Now that our minds are focused firmly towards better weather I’m bringing you another new season try-on today, this time focusing on new styles for spring from John Lewis. So let’s have a catch-up on what’s been going on there since I last covered them in October. As you probably know it’s all change at the top with the return of Peter Ruis as executive director. He first joined the store in 2005 and was responsible for the huge fashion turnaround that took place over the eight years that followed, introducing brands such as Whistles and Mango for the first time – and he also spearheaded the very first John Lewis Christmas ad. He then moved on to turnaround positions with brands such as Jigsaw and Anthropologie, arriving back at John Lewis in January this year with a big brief and he’s already started plans to invest heavily in updating the stores themselves.

In the meantime, over the last year 109 new fashion brands have launched at John Lewis and immediate bestsellers have been Nobody’s Child, Sister Jane, Vivere and Rag & Bone. It’s worth keeping an eye on the brand page because it can be surprising to see the new listings – you can find them all here. I find it a great way of trying out new labels because you have the easy delivery and returns systems that John Lewis offer which isn’t always easy with small brands. And of course there’s the fashion rental service too.

However it’s the John Lewis own brands that I was interested in trying. It’s now Design Director Queralt Ferrer’s third full season at John Lewis – you may remember that she was Massimo Dutti’s launch director, driving its growth for 17 years. As well as leading the introduction of new third party brands at John Lewis, she’s also been overhauling the own label offering. There’s a total focus on getting the core modules right now and as such, past distractions of the more directional own labels such as Modern Rarity and Kin have been set aside. The in house offering now starts with Anyday for affordable basics, moving into the John Lewis label for capsule wardrobe pieces and And/Or for denim and more relaxed looks.

As you can imagine, coming from Massimo Dutti, Queralt has been particularly focused on getting the cut of pieces exactly right. She also puts emphasis on cloth so that the solid colours she works with have strong presence. We aren’t talking old fashioned classics though, there’s still a focus on trend as you’ll see from the shapes of the pieces I’m going to show you here. I love the fact that we’re a long way from the ditsy dresses that dominated John Lewis until recently – you may remember the media storm last spring when Queralt declared that they were over. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of new life in the accessories buy too. There are lots of small, affordable labels joining both the bag and jewellery departments at john Lewis, I’ll talk you through some of them as we go.

Style tips – understanding your colour and contrast levels

Before I start though, continuing with the style tips I’ve been running I just want to talk a little about colour and more specifically, contrast. There were a few specific style questions raised at the reader get together. The only way I’m going to be able to address them over the next few weeks is by integrating them into posts as I go along and contrast is our topic for today. So, we all know about the visual boost that comes from understanding the colours that suit us. They’re often categorised under the seasons so you’re a spring, summer, autumn or winter and if you’re really interested in it, there are sub-categories of those too. I’m pretty sure that most of you know what you are by now, if not, have a go at this colour quiz.

Once you know your colours, you also need to understand your level of contrast. That will tell you how much tolerance you have for striking combinations or whether you’re better off going in a more tonal direction. Now I’m not a trained stylist and if you really want to get into this in depth you need to consult one. However, the simplest explanation I’ve found of contrast is imagining a photo of your face turned into greyscale (the tonal gradients from black and white). So if you think of Disney’s Snow White, you know that she’d have dark hair, dark eyebrows, dark eyes and strong lips contrasting with very pale skin. That means that she has high contrast and could carry off strong combinations such as red and black. If we move on to Cinderella however, she has light hair, light eyes, pink lips and pale skin – in greyscale there wouldn’t be very much contrast between them so… she’s low contrast and looks better dressed in tones of the same colours or soft contrasts. Now I should add that it’s different for some women of colour who using this exercise might feel they have low contrast and yet can carry off striking outfits in strong colours. That’s because the strength of your skintone gives you more scope where colour is concerned and you can often wear all of the brights at once and not look overwhelmed.

