Let's talk about pastels - lemon sorbets, lilacs, blush pinks, pistachio, sugar-almond blue and powdery purples. All sounds a little sickly, doesn't it? You see, pastels scare most of those among us over 20. There is a bubblegum kind of girlishness lurking that tends to turn away those who want to be taken a little more seriously.
Yet the bottom line is that they sell like hotcakes; or perhaps I should say macaroons. It seems to have sprung from nowhere, perhaps in the dead of night or when we were focusing on trying to make oversized menswear work for us. Who knows when it happened? What we do know, however, is that while 2012 was all about austere structure, before we knew it we were smack bang in the middle of a wardrobe that teen Barbie would give a right tooth for - a sweet, sartorial tooth perhaps, but one sprinkled with spearmint, fondant pink and baby blue. If there was ever any confusion, the runways were bursting with offerings from the likes of Erdem, Christopher Kane, Mulberry, and, later, at Fendi, Prada, Sonia Rykiel and Valentino.
But you know what? This whole whimsical offering doesn't have to be so bad. What's so wrong with a season that is, dare I say it, female-friendly? We won't exactly be raising the fashion stakes or causing a riot with butter yellow, but summer is set to be a softer, more ethereal season, so let's not fight it.
Pastels can be pretty without being saccharine; we simply need to challenge the debutante-like connotations. Start small, with flashes such as a chiffon scarf paired with black or navy or a high-waisted skirt. Pastels will also work well with other neutrals if you want to ease into the trend. Cream, light grey, white or whatever you have already in your wardrobe will all complement nicely.
If soft and feminine pieces are giving you a headache, go for tougher fabrics with a little more bite, such as anything metallic or even leather. Take a cue from the Givenchy spring/summer 2012 show by pairing a pair of slim-cut jeans in a steel grey or black with a loose silk chiffon oversized shirt.
The trick is in accessorising; an area that we have to be a little braver in than normal. There are two ways to do so. Firstly, to stay clear of anything with a hard contrast or strong lines, instead going for pale tones that work in harmony, grey suede, a light tan or pastels in a differing shade; think whimsical rather than austere. The second, and my personal preference, is to do quite the opposite and offset with something harder, such as black leather or even patent that will ramp things up a gear and provide the unexpected.
Another clever trick is to pair your pastel with an intensified version of itself, so as to complement without appearing too "put together" - powder blue paired with sky blue, baby-doll pink with scarlet, etc. Opt for colourful shoes this summer, rather than the somewhat staid nude court, with a dusty-pink flat or a soft-yellow peep-toe sandal.
There are also some fantastic, thick-rimmed retro shades around in lavender or peach from the likes of Prada and Dolce & Gabbana, if you want to play around with the trend. The best thing is that pastels can be carried through to a winter wardrobe with ease. All sleeveless tops need is to play with a few layers, and skirts can be paired with a pair of black tights to give a nod to a more 1960s aesthetic.
So there you have it: a way to wear pastels without losing your dignity. Regardless, there is nothing wrong with viewing life through a pair of rose-tinted spectacles every so often.
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