Does the mere thought of colour-blocking your clothes for summer remind you of earlier nightmares of being locked into the Early Learning Centre overnight and pelted by dozens of kids with multi-coloured bricks? Does clashing your florals make you feel more WI than gold medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show? Then join with me in celebrating the Royal Seal of Approval for the Little Grey Dress.
When the Duchess of Cambridge turned up at the Imperial War Museum at the end of last month wearing a £450 Amanda Wakeley charcoal dress, grown women across the UK breathed a sigh of relief. The dress even had sleeves, wonderful sleeves which, for those of us whose arms have seen better days, is enough to bring tears of happiness to the eyes.
Don’t misunderstand me: I’m no fashion luddite. I’ll happily team a printed blouse with a pencil skirt or a black top with tangerine tapered trousers. But there comes a moment when insisting on going the whole fashion hog marks you out as trying too hard, which is fine when you’re 17 or 27, but has the unfortunate whiff of desperation once you’re past 50.
For me, the Little Grey Dress has become as essential as the Little Black One. Which is how I come to have seven of them lined up in my wardrobe right now
The point is that by now you have hopefully developed your own style, not someone else’s, and are therefore more circumspect about your fashion choices. On the other hand, you don’t want to seem like a fashion dinosaur; which is why it’s good to have Kate Middleton batting for our side.
For me, the Little Grey Dress has become as essential as the Little Black One. Which is how I come to have seven of them lined up in my wardrobe right now. For several seasons grey has been ubiquitous, but this summer (perhaps the clairvoyants of couture foresaw that the greyest April on record would have us yearning for brights) it looked, from the fashion pages at least, that grey had been consigned to the fashion scrapheap.
Not so, partly thanks to the Duchess, but also to the cannier fashion houses, as my research has shown. Grey won’t be making fashion headlines, but wandering into Reiss – Kate’s spiritual home – I found seven eminently wearable versions of the LGD, from palest silver to mid-grey, in fabrics from linen to lace.
Online, at upmarket Net-a-Porter and at low-priced ASOS, the grey stock, by nature low-key, won’t shout at you from the home page, but when you key in grey as your colour choice, up it pops in abundance.
Grey is chic rather than fashionable, which suits me fine. Grey is always safe, but then I prefer to get my danger from climbing mountains than foraging through my wardrobe. Grey is flattering, from palest silver to darkest charcoal. The trick is to find the tone that best suits your skin tone and your hair. Even the grey-haired look good in grey.
And finally, grey is versatile – taking you from work to drinks to dinner with the barest switch of accessories. Silver even looks good on the mother of the bride: subtle, stylish and such a relief from lilac or peach.
Elegance is refusal, said Coco Chanel. A simple grey dress is all it takes…