Today we’re continuing with AW22 and I’m bringing you more ideas for making your wardrobe work hard. I think for all of us it’s a season for being realistic; very few people are going to be buying into the ‘everything new’ mentality – instead it’s a time to be savvy. So when it comes to new season, it doesn’t feel right for me to just bring you a whole load of ‘what’s new’ posts. Rather I’m going to share with you the way that I’m pivoting the clothes I already have, trying to come up with new combinations for them, perhaps lifting them with hardworking additions here and there. That way each week I should be able to give you a few new ideas that you can use with your existing basics. My focus for this post is going to be on easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe because we all know that on dark days colour lifts not only the outfits you already have but your spirits too.

The average winter street in the UK looks like a sea of black ants, the only colour tends to be the occasional flash of grey, khaki or at a push camel. We lean towards dark colours because there are a number of different items to coordinate in any one outfit – tops, bottoms, socks, tights, gloves, hats, scarves, coats and it seems easier if everything is a neutral. It doesn’t have to be that way though and so when John Lewis & Partners invited me to do an October edit with them, I decided to focus on easy ways to work colour into your AW22 wardrobe.

By the time we reach midlife most of us have already built a core of good quality basics in dark neutrals. So when shapes and silhouettes are changing as little as they are this season it doesn’t make sense to buy any more, instead what we need to find is a way to pep them up with some versatile brights. The challenge is how to wear bright colours at this time of year without veering into children’s TV presenter territory. There are three particular routes and the one you take will depend on your personal level of flamboyance.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

  1. Out there (my personal favourite). Dressing head to toe in one bright shade such as red or, alternatively, tones of a shade such as red with pink or red with burgundy.
  2. Confident. In the middle is working with blocks of colour according to the rule of thirds. So, for example, a navy jumper with indigo jeans and a bright coloured coat or – navy skirt and coat with a bright jumper. You get the idea, it’s the one third:two thirds ratio that brings harmony to this look and makes it appear deliberate rather than thrown together; that balance is important so think about the weighting of colours.
  3. Toe in the water. The simplest and most cost-effective way to lift an AW wardrobe is with pops of colour. So think about accessories – scarves, bags, hats, boots; wearing a block on one colour with a pop is a great way of making sure your outfit looks understated and yet still impactful.

So with the whole of new season at John Lewis as my toybox, I pulled together a few pieces to play around with to show AW22 colour in action. You may even find a couple of new lynchpins that will add new life to your existing looks. Now of course there are so many brands at John Lewis that it was difficult to choose but those of you who saw my Instagram Story about the press day a few weeks ago will remember that I was especially impressed by the new season pieces in their own brand John Lewis & Partners collection.

If you’ve been reading for a long time you’ll know that I’ve been covering the range since it first launched four years ago. I’ve always found good pieces to review but my main feedback to them has been that the range needed more fitted pieces to flatter the body. There are plenty of deconstructed looks in Kin and And/Or for people who are looking for that and this season I’m pleased to say that a more tailored silhouette is appearing. It’s all down to the appointment of Queralt Ferrer as Head of Design for JL’s womenswear department. You’ll probably know her name, she’s best known for founding womenswear at Massimo Dutti and spent most of her career there. She then worked at M&S for a little while, reviving Autograph until her husband was relocated to Amsterdam and she and her three children went with him. They’ve now moved back to the UK and she’s been in place at John Lewis since the end of last year so the changes she’s making are starting to come through. She says she’s working on

“bringing design and style back into the business. It’s about creating a unique look that is relevant, not fashion for crazy forward people. I’m here to create a perfect stylish wardrobe that you can layer season after season rather than new, new, new, then throw it away.”

It feels like this is exactly where JL&P’s focus should be. It’s great to see them appointing a woman in her 50s with credible style experience to head up not only their own brands but the whole of the fashion floor. At the press show the key standouts for me were that pieces mixed and matched together, plus the fact that they were classics but each with a little added flair that made them more than just basics. On top of that was the quality.

Some of you will have seen that I also visited another of our major high street retailers’ shows on the same day. Whereas I would previously have aligned them more or less alongside each other in terms of quality, the difference in reality was striking. And this is going to be what we’re going to find more and more now as we go forward. Every retailer is having to stake its place in terms of the price: quality matrix that I’m always rattling on about. The decision they’re having to make is whether to peg prices at the same level they’ve always charged and therefore reduce quality to absorb the rising costs in the supply chain. Alternatively prices will increase to some degree in order to retain the level of fabric, detail and finish that makes clothes feel and look good – and more importantly last.

Having said all of that, I haven’t noticed a particular increase in the John Lewis & Partner’s range pricing yet, instead they’ve introduced ANYDAY at an entry level price point for people who want it and retained quality in their eponymous brand. It’s a good strategy because it means that customers can easily decide where they sit without having to plough through a wide range of products all ranged at confusingly different price levels.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

I’ll stop talking now and take you through the key pieces I selected and then move on to show how I played around with them until the rain stopped me. There were plenty of other mix and match opportunities from these few pieces and bear in mind that I was working with early deliveries so more stock has arrived now. You can see the full collection here.

