Rosie Green: Could I learn to colour block?

For decades, ROSIE GREEN has stayed in her wardrobe safe space, opting for a navy palette. But this year’s trend for brights has tempted her to confront her fashion fear… can she learn how to colour block?

PHOTOGRAPHS: DAVID VENNI STYLING: STEPHANIE SOFOKLEOUS

I’m a card-carrying colour-phobe.

I wear navy, white and black. Maybe some floral prints in faded pastels if I’m feeling really wild. And that is pretty much the shade range in my wardrobe… one that I’ve been quite happy with for the past 25 years, thank you. Because, the truth is, no one can mock you in beige. (They might pity you, or ignore you, but you’ll be safe from ridicule.)

Recently, however, I’ve felt drawn to come out of my neutral shell; craving some brightness in my life. In fact, I’ve found myself pulled towards the trend for colour blocking.

This – for those who don’t know – is about wearing not one bright shade, but two, or even three. Bold, one-colour pieces in clean, simple shapes that you combine with each other for visual impact. They can clash, or not, as you wish.

I like the look when I see it on others. And I like the way colours such as sunshine yellows, ocean blues and sunset oranges all bring me joy. And it’s not just me. Scientific fact: looking at bright colours is proven to boost the release of dopamine, the feelgood hormone. And, Lord knows, we could all do with that right now.

However, while my pared-back palette is now making me feel I’m missing out… I’m scared of wearing colour. Which is crazy. After all, I’ve worked in magazines and fashion my whole career. I should have confidence in my styling abilities by now. I’ve dressed some of the world’s most famous women, for God’s sake!

But it’s being immersed in the fashion world that has given me the fear in the first place.

Let’s rewind to 1996.

Diana and Charles are getting divorced, the Spice Girls rule the airwaves and I am an intern at Vogue. The week before I started there I bought myself a bubblegum pink suit from a department store in Birmingham. I thought it resembled the Chanel tweed two-pieces I had seen the supermodels sporting on the magazine’s pages. But when I walked through the doors, I found the Vogue staff in a uniform of grey V-necks and black slim-fit Prada trousers. They were at the forefront of the new era of Kate Moss-inspired cool. Pared back, low-key. Edgy. A hint of nonchalance, a dash of rock ’n’ roll.

They eyed me with abject horror. Pink, or any other bright colour for that matter, seemed gauche, embarrassing, try-hard and unsophisticated.

I still haven’t recovered from the mortification.

But that was over two decades ago, and it’s time to confront this thing. To move away from the dark side.

So I have recruited YOU stylist Stephanie Sofokleous to help. Knowledgeable and empathetic, she combines fashion savvy with a real-world understanding of women’s insecurities and needs.

‘I get it. People are worried about inadvertently breaking the colour rules,’ she says.

Ahh, the rules. Red and green should never been seen. Ditto black and blue.

She’s not letting me off the hook, though. ‘All outdated,’ she says, shaking out a pair of canary yellow wide-leg trousers.

In fact, the room is full of rainbow-bright clothing.

If this is therapy, then we’re about to do some extreme exposure training.

Some of the pieces do indeed get my heart palpitating with fear (a double-breasted yellow jacket causes me particular consternation); others, I admit, do arouse a bit of excitement, too (cerise Jimmy Choos).

We set about trying them all on. The suits make me think ‘shopping-channel host’ and I feel safer with shoes and bags. So I ask Steph if we could maybe limit ourselves to accessories but she is having none of it. We are, apparently, ‘going hard or going home’.

Once she coaxes me into the clothes, however, I’m interested to discover that shades I have ruled out for decades – thinking they clash with my skin tone – don’t make me look washed out in the way I had thought they would. Which is a good lesson in recognising that your skin tone changes over time and that you might need to reassess what the Colour Me Beautiful lady told you in the 90s.

After the trying-on session, I’m excited, but still a bit daunted. And overwhelmed by the choice.

Stephanie brings me back from the brink by telling me the good news: there are different takes on the trend, some of them requiring more bravery and styling skills than others.