For all of us though our contrast changes as we age and pigment fades. Until about five years ago I used to be able to carry off much more contrast than I can now without it washing me out. Even though I still have some high and low lights put in my hair, I know my eyes aren’t as blue as they were and my skin is naturally paler. I’ve had to adjust what I wear to a lower level of contrast and I’ll talk about it more as we go along in this post. It’s easier to manage your contrast levels in summer because the skin on show works as a neutral to balance out whatever you’re wearing. Even so, it’s worth being aware of your levels because there’s an instinct to go for the contrasting brights that you start to see around in nature at this time of year and unless you have high contrast, it isn’t always easy to pull that off.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

The famous blue suit

So, let’s look at the new styles for spring from John Lewis. This has been in all of the magazines this month as fashion editors have rushed to feature it. This soft summer blue is a key colour this season and John Lewis have really majored on it with an elemental blues collection here. I keep being nudged to do smarter looks by those of you who are increasingly having to go back into the office so it seemed like a great choice to start with. As we’ve discussed over the last few posts, separates are the key way forward this season – trousers, skirts and jackets have blown dresses into the dust. Shapes are loose and louche as you can see but thankfully John Lewis haven’t gone too oversized.

This is such an easy outfit, as midlifers it’s a silhouette we’ve worn before and actually this reminds me of my ‘interview suit’ for universities back in 1985. It’s the sort of thing that would take you to a wedding this year or the races now that dresses can suddenly feel a bit twee. You could add a blouse or a shirt underneath – or a light knit but with summer ahead I’ve chosen to style it with a very simple white vest top. I could imagine wearing it with white trainers, loafers or ballet flats but I’ve added a low heel just because I’m so pleased to be dusting my slingbacks off again. And the silver tote is an easy nod to the metallic that shows no sign of losing its crown, a cost-effective piece for days when you need to carry everything with you.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Sky blue jacket; white vest top; sky blue trousers; silver tote (shoes my own – similar option here)

The good thing about this suit is that it would work hard as separates too. The jacket is the perfect shade for wearing with summer jeans and the trouser cut will work well dressed down – with a wedge for a barbecue for example. The fabric is a wool blend and it doesn’t crease so it’s a great option for anyone who avoids linen suits for that reason. I’m wearing a size 10 sample in both pieces, the jacket is perfect but the trousers are tight so I’d say they’re true to size. The organic cotton vest top is a real wardrobe workhorse, great value and it comes in six colours. I’m not surprised that all of these pieces are getting five star reviews on site.

Contrast notes

I tried a tonal blue t-shirt with this outfit first but because this cool shade of blue isn’t one of my core colours, it drained me. Luckily because the suit is on the lighter end of the blue spectrum, a white t-shirt didn’t add too much contrast so it worked.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Sky blue jacket; white vest top; sky blue trousers; silver tote (shoes my own – similar option here)

Warm toned linen

It’s the year of the trouser suit so here’s another one. The quality of this linen is lovely, it’s the silky soft kind that feels so lovely sitting next to your skin – I suspect you can really see the Massimo Dutti heritage here. This is a suit for anyone who wants a wide-ish leg without a high volume jacket and it’s one of the bestselling styles at John Lewis this season. You can see that the blazer has the longer length of current trends, it’s lined and again it’s something that you could wear with other pieces in your wardrobe as well. I’m wearing a 12 and with shoulders like mine, it’s true to size, it’s also available in navy, soft blue and natural.

The trousers have a small elasticated insert at the back of the waistband which makes them comfortable to wear, if you’re between sizes, size down. For me, a size 12 hung absolutely perfectly for a 2024 look and as with the suit above, this is something that I’d choose over a dress for any kind of event this summer.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Linen blazer; linen t-shirt; linen trousers; bag with contrasting strap; (shoes my own)

The bag deserves a very special mention. It’s reasonably priced leather but the exciting thing is that the strap is detachable so you can change the whole look by buying different colours and patterns to work with other outfits – and you can buy other colourways in the bag too, you don’t have to go for cream. I’m wearing it as a shoulder bag here so that you can see the full outfit but the strap easily extends to crossbody length. It’s a fantastic tool to have in your wardrobe, especially if you’re at the lower end of the contrast scale like me – you can see them all here.

And lastly a mention to the t-shirt which is another John Lewis topseller. It’s made from linen and it has a lovely neckline – wide but not too deep so it’s very flattering on the clavicles without showing too much cleavage and it’s also available in white, black or lime green. A no brainer for summer.

