PHOTO: Garance Dore, left, and Anna Dello Russo
While I'm not going to begin to liken Mr. Dickens' literary classic to the fickle world of fashion, I do think the notion of opposites is an ever-present one in the case of style. On a daily basis I swing from wanting to be an uber-stylish continental with a wardrobe made up entirely of grey, navy, cream and camel who can put together an impeccably stylish outfit at the drop of an impeccably stylish hat (yet to find one of those on me....) and then the next minute I want to imitate Anna Dello Russo (technicolour editor-at-large of Vogue Japan if you're not acquainted) who mostly looks like Jackson Pollack, Andy Warhol and Barbie all threw up after a trip to the Skittles factory. And that analogy comes from a place of utter adoration I can assure you.
How does one put together a wardrobe that satisfies both ends of the spectrum; classic and muted, bright and interesting? By the way if you are looking for the answer to that question I don't have it so you may want to start reading someone else's blog....What I do know however is that life is too short not to do a bit of both. The brands that come to mind when thinking of nailing this story of contrasts are undoubtedly European and most likely Italian. The Italians do a fabulous job of creating beautifully tailored stylish clothing on one side of the street and then cross over and you've got pink zebra print and bags made to look like McDonald's fries boxes. For every Armani and Bottega Veneta, there's a Versace and Moschino. I'm on the hunt for my perfect high street pairing which will bring me both class and a slight touch of the gauds. My top pick for the elegant option is Zara's understated older sibling, Massimo Dutti. There is just something about Massimo Dutti that screams stylish. Unfortunately it can also scream underwhelming but then you don't always want to stop buses in your outfit.
Here are my current favourites from the understated Massimo Dutti:
Houndstooth suit £203.95 - There is something very stylish about a suit you can wear with trainers without channelling Melanie Griffith from Working Girl and this one pulls it off beautifully. Both pieces can be worn separately without looking like they need the other. Dress the jacket up with leather skinny trousers or a lace skirt and dress the trousers with anything you fancy.
Suede skirt £229 - Suede is the epitome of luxurious fabrics as it is incredibly difficult to wash. My advice, keep it dark and hopefully no one will notice if you spill your prosecco down it. It is also very warm so it is ideal for winter. Mix up your textures within the same colour palette to create a more interesting yet classic look - silk, suede, wool, leather, tweed, velvet, etc.
Wine tuxedo cardigan £54.95 - Any shade of red is going to earn you fashion points this season and this slinky cardi is just gorgeous. It also comes in black if red is just a step too far for you.
Grey merino jumper £54.95 - This jumper isn't going to set fire to any small countries let alone the world but knitwear is a staple and this is beautifully made (note: do make sure you can differentiate your classic v-neck from your child's school jumper in the airing cupboard - saves for a lot of embarrassment on both parts.)
Lace trim dress £149 - don't be put off, I am not going to suggest wearing this on it's own, heaven forbid, but add a sweater over this and you'll capture the insouciance of a young Jane Birkin. Some ankle boots will toughen it up and take it into autumn. You could also layer a top underneath.
Lace trim silk camisole £44.95 - this is one luxurious piece of clothing. I'm never quite sure this doesn't look like my undies but it does pair nicely with the grey merino v-neck and a pair of slightly distressed jeans. The secret here is to dress it down so you don't look like you're doing the walk of shame at the school gates.
Woven leather bag £179 - If one is going to pull off the classic look then there must be a brown leather bag involved somewhere. Personally I prefer to inject a little colour into my look with my handbag but this one has a hint of the Bottega Venetas about it and is a terrific price for the craftsmanship.
On the flip side of the coin I have gone for J Crew as my slightly crazy colourful choice. Now one could argue that J Crew do offer traditional cuts and styles but I'm sorry no self-respecting classic design house would have a bright green silk pyjama top with pink tigers on it in their collection - which I LOVE by the way....
So now for the rainbow brights - please feel free to wear all of these at the same time:
Majesty peacoat £298 - This coat comes in a host of fabulous colours and it is a great shape for those who are smaller on top. Do up those buttons and get yourself all cosy for the winter.
Pyjama top in Green Bengal Tiger £198 - And here is said pyjama top. What a riot of wonderful colour. Don't forget the matching trousers!!! I actually think this would look rather lovely with blue jeans and the navy Massimo Dutti lace camisole underneath.
Corduroy Campbell blazer £168 - a brightly coloured blazer should be a stalwart of everyone's wardrobe in my opinion as it doesn't require any more thought than jeans/plain trousers, white top, done. I will just say bright colours are better paired with navy rather than black to stop them looking cheap.
Leopard Tippi sweater £89.50 - For me an outfit just isn't complete without some element of leopard print. I think it lifts any look from fine to fabulous. This jumper is universally flattering in its shape and colour. Pop a white or denim shirt underneath and team with jeans or maroon skinny trousers (if you don't have some, get some).
Cigarette pant in foulard jacquard £118 - Print trousers are great for those who wish to disguise any lumps and bumps below the waist as they confuse the eye and have a fabulous slimming effect.
Charlie tassel loafer £198 - If animal print is a touch too much for you then introducing it in your accessories is the way to go. Either a shoe or a belt will add interest to your look without overpowering it. I would wear these shoes with the leopard jumper myself - after all, you always see snakes and leopards hanging out together in the jungle.....
Cherry print popover shirt £88 - It's got cherries on it. I don't need to say anything else.
I think everyone's wardrobe should be made up of opposites. It would be incredibly dull if we looked the same every day. In fact every aspect of our lives should have both the yin and the yang. After all, we can only truly appreciate one side of the coin when we have fully immersed ourselves in the experiences given by the other. So before I leave you to go and order the cherry print shirt I have one thing left to say; Life is short, wear leopard print.