How To Dress: The Future's Orange

Ila Orange Blossum Candle

Let's be honest: if you're trying to look chic, orange is not the first colour you turn to.

That would be black, obviously. Or maybe navy, if you're having a bit of a modern-Parisian moment. Possibly chilli red for feistiness. Or even pale pink or pale blue for high-maintenance chic. But not orange.

Orange is the only colour we routinely use as an aesthetic insult. "She's a bit… orange" is the modern Mitford gal's put-down of someone who has been a little overenthusiastic with the St Tropez – not quite one of us, darling, goes the subtext. And yet the tide of fake-tan orange creeps ever forward. The comedy-bronzed look that is a key identifier of the Towie/MIC tribe may be the butt of our jokes, but that hasn't stopped millions of us embracing fake tan to a lesser degree. We are becoming incrementally more orange. These days, skimmed-milk pallor is a fashion statement rather than a fact of life.

I think it may be precisely because looking orange is still a bit non-U and we are in denial about our feelings on the subject that our secret lust for the colour is being expressed through fashion. Orange is suddenly every catwalk's go-to bright. Pink, which was rather cutting edge for a while, is boring again and orange is where it's at.

Orange, unlike pink, is a unisex colour, so it makes sense that this would happen now, while fashion is having a collared-shirts-and-tailoring, mannish-chic moment. Admittedly, women being the brave pioneers of every fashion front, you'd be hard pressed to find any men wearing orange, except for those required by industry regulations to wear hi-vis jackets, which I don't think we can count. Still, orange works best as a slightly androgynous colour. (A sexy orange cocktail dress is a tricky balancing act to pull off, although that hasn't stopped Donatella Versace over the years.)

What goes with orange? Navy, which adds a welcome touch of chic, is worth a try. But truly, you can't go wrong with black. The Jaffa Cake, after all, is one guilty pleasure you are allowed to own up to.

• Jess wears jumper, £21, by Fearne Cotton for

Jeans, £176, by Frame at Heels, £670,

Photograph: David Newby. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Hair and makeup: Dani Richardson using Lancôme.

Powered by article was written by Jess Cartner-Morley, for The Guardian on Friday 8th February 2013 16.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010