Contrast notes

So let’s talk about colour and contrast. This terracotta shade is one of my key colours – I straddle the divide between spring and autumn so it works perfectly for my skintone. Years ago I’d probably have worn it with a black t-shirt but now I’ve added a tonal shade because it’s already a strong look and if I put anything too contrasting with it, it would be too harsh for me. However the bag and shoes give me just the little bit of zing that the outfit needs – they’re far enough from my face not to overwhelm me but they stop the look from being too much of one thing. Just adding 10% of something bold to your look is a great way to go if you’re low contrast.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Linen blazer; linen t-shirt; linen trousers; bag with contrasting strap; (shoes my own)

Classic blue and white

One of the things that Queralt talks about a lot is the elevated essential – she’s determined that John Lewis will be the home of the classic with a twist. A spring outfit doesn’t get simpler than this but the key to it is proportion. This knit cardigan/jacket is another piece that has been feted by the press this season because of its very close similarity to Sezane’s iconic Betty (but at half the price). It’s like the love child of a Chanel tweed and a utility jacket – not too prim, not too tough. It’s soft, stretchy and so comfortable to wear, perfect for pairing with dresses or wide trousers and a great piece for travelling – just the kind of thing you want for slipping on and off when temperatures vary. It’s also available in an equally Parisian camel.

As you can see I’ve teamed it with wide jeans. If the palazzo style I showed you last week just has too much fullness for you then these are a great option. They’re made from a heavier quality denim with thigh-slimming fading in this new wash and I’d say they tick the box for a cut that’s fashionably wide but not over the top. The back pockets are large and have the perfect placement for reducing your behind visually (and I know worrying about my bum looking big in things makes me utter Gen X but there we are). Now there are no reviews on site yet for this new colourway but I found they came up small – I’m usually a 28 or 29 in jeans, these are a 30 and they were tight on the tummy so that’s worth bearing in mind.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Knit jacket; Wide leg jeans; Striped tee; Bag (shoes my own)

Apparently over on TikTok, Gen Z and Gen A have discovered the Longchamp Pliage and so while we smile and nod gracefully at their enthusiasm, we can either dust ours off or invest in a new colour knowing that we’ll use it forever. You won’t be surprised to hear that I love the orange one in this dinky size. A mention must also go to this t-shirt which you see me wearing in all kinds of colours – it has a half sleeve which is great for anyone who likes to cover the tops of their arms or, alternatively finds they overheat in a long sleeve. It has a boat neckline and is made from supersoft, midweight cotton, a lovely classic piece that you’ll wear until it falls apart.

Contrast notes

We all have our own neutral and navy is mine, I find it softer than black as the base of about 70% of my outfits. The jeans are tonal with it and the t-shirt with the navy stripe creates a softer contrast with the rest of the outfit than a plain white one would. Again I’ve delegated the heavy lifting to the accessories and they add a little more interest to a very classic look.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Knit jacket; Wide leg jeans; Striped tee; Bag (shoes my own)

Dramatic black

So having said that I tend to avoid black I should add that I make an exception in summer but we’ll come on to that in a minute, let’s talk about the clothes first. I really, really love this outfit. Unfortunately a lot of other people have picked up on how fabulous these trousers are so you’re going to have to stalk them to get them. They’re made from the same silky linen that we saw in the terracotta suit and they have so much volume that from some angles they look like a maxi-skirt which is another key trend this season. Yet another example of a high street brand pulling off something that looks designer at a fraction of the price. The only thing I’d say is that they come up big, I’m wearing a sample size 12 and with the elasticated back panel I’d definitely need a 10.

This isn’t a suit though, the jacket I’m wearing is a simple cotton twill one and it’s unbelievable value. It’s just the right shape for wearing with any bottom half that has volume, it isn’t too cropped but it has great structure so it sits apart from your skirt or trousers, adding definition whilst still having some length which is rare.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Twill jacket; striped racer vest; linen trousers (alternative black linen here); snake bag (shoes my own – similar option here)

And the striped tee is from Anyday so it’s another great value piece and probably one of the best cuts that I’ve seen in a racer vest. If, like me, you’re ‘blessed’ with swimmers’ shoulders I’d snap it up – and it’s available in black too here. Snake is the animal print of the season and this bag is an easy way of nodding to it, it’s another Anyday piece so it won’t break the bank and it will work with just about everything in your wardrobe. I’ll just say again that I really love this outfit – I do hope they restock the trousers (please John Lewis!).