I’m beginning with a limited number of key pieces – just two coats in colours that you might not have to give you some ideas for additions to your wardrobe. I’m sure you know that hot pink is the key trend colour for this season, you’ll see it everywhere you go and it’s a simple way to add relevance to your look. Cream is a perennial winter classic and if you then factor in the navy/black/camel coat that you already have in your wardrobe, the combinations you could make from the pieces I’ve selected here go on and on.

For bottoms, I’m focusing on the balance that a lot of us have – the need for more casual outfits than smart but I’ve added this season’s twist on satin for days or nights when you want to dress up. Then there’s a pair of on-trend wide cut jeans as well as a winter indigo classic.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

To work with the bottoms I’ve added in structured knits in different shapes so that you can work on balancing the silhouette you want. A mix of wool blends at lower prices as well as cashmere classics that will last forever.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

And then we move on to the pops of joy which can make such a huge difference to a winter outfit, epseically when you’re wearing a long coat that covers everything else up.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

And let’s not forget the power of a bag – it’s worth having an option of either muted or bright so that you can work with colour weighting in your outfit and balance things out. Brollies are the final touch, they make such a huge style difference to a rainy day. I take great joy in collecting them knowing I’ll really use them, always having just the right option to finish off whatever outfit I put together. Oh and they make great gifts too – I’ve never known a jazzy brolly not to be received with sheer delight.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

So John Lewis kindly lent me the pieces so that I could show you some of the combinations together in action. I’m going to start with Winter White which always looks luxe and is an easy way to elevate an outfit from a sea of dark colours. Starting with simple pieces, AW22’s key jumper trend is for a knitted version of the breton and we all know how easy they are to wear. This one has a gentle leg of mutton sleeve which makes it more interesting than others you’ll find on the high street. It will work with blue jeans too as well as navy trousers and skirts – or as a contrast to a coloured bottom. I’m wearing a medium and it’s true to size.

The jeans are a great cut, I’m continuing to wear the ivory pair I bought earlier this year a lot and if I didn’t already have them I’d be buying these because they’re a third of the price. I’m a regular length leg in brands such as Boden and they’re exactly right for me, pooling slightly at the front but missing the pavement by about 1cm at the back when I’m wearing trainers or flats. I’m wearing a size 12 and they’re a perfect fit.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

Striped wool blend jumper with leg of mutton sleeves; Ivory wide leg jeans

This coat is a great cut for layering, it has volume and yet it still has shape, I’m wearing a size 12 and it feels right. It’s also been designed with a textured finish which means it won’t pick up dirt as easily as a flat pile would. To keep things low key I’ve added a bag in a neutral contrast with a webbing strap that adds just a little extra element of flair when worn as a cross body with a coat. If you were in the mood for a pop of colour through you could set any colour bag against these neutrals and change the outfit up each time.

Striped wool blend jumper with leg of mutton sleeves; Ivory wide leg jeans; Ivory textured coat; Plum leather crossbody bag with contrast strap

Going more tonal still, here are the jeans worn with the Donegal knit in a size 12. It’s a longer cut than the striped one so I’ve tucked just the edge of the hem into the waistband here so it doesn’t add bulk and folds nicely over my midriff, balancing out the volume of the jeans. If you were wearing narrower jeans, it has a deep ribbed hem so it would look great untucked too. I love the fact that it has raglan rather than dropped shoulder sleeves so it works whether you have broad or narrow shoulders.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

Donegal fleck jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans;

Still a tonal outfit but I’m adding an extra dimension of colour with this scarf. I love big scarves like this because they have so much structure that you don’t need to fiddle around with tying them. I’ve kept the bag neutral but again you could use something deeper if you wanted to.

Midlifechic capsule winter wardrobe

Donegal fleck jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans; Ivory textured coat; Neutral checked recycled scarfEcru suede crossbody bag with contrast webbing strap

Here I’ve made a simple switchover with the skirt. You could happily wear this with the Donegal fleck jumper for a casual look or for something more classic, pair it with a cashmere jumper like this one. Again I’ve just tucked the edge of the hem into the waistband for structure and definition. It’s designed to be worn as a loose knit but I prefer a neater fit so I’ve sized down to an XS.

This is a lovely take on the satin skirt, very flattering and an example of Queralt Ferrer’s ‘all year round’ wardrobe concept – it would work with a sequin top at Christmas but also a simple t-shirt in summer. It’s made from good quality satin backed crepe and so it has more weight and less static than cheaper satin skirts. I found the narrow waistband a bit tight and I’d size up to a 14 for comfort so I’d say it comes up slightly small.

As for the brolly, I’ve had it for years and it comes in and out of stock but it’s available now. I find it a great way to lift any kind of neutral toned outfit – black, grey, camel. I like the fact that it’s inside out, black on the outside with the leopard print just on the inside for a subtle element of surprise.

