THE WINTER WHITE theme has been bubbling up in the fashion world for some time now, especially among luxury brands. But the fall 2014 catwalks were awash with it—Bottega Veneta, Isabel Marant and Chloé did it particularly well—which guaranteed that the real shops will be, too. The high street is really very good this season and that’s terrific news for anyone who wants to do white.
But be warned, wherever you wear your white/ecru/cream/ivory outfit, it’s guaranteed to suck up dirt like a Dyson. This is why women with limo-lives carefully fold their ivory skirts or coats before they allow the door to be closed behind them. And why their white trousers are paired with vertiginous heels.
This sort of fashion issue usually involves a church, a ring and a scary commitment; the difference being that we didn’t need the dress, the veil or the shoes for a serious business meeting the following week. And if the wedding dress got trashed—so what? You were only wearing it once (fingers crossed).
Wearing white as part of one’s regular wardrobe during the winter months requires a different form of commitment, otherwise known as the washing machine or dry cleaner. Don’t expect anyone—the waiter who accidentally steps on the hem of the coat you have carelessly thrown on the back of your chair, the woman on the subway who grazes your trousers with her wet shopping bag, or your teenage son who steps on your pristine white brogues—to make any apologies. After all, you were the one who chose to wear the most impractical color on the planet.
But the upsides outweigh the downsides. When you get white right, nothing else can come close to making the same impact, or making you look polished, fashion-forward and, frankly, rich.
This season, you can wear white on white (because fashion says it’s OK), though my preference would be to mix the tones so that you are wearing one bright white piece with other pared-down neutrals in off-white, ecru, cream, ivory or gray. You can use the gradations to play down the bits you might be less comfortable about. I would never wear a fitted white pant beyond August, but a baggy, high-waisted one, paired with a gray sweater and a cream coat? Maybe.
Faux fur is all over the shop. While this look is fine for a party or over a pair of jeans, don’t spend too much because next year, it will be so “last year.” Zara hits the spot with its chic round-neck coat in ecru (above, £90; zara.com ).
But if you really want to do white properly, the only choice is wool. For an affordable option, try Marks & Spencer ’s Speziale coat (£199; marksandspencer.com ). If you’re in the market for a true investment piece, put your money on Burberry. You’ll rarely make a better cost-per-wear buy than its single-breasted Chesterfield in white cashmere (£1,495; burberry.com ).
For a more casual look that takes advantage of fashion’s sporty edge, go for a parka. Whistles looks great right now; give its Harrison cropped parka a go with jeans, or over a pencil skirt for the office (£155; whistles.com ).
The easiest way to pull off winter white is to pair a white sweater or sweatshirt with ivory trousers. Sweatshirts like Jigsaw’s silk version (£89; jigsaw-online.com ) are perfect for a casual yet pulled-together vibe. But if going the sweater route, don’t go for the full Nordic fisherman look at work, or you’ll find yourself overheating by 10 a.m. Try light wool and cotton, like H&M ’s cable-knit sweater in natural white (£35; hm.com ).
Weekends are when you can really go overboard with the cream sweater vibe, but you’ll have to part with some cash for something that doesn’t look cheap. For the most bang for your buck, go with Isabel Marant’s Sao alpaca and wool-blend sweater (£515; net-a-porter.com ).
Where skirts are concerned, a cream or white A-line like Cos’s raw-cut flared skirt (right,£69; cosstores.com ), worn with a boxy top and a pair of flat boots or brogues will work day-to-evening. Casual but stylish office wear means there’s no excuse not to be dressed well enough in the day to seamlessly segue into a drinks party. If you want a punch of authority, pair a white pencil skirt like American Apparel ’s midlength Ponte (£36; americanapparel.net ) with a gray or black top and a moderate heel.
When it comes to pants, you’ll need a splash of cash to get the best cut. For an elegant silhouette, try Maison Martin Margiela MM6’s high-waisted trousers (£255; matchesfashion.com ). Or, if you’re feeling fashion-forward, go for Phillip Lim ’s skirt-pant combo (£515; net-a-porter.com ). Chic, understated but still unusual, you’d be hard pressed to find anything that works as well for the party season. Pair with a gray cashmere shell top.
The most refreshing thing about fashion’s new white obsession is the shoes. It probably has something to do with the prevailing “all sneakers all the time” trend, but nonetheless it’s lovely to have something other than black to wear on one’s feet during the dull winter months. In the interest of practicality, though, go for brogues that still have white—but as an accent. Pure white shoes and city streets do not a happy wearer make. Try Marc by Marc Jacobs ’ Clean Sexy black-and-white leather loafers (£280; matchesfashion.com ), or Dr Marten’s Phyllis tassel slip-on brogues (£160; drmartens.com ).