Contrast notes

So, as I said at the beginning, it’s easier to wear black in summer because you have more skin on show to balance it out and also, hopefully, a bit of a tan so you can carrier a darker colour. Once again I’ve mitigated it by choosing a striped top over a plain white one so that the contrast isn’t as severe and the snake accessories soften things up a little further.

New styles for spring from John Lewis

Twill jacket; striped racer vest; linen trousers (alternative black linen here); snake bag (shoes my own – similar option here)

And that’s my pick of the new styles for spring from John Lewis, I think they’re doing a good job of focusing on elevated basics. It seems right that they aren’t competing at the bottom, trying to match other brands purely on price. Instead they’re making apparently simple pieces that are that little bit better, in finer fabrics and with a sharper eye for design than everyone else – and yet they’re still affordable. It’s what I’ve always hoped they’d do and it’s going to be interesting to watch them continue with this evolution. If you’d like some more inspiration there’s a dedicated editorial section for fasion ideas on the website here which is updated regularly so it’s worth bookmarking.

Midlife coming up

Now, you find me rather adither. You see having said in my last post that we were remaining determinedly in the UK for the forthcoming months, I’ve suddenly been offered an unturndownable opportunity but the deal is that I have to pretty much drop everything and go. So I’m going!

I’m sent a lot of press trip invitations these days, usually for influencer jamborees and I generally turn them down because I have my day job to do and as a bit of an introvert, going away with a big gang isn’t my kind of thing. However this is a trip of a lifetime with four American women who are opening their horizons and looking for a midlife adventure. And that’s what the journey’s about, it isn’t a confected event – I’ve been invited because somebody cancelled at the last minute so there was a paid for space. I feel incredibly honoured that they’ve asked me and it feels like one of those bonuses that comes along once in a while, perhaps as a blessing for the many hours I spend on this blog.

However as well as being excited I’m also feeling quite anxious. I have to get myself there and I haven’t travelled alone long haul before – in the old days I always had models and a camera crew with me. I’ve also realised that I haven’t spent more than four nights away from Mal since we met. And… what we’re doing is going to be slightly out of my comfort zone… I won’t be able to shower properly for a week… or blow dry my hair… and I’ll be posting live to Instagram Stories throughout so if you’re on there, you’re going to behold some sights (at least it isn’t scratch and sniff)!

I set off next Wednesday and I really hope some of you will keep me company over the twelve days that follow because even though I’m thrilled to be doing something I wouldn’t otherwise have had a chance to experience, it’s a bit daunting too. However we have to seize new opportunities in midlife, if and when they come along (can you tell this is a pep talk to self?!). I’ll be on Instagram @midlifechic whenever I can pick up a signal and I’ll try to make sure the Stories go to Facebook too so they’ll be on my Midlifechic FB page -and I’ll do a better job than usual of keeping up with it.

In the meantime there will still be a post on Friday next week, I’m going to re-open the Midlifechic Boutique with lots of pre-loved clothes and a few samples that I haven’t had a chance to wear that still have labels intact. I’ll be raising money for Blood Cancer UK again. Not only has blood cancer claimed my mum and my nieces but now one of my oldest schoolfriends is living with it too so this gives me a chance to do something practical for her. I’ve had an enormous clearout and it’s been a big job getting it all photographed and listed – I’ve had to source some of that out so some of the funds will cover that, the rest will go to charity. I’m often asked what I do with any clothes I don’t wear and this is it, I don’t sell on Ebay or Vinted.

So, thank you to everyone who supports the sale next week and thank you in advance to anyone who keeps me company on my adventure. I’ll see you on the other side!

Disclosure: ‘New styles for spring from John Lewis’ was commissioned by John Lewis but as always, I had full control over the outfits I selected to feature and my thoughts about each product

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