghetto' snakeskin tote with zips... and the, um, tie-dye leather clutch...

45. What do I wear with my pretty floral tea dress? Clumpy platforms and a waistcoat (the white one at Wallis, £35, is fab).

46. How big should my bangles be?

Huge. Enormous. Giant.

47.Which beach sandal?

The gladiator hangs in there. Weird, eh?

48. What should I dump?

Trilbies, polka-dots, power-dressing, sequins, swing coats, those ridiculous shiny leggings (what were you thinking?), body con, big shoulders, little black dresses (they need to be bright, you divot), slogan T-shirts, little leather jackets... did I miss anything?

49. Can I wear my old maternity frocks again this summer?

Shame on you. Last year's smocks should be binned or burned.

50. Who's going to rock London Fashion Week?

Expect great things at Biba today, a good follow-up to last season's cracking collection at Jaeger (also today), a whole heap o' goodness at House of Holland, something special from Gareth Pugh and Giles. Oh, there's just a real ton of talent. There'll be wicked things at Aquascutum, and Marios Schwab is now established as a leading light in the London calendar. Luella's showing in London again - and keep your focus on Richard Nicoll. Buy, buy!

PS Has Kate Moss hit the mutton button yet?

P**s off and pour me another Old Jamaica Light Ginger Beer cocktail.

· Mimi Spencer has a style column in You magazine every Sunday