On the day after lockdown 2.0 was lifted, I met a friend for coffee. The rain was horizontal, her wedding had been cancelled for the second time and my hot water had stopped working, so it is safe to say neither of our moods were particularly cheerful.
But we managed to find a cafe with a heated terrace and when we took our coats off, discovered we were both dressed in the sort of clothes you would wear to a spring wedding in the Sicilian hills, rather than to sit on a damp pavement in south London in December.
I went pink in a candyfloss-coloured top from & Other Stories with an oversized collar and puff sleeves (£55) that I bought mostly because it reminded of a smocked dress I wore to my sixth birthday party. Over a poloneck, she was wearing a tangerine orange silk tunic from Joseph that looked equally out of place on the grey streets, like someone had mistakenly transported her to Stockwell from 1950s Tangiers.
A year ago, I doubt either of us would have been dressed in such bubblegum or citrusy shades on a distinctly wintery morning. But this winter more than ever, brightly coloured clothes feel important because they are capable of giving you a lift - and the sales reflect that.
“In these challenging times of uncertainty and fear choosing to wear bright colours can instantly boost our moods and help us to feel happier and more optimistic,” says psychologist Jules Standish. “Colour and light are vital for our well-being, especially in the darker months, because of the positive effects they can have on us physically, emotionally and psychologically.”
My & Other Stories top never fails to get a compliment and has been one of the brand’s recent best-sellers, making it into a variety of national magazines and getting a splashy Instagram campaign of its own. A bright pink shirt from Spanish brand La Veste (£130) with scarlet piping also sold out days after its first release but now is back and more popular than ever.
And when it comes to coats, it is the colourful shades that are flying off the shelves as people try to glam up the only item of clothing anyone beyond their own household will see in the coming weeks. So instead of practical, opt for a bit of joy in this winter – be it a dusky pink coat from Jigsaw(£137) or a turquoise one from M&S (£59) – as it really does add instant character to a rainy-day look. Shape-wise, most women look best in something straight and belted as flounces and colour don’t tend to go together.
The key here is to go for edible colours: think lemon yellow, mint green, candyfloss pink and tangerine orange. Citrusy shades in particular have been a staple since September - both on the runways at Versace, 3.1 Phillip Lim, and Bottega Veneta, and in stores at Boden and John Lewis, which have released lots of jumpers, dresses and coats in grapefruit, clementine and lime.
“Brands shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking everyone wants to dress in grey forever,” Anita Balchandani, a partner at McKinsey focusing on fashion. “People want to bring colour back and loungewear is becoming more luxurious as people fulfil the need for self expression from home. Just because we’re living through a pandemic doesn’t mean glamour has to die.”
Wearing optimistic shades during what has been a pessimistic time is really all about what you style them with. Pair a sky-blue Uterque skirt (£59) with knee-high leather boots and a dark brown poloneck for a hit of colour that feels seasonally appropriate.
If you don’t want to update your entire wardrobe, follow Sarah Jessica Parker’s lead instead. The actress was spotted out and about in New York a hot pink mask and heels - and while I’m still not sure about matchy-matchy accessories, I do like the idea of brightly coloured mask, like these ones from Etsy.
In fact, the accessories world is your brightly coloured oyster: instead of traditional black or brown, swap your scarf for something flamboyant - try a lime one from M&S (£9.75) - or your hat for this turquoise number from Paul Smith (£100).
Although if there is one style icon in particular who made dopamine dressing work on a freezing winter morning, it was the Queen, whose cheerful pale blue dress couldn't have been better timed at her Zoom event in early December. Smiling over a television screen, the 94-year-old monarch looked positively spring-like on a cold winter day - a reminder that fashion still has the power to make us feel warm, whatever the weather and national mood.