So here it is, your guide to embracing colour.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

STYLING LEVEL: EASY 

rosie green
Dress, £700, edelinelee.com. Shoes, £95, dunelondon.com

Embracing colour blocking doesn’t get more straightforward than this –a piece where the designer has done all the shade matching for you. Beautifully cut, this dress by Edeline Lee combines hues of aqua, forest green and ocean blue to striking effect and is super-easy to wear – just throw it on and, bang, feel sophisticated and daring. It’s a piece I shall save up to own as nothing about it makes me feel exposed and it’s colourful enough to bring me that dopamine hit.

RESET THE TONES

STYLING LEVEL: MEDIUM

Jumper, £240, paperlondon.com. Trousers, £550, sassiholford.com. Shoes, £169, pretty ballerinas.co.uk

This is a more tonal take on the look: think different pieces that are all from the same colour family. Here I am wearing shades of rich plum and a hot pink, which together make my heart soar. You can also do tonal by picking one strong colour and adding more pastel versions– as shown here with my cobalt blue dress and softer blue accessories.

Dress, £150, samsoe.com. Necklace, £95, monicavinader. com. Bag, £420, noirgaze.com. Sandals, £40, schuh.co.uk

I found this second look so easy to wear as it’s bright but not ‘out there’. The only rule when doing tonal is that the shades can’t be too similar as you’ll end up looking like you’ve tried to match them but made a mistake.

SLIP INTO NEUTRALS

STYLING LEVEL: MEDIUM

Blazer, £700, brogger.co. Dress, £378, reiss.com. Sandals, £30, schuh.co.uk

Here you take a neutral hue such as navy or khaki and, by teaming it with a very bright colour, you give the neutral punch. The result is both bold and arresting. Take the khaki dress I’m wearing ‒ it’s a neutral tone, but by styling it with the yellow jacket both shades look strong and create a colour-block effect. This take is ideal for people who need the security of a safe neutral.

Top, £405, edelinelee.com. Trousers, £59, cosstores.com. Sandals, £395, dearfrances.com

Another example of this look is my orange top and navy trousers combo. A dark denim and bright neon T-shirt would also work well.

GO FOR PRIMARY COLOURS

STYLING LEVEL: HARD

jumper, £245, and skirt, £131, Alice+ Olivia, theoutnet.com. Shoes, £30, Raid, asos.com

This bold look requires the most chutzpah, but pulling it off is simply a matter of confidence and finding joy in your favourite colours. Pick from red, yellow and blue pieces and style them up with each other. You can also use non-primary colours, but they must be opposites on the colour wheel and hues that are strong and shouty– think unapologetic rainbow shades such as green, orange or indigo. If possible try to mix textures, too – as seen here with my knitted top and satin skirt.

THE RESULT

Shoot done and I’m feeling 100 per cent more confident about colour. However, to ensure I don’t end up looking like a children’s entertainer, I ask Stephanie for a few final pointers.

‘Stick to three colours maximum, keep the cut and shape of pieces clean and simple and avoid anything too girlish such as puffs, frills or Peter Pan collars,’ she tells me.

Noted. I’ll still never buy a pink suit (there are fashion traumas you never get over) but I am saving up for the Edeline Lee dress. And I’ve reappraised which colours suit me (based on looking in the mirror, not ideas from years ago). I’ve also realised experimenting is key to feeling good in clothes. As is being a bit brave.

By embracing brights again I’ve rediscovered the risk-taking, fashion-loving girl I was before that fateful day at Vogue. Let the sunshine in…

FASHION ASSISTANT: JESSICA CARROLL. PICTURE DIRECTOR: ESTER MALLOY. MAKE-UP: AIMEE ADAMS USING SCULPTED BY AIMEE. HAIR: ALEX SZABO AT CAROL HAYES MANAGEMENT USING MARIA NILA. JEWELLERY THROUGHOUT, IF NOT CREDITED, ROSIE’S OWN