Mink cashmere roll neck jumper; Caramel satin skirt; Ivory textured coat; Leopard lined umbrella

And just to show what a difference a colour clash can make, here’s the skirt worn with this season’s pink for more dramatic effect. I could have kept the mink coloured jumper or the Donegal with this coat but I decided to switch that to pink as well. Any of the options work within the rule of two thirds and you could wear this skirt with a navy jumper and navy coat – or a black jumper and black coat… a grey jumper and grey coat – it’s a hardworking number. (You can tell the clouds were starting to look ominous at this point).

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

Pink coatPink wool blend jumper; Caramel satin skirt; Leopard lined umbrella

So let’s talk more about the pink pieces. The jumper is a great way to add a splash of this season’s key colour into your outfit choices. It’s a simple merino blend with good structure thanks to the ribbing and raglan sleeves. The mock neck is good if you feel the heat but like the effect of a raised neckline. I’m wearing a size 12.

The coat has a lot of volume so I sized down to a 10 and it felt like the right fit for me. It’s such an easy way of adding a splash of colour to any winter’s day.

Easy ways to work colour into your AW22 wardrobe

Pink coatPink wool blend jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans; Ecru suede crossbody bag with contrast webbing strap

If you prefer more texture to your jumpers, this one with its cable knit and dipped hem is now in stock and it’s a cotton blend for anyone who prefers to stay away from wool.

Cable knit cotton blend jumper

You can take this outfit even further by adding this lovely scarf.

Midlifechic colourful winter wardrobe

Pastel & brights checked scarf; Pink coatPink wool blend jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans; Ecru suede crossbody bag with contrast webbing strap

Or of that feels too much, wear the scarf with the cream coat instead and add a pink bag…

Midlifechic colourful winter wardrobe

Pink leather circle bag; Pastel & brights checked scarfIvory textured coat; Pink wool blend jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans;

… and maybe a hat although I must have a big head because I found this came up small on me as did the cashmere beret I’d ordered which prompted no end of ‘witty’ comments from Mal…

Borg bucket hat; Pastel & brights checked scarfIvory textured coat; Pink wool blend jumper; Ivory wide leg jeans

Here you can see how the pink coat works with other neutrals you probably already have. A fabulous cashmere turtleneck is a lifelong addition to any wardrobe and this is a particularly good shape with a single layer of raised mock neck. It’s a loose cut so I’m wearing an XS here to again achieve the slimmer fit I prefer.

The indigo jeans are what I’d call a slim straight cut rather than straight as described on the website but maybe that’s just down to my chunky northern legs. Either way they’re a great cropped basic, perfect for wearing with ankle boots or trainers. I’m wearing a 12 and they’re true to size.

Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

Pink coat; Long navy high neck cashmere jumper; Indigo slim straight crops

And if you like a light scarf that has lots of volume for creative styling then this is a good option – you’d be able to tie it in lots of different ways. I’ve added a neutral satchel to tone things down with all of the colour that’s going on here.

Easy ways to work colour into your AW22 wardrobe

Taupe crossbody satchel; Light recycled poly spotted scarf; Pink coat; Long navy high neck cashmere jumper; Indigo slim straight crops

While we’re on the subject of navy as a base, here it is with the cream coat…

Midlifechic colourful winter wardrobe

Denim coloured knit scarfLong navy high neck cashmere jumper; Indigo slim straight cropsIvory textured coat;

… and a scarf that ties the two elements together, bringing in the option of a tonal third colour.

Midlifechic colourful winter wardrobe

Light blue leather drawstring bagDenim coloured knit scarfLong navy high neck cashmere jumper; Indigo slim straight cropsIvory textured coat

… or you could wear solid navy with other brights to lift it – I didn’t have a navy coat with me but you get the idea.

Midlifechic winter accessories

Yellow, orange and turquoise checked scarf; Mustard leather crossbody phone case; Long navy high neck cashmere jumper; Indigo slim straight crops

And then we go full circle back to the striped jumper with the indigo jeans this time and a pop of colour via this umbrella that just makes everybody smile when they see it.

Ecru suede crossbody bag with contrast webbing strap; Red heart umbrella; Striped wool blend jumper with leg of mutton sleeves Indigo slim straight cropsIvory textured coat

And I could have gone on with all sorts of different permutations from that small capsule but as you can see, the heavens had opened by this point – I should have brought more umbrella options! So many of you have said that like me, your heart sinks at the thought of dark winter colours. I hope this has shown that you don’t have to submit to black and grey – and without spending a lot, use accessories to lift what you already have. There are easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe

And I’ve gone on for long enough this week so I’ll leave it at that. We’ll have a catch up next Friday when we’ll have been empty nested for three weeks and be fully back into the groove of life à deux. Mind you it’s me that feels like the student right now because after popping in to see the middle one when we were in Newcastle last weekend, I’ve come home with a dose of Fresher’s flu which I and both the younger two seem to be ‘enjoying’ all at the same time. Grrrr! Hazmat suits required next time we visit them. See you next Friday.

Disclosure: ‘Easy ways to build a colourful winter wardrobe’ was commissioned by John Lewis & Partners to launch their AW collection but the colourful approach and outfits were all my choice

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