How not to wear black by Anna Murphy

After our colourful style event with The Times' Fashion Editor and author of How Not To Wear Black, Anna Murphy, we asked her to tell us more about ditching the monochrome and ways to dress daring this summer... 

Have you clocked it yet? How injecting some colour and pattern into your wardrobe brightens your life? Honestly. Just a flash here and there - you don’t need to go completely over the rainbow - is enough to change your mood and other people’s. 

And there’s no better season to experiment than summer. Why? Because the whole world is a more colourful place: the sun is, at least in theory, in the sky; our gardens are full of flowers; even cocktail hour is full-spectrum, be yours a glass of rosé or an Aperol spritz. One more reason: because brands like hush - good on joyful dressing at the best of times - dial things up to be even more cheerful once temperatures (finally!) rise. So now is the perfect time to tweak your style, and I’ll wager that if you do, you won’t find yourself reverting to your old ways once autumn comes around. 

Take hush’s Peyton Shirred Dress, which is bright blue, and covered in pink parrots. Yep. Not exactly your usual. But it’s impossible not to smile when you’re wearing it, and I speak from experience. More surprising, perhaps, is that you will find other people smiling, too. Because the way you dress doesn’t only change the way you feel, it changes the way others do, too. 

I have always been someone who seeks to express herself through what she wears – it’s one reason why I became a fashion journalist. But I also understand how easy it is to get stuck in a rut, not least because that’s precisely what’s happened to a few of my all-black-wearing peers on the front row. They tell me how much pleasure they take in me dressing colourfully when we are at shows. So, dressing joyfully – expressively – is a kind of happy gift to all. 

A good place to start when it comes to brightening your wardrobe is to think about one word. Just one. It’s the word you want your clothes to conjure in the mind of someone who sees you for the first time, perhaps across a room at a party. Because your clothes will make them think of at least one word, and you want to make sure it’s the right one. Mine is “interesting”. I always, ALWAYS want to look that. So, I dress accordingly. 

My defaults are either a hi-vis top or jacket, or a full-on frock. Buying a single piece that mixes colours and/or patterns is a great way to circumvent the question of what goes with what. It does all the hard work for you. Try it with the Tori Checked Dress or make a statement of a different and more literal kind with a multi-hued, fun slogan tee or sweatshirt. I especially love the mint green Ombre Beach Sweat Top, with its logo the colour of a pina colada. For a summery office look, I will be wearing the pretty floral Printed Blazer, with its popping pastel blooms on black. 

Dressing tone on tone is another route - wearing two or three pieces in different shades of green or blue, say, or a red with a pink. We’ve been inadvertently doing this for years when we put on our favourite denim and a crisp blue-and-white striped shirt. Try the collarless Viviana Striped Top with the Denim Shorts for a fresh take on this classic summer combo. Or contrast two shades at opposite sides of the colour wheel by pairing the Marseille Shorts in ‘Victoria Blue’ with the L/S Raglan Tee in ‘Marigold’. 

If your happy place is black, don’t worry, you don’t have to abandon it altogether – just add a flourish or two. One of my favourite hush pieces this season is the Embroidered Sleeve Dress with delicate pink, green and yellow stitching. Pair with the Woodstock Sandals in yellow snakeskin, and the yellow-on-black Love Beaded Clutch. Job done. Or rather, holiday sorted.

Follow Anna on Instagram @annagmurphy and shop our full summer collection here!