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Why blue is the warmest colour when it comes to fashion

If there is one colour guaranteed to make my heart sing, it’s blue. I love blue deeply and with a passion: skies that are fresh baby blue at dawn, drifting into fathomless peacock as the sun dips; duck and blackbird eggs; lavender fields, coral seas, bluebells, airforce uniforms, French navy, cerulean, lapis, porcelain and pigeon’s feather. Blue is the colour of cranesbill, cornflower and forget-me-nots, of periwinkles and speedwell. The artist Thomas Gainsborough was so fond of blue that a particular shade of it is in almost every one of his portraits. I wonder if my devotion to blue is because – imagine I’m doing a mystical waggly finger thing here – my birth sign is one of the watery ones. This blue fixation lies at the heart of my feelings of profound bliss in the south of France, and in the blue town of Chefchaouen in Morocco and in my pleasure at the indigo clothing of “the Blue People”, the Tuareg. Blue, for me, is definitely the colour.

Contrary to its association with “blue” moods, blue lifts my spirits, calms my nerves and soothes. While I am always being told that any lipstick with a hint of blue in it will look dreadful – and it does – an actual true blue suits my paler, older complexion and continues to do so when I have been burnished by sun (especially if I have been in Morocco). It also suits my reddish, blondish, greyish hair. In fact, it suits my older self just as perfectly as it suited my younger self. Blue is multipurpose and universally perfect, and I will not hear a word said against it. Unless you’re talking about that violent shade of teal, the one that makes me think of train upholstery and is never a good thing. Or ghastly, hideous royal blue, a favourite of the mother-of-the-bride, and for which there can be no excuse. Horrible, both of them.

'Mamma Mia!' film - 2008
Too blue? Meryl Streep’s dungarees in Mamma Mia!

Photograph: c.Universal/Everett / Rex Featur

On the subject of colour generally, I often feel we are better off with a clear, bright pop of something – a sharp, vivid red, a citrusy lime, a flash of fuchsia. Perhaps that is why I have such feelings of loathing about teal and royal blue? My theory (don’t I always have a theory?) is that colours with a shot of “mud” in the spectrum are too heavy, too brutal and too unforgiving of my older face and colouring and they weigh me down. This is as opposed to neutrals, which are often – but not always – mud- or fog-coloured and extremely useful. Neutrals can be accessorised out of the doldrums with a fresh white shirt, a bright lipstick, shoes or bag. I suppose you will either get that or you won’t. How about if I describe my feeling when I have worn something burgundy as the same feeling I have after two helpings of Christmas pudding – might that help? Heavy, half asleep, dull – all of those. I want to feel awake and vital, and blue does that perfectly. Blue props me up.

Denim is blue, of course, and in every conceivable shade. Yes, I love denim, too, but I like my denim to be a bit worn and faded, although this might be a throwback to my formative years in the 70s. I cannot bear new dark blue jeans, and what about those people who iron their jeans? No, jeans must be trampled and soaked, beaten up and cruelly ill-treated before wear, and my most favourite jeans are of the battered “boyfriend” type – the ones that look slightly mannish, jeans that I can wear with anything and dress up or down. When I say “dress up” I mean they can go with a more formal top half, perhaps a blazer/shirt combo, or with my bluey, stripy, faded old Zara jacket, a silk blouse and one – or two – of my silk flowers on the lapel (see my previous column). I don’t think I would do double denim (too juvenile), but I would put a denim jacket over a dress, probably even a cocktail dress if it worked.

And while we’re on the subject of denim, what are your thoughts on dungarees? Would you? Would you really? I used to love dungarees until I saw Meryl Streep in that benighted film, Mamma Mia! and decided they had become a cipher for a particular type of “kookie” middle-aged female character beloved of the entertainment industry. My dungarees are now gathering moths and dust in the bottom of the wardrobe. The only thing wrong with that is my confident statement that most things can be worn whatever your age just as long as you do it right – playful and stylish with a modicum of dignity. Perhaps that’s what’s wrong with teal and royal blue – they’re all dignity and no fun – or perhaps I’m just not giving them a chance. What do you think?

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