An unseasonably cold spring has played havoc with everything from lambing to the amount of people waiting at the doctors.
But there's another casualty yet to be addressed – our wardrobes. While fashion seasons are always a bit out of kilter with real life – winter coats reach stores in July – 2013's cold snap has given way to new style challenges. By now, usually, we'd all be assessing the possibility of skirts sans opaques (hello, legs!) and gingerly testing new spring trends. Instead, we're reaching for that favourite jumper again. So, the question arises, how do you shop for new clothes in this weather – when stores are full of light layers, bright colours and flimsy dresses but you're still wearing your coat to watch TV? Despite the weather, some trends are emerging. Here are the early frontrunners of a new season or, to put it another way, the buys that will work for now – and, shock horror, when the temperatures finally do start to rise.
The special skater
The skater dress – all flippy skirt and vest-type top – is a favourite of style luminaries from Chloë Sevigny to Rochelle from the Saturdays. It's also on the catwalk at Holly Fulton. The shape looks set to become a summer dress staple – especially when dressed up in special fabrics, or given a boost of embellishment. Whistles' neon-pink jacquard leopard has been popular, as have the limited-edition styles at Topshop – complete with Strictly Ballroom-ish beading. Handily, they look just as good with opaque tights. You might want to invest in some new ones, though – the pair you bought back in October is probably a bit sad by now.
A cheery jumper
The cheat to cheer yourself up on a cold morning? Colour. While a bright T-shirt would probably still mean goosepimples (never a good look), cheery jumpers are a savvy solution. Both H&M and Matches have sold lots of them. To ring the changes, move on from primaries. A sort of chartreuse is emerging as the shade of choice, but coral and sea green also work. For extra points, make your new sweater cotton – that way, it will work as a coverup when nights get chilly at the summer BBQ. We realise that that scenario seems like an impossibility at the moment, but one can dream.
While thermalwear sales are up 781% at Marks & Spencer – there may not be a more depressing fashion stat than that – take heart. People are buying clothes you can see, as well as longjohns. Enter this quilted, belted jacket – OK, warmth is a factor but the Barbour-like shape is classic and one that you'll wear again and again. The Duchess of Cambridge wore a similar style on a recent trip to Scotland and M&S is doing a swift trade in the aubergine colourway. It makes sense – a subtle twist such as a new colour is enough to make you smile when you're still wearing your coat this much.
Matchy matchy outfits
At last week's Bafta ceremony at Windsor Castle, Helen McCrory stood out. While Minnie Driver and Carey Mulligan scrubbed up in smart frocks to meet the Queen, the Harry Potter actor wore a beautiful grey satin pyjama set – recalling proper movie stars such as Lauren Bacall and oozing easy elegance. The look is taking off away from the red carpet too – Cos reports that its diamond print tunic and trouser set is a big seller. Proof that even without Damien Lewis on your arm, dressing head-to-toe is 2013's way to look pulled together, come rain or shine.
Leaves might still be absent from most trees but fashion always finds a way of faking it. Plant prints – everything from blossoms to hothouse flowers and even jungle growth – bring greenery to your wardrobe, even if frost is killing the real plants in your garden. The maxidress worn by Vanessa Paradis in H&M's Conscious Collection campaign – covered with tropical plants – has a been a hit, while both Cos and Matches report an uplift in sales of plant prints. For inspiration of how-to-wear, see Beyoncé in a Thakoon palm-print short-and-shirt combo in Cuba last week. She has sunshine in her favour, of course.
A trend that demands courage if ever there was one. The success of crop tops shows that UK women are up to the task of tummy exposure – even when it feels like minus three outside. Both Topshop and Asos report strong sales of cropped pieces – possibly due to the SpringBreakers effect. Selena Gomez and friends rarely wear anything longer, as bad girls causing trouble in the Florida sunshine. There's a way to work crop tops in grey old Blighty too: just add a polo neck. Asos' crop tops with polonecks not only tick the 90s trend box (see: En Vogue) but they also negate the need for a scarf. Never say fashion can't multitask.
Whistles personalised bag
The one category of fashion pretty impervious to the weather? Handbags. They are retail therapy to cheer up a wardrobe of bobbly knitwear and scuffed boots caught in the rain. The thrill of a new bag is heightened by knowing that only a lucky few have it too – something genuinely possible thanks to Whistles. The brand, which already nailed the customisation trend this winter with its varsity jackets, now has clutches complete with your initials. The service already has fans in fashion – editors brandished theirs proudly on the front row at the shows in February .
Tipped by Vogue this month, the sneaker slip-on, as first designed by Vans, is set to become the new Supaga. Although the glossy recommends a pair by Céline for £720, they're also now instore at Kurt Geiger and Carvela (and coming to New Look), where studded and leopard-print styles are popular. Basically, find a detail that singles them out from the classics and, hey presto, you have a bona fide Fashion Shoe. The best thing? Not only do they go great with jeans now, but you'll be ahead of the curve when everyone else buys them in a few months. Style superiority works all year round.
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image: © Dominic Alves