LIZ JONES: The smart guide to making winter buys work for spring (and summer too)

LIZ JONESFASHION THERAPYThe smart guide to making winter buys work for spring (and summer too)

On Friday, on a bright, crisp, frosty morning, I left home wearing my staple black Alexander McQueen trouser suit.

I had looked fine indoors but, as soon as I was in sunlight, I noticed smudges on the trousers, make-up on the collar and a tell-tale shine from one too many visits to the dry cleaner.

In my strappy sandals, my feet had turned blue. My navy Michael Kors tote was looking decidedly scuffed, sagging from too many months carrying far too much baggage.

Cover up: Make the most of the cooler temperature by covering your arms with colourful cashmere jumpers or a J by Jasper Conran Dark blue denim shirt dress

Good arm coverage: A J by Jasper Conran Dark blue denim shirt dress

Cover up: Make the most of the cooler temperature by covering your arms with colourful cashmere jumpers or a J by Jasper Conran Dark blue denim shirt dress

During the months between the depths of winter and the first warm days of spring, it is almost impossible to look right.

The weather is unpredictable, offices overheated, shoppers are still broke from overspending at Christmas, while stores are either littered with dark, dreary clothes in the sale, or stocked with impossibly bright, skimpy summer clothes that are almost shocking in their brevity.

Everything feels wrong: a heavy wool coat with summer shoes or chunky boots with a Gossamer thin skirt seems as mismatched as, well, Katy Perry and Russell Brand. You want to hibernate, but are suddenly faced with myriad new trends, in alarming colours and prints.

All the spring trends seem designed to give us goose bumps: midriff-baring Fifties tops, short Twenties shifts, bright lace dresses and skirts.

A dress covered in red poppies seems too cheerful as you walk to the bus stop in the wind and rain.

But there are a few great items in stores now that won’t leave you feeling cold, or inappropriate, and that you can adapt to wear in different ways as the weather starts to warm up.

My main proviso, though, is that you avoid the sales. A quick trawl of the High Street has revealed all those autumn/winter mistakes are still on the rails: those Downton maxis, sheer blouses and leopard-print dresses.

Clothes for all seasons: A Sonia Rykiel trench

Clothes for all seasons: A Sonia Rykiel trench, 7 for all Maknind jeans

Clothes for all seasons: A Sonia Rykiel trench, 7 for all Maknind jeans and a Thakoon skirt

Clothes for all seasons: A Sonia Rykiel trench, 7 for all Mankind jeans and a Thakoon skirt

Second, have a think about how you want to dress this summer and only buy things that will work together.

Are you going to be French and
nautical, or will you opt for safari, or pastel tailoring, or Twenties
or even sporty, a la Victoria Beckham’s spring/summer collection which
was all racer-back T-shirts and fluid maxi-skirts.

Does your job require tailoring, and where might you be holidaying

Most importantly, what do you already have that will still look good this spring

I’ve dug out a silvery-cream jacket
from an old Aquascutum suit that makes my black-and-gold lace Suzannah
pencil skirt look less wintry.

Next, choose your hunting ground.
Make this the year you try a shop you have never been in before. And,
above all, wait. If you can hang on until March, the variety in stores
will be much, much greater.

If you must shop in January, the best
place now is Whistles, which has a new resort collection, with more
pieces being added over the next week or so.

All white for spring too: An Erdem shift dress and an Equipment shirt

All white for spring too: An Erdem shift dress and an Equipment shirt

All white for spring too: An Erdem shift dress and an Equipment shirt

The cream and black jumpsuit with
palazzo pants, 195, is lovely (I never thought I would say that about a
jumpsuit), while the pleated spot skirt, 110, is great for the
office, a wedding, lunch at the weekend and, finally, on holiday.

But if you need more inspiration then here’s my guide to the inbetweener essentials that will work as the weather warms up . . .

WHITE SILK SHIRT

You can make this staple more summery
later by wearing it undone, or in a knot at the waist. For now, wear to
brighten up all those dark colours.

My best buy has a hint of stretch,
comes in ivory and has a jewel-tipped collar: by Equipment from
asos.com, 300, (above). The cut is long, so you can either tuck it in
without fear of gaps (High Street shirts are always too short), or wear
it long over trousers for evenings. M&S has similar shirts at a
tenth of the price.

PENCIL SKIRT

This is a key summer trend, but it’s
too soon to choose a lime one in lace (too draughty!), or covered in
summery florals. I have found the perfect skirt that is not too summery:
the blue and black below-the-knee pencil by Zara, 25.99.

Lovely, too, is a fuchsia midi with
draping by Thakoon, (left) 98 in the sale at outnet.com — I know I said
‘no sales’, but this skirt is timeless.

Cream accessories: Tasha shoes from Asos and the Francoise tot from Whistles

Cream accessories: Tasha shoes from Asos and the Francoise tot from Whistles

Neutral accessories: Tasha shoes from Asos and the Francoise tot from Whistles

ANKLE BOOTS

Long boots are too hot, while strappy shoes are too cold and look odd with a wool coat.

The answer is the ankle boot: these
are warm, with no toe cleavage. Opt for some in cream suede to make them
seem spring-like and fresh. And, of course, once it warms up, you can
wear them well into summer with bare brown legs.

Try the cream suede Tasha shoe boots
at asos.com, 35, (left). A more formal alternative is Mark Fast’s great
transitional shoe: nude court with red inserts, 125.

MANNISH JACKET

Choose one in navy, stone or rust. I
love Sonia Rykiel’s slimline riding jacket, 380. It will look summery
later on over white, or a bright colour such as orange. I’m wearing mine
with my Jonathan Saunders for Debenhams navy kilt and ten-denier black
tights. Once it’s warmer, I will swap the wool kilt for a silk sari
skirt and bare legs.

Buy the way…

Our shopping habits are based on ancient gender instincts. Women browse and gather, men quickly go in for the kill

OUTERWEAR IN CREAM OR IVORY

A soft cream biker jacket is far less wintry than black, but still just as warm.

Asos.com has a metallic biker jacket
for 150. While outnet.com has a cream Valentino blazer, down from 520
to 156, and a cream Sonia Rykiel trench (above, left) for 193 that is
well worth snapping up for your wardrobe.

CASHMERE TANK

It’s too warm for a Sarah Lund thick
sweater (and anyway, a thick woolly is far too casual and unsexy), but
too cold for a T-shirt or camisole.

The solution A fine cashmere tank is
perfect: slim enough to go under a jacket, but can be worn with bare
arms when it’s finally sunny.

PERFECT WHITE JEANS

Shiny black trousers look awful as
soon as you step out in bright light. My favourite look for cold, crisp
days is a pair of equally crisp white jeans.

My favourite denim label is 7 For All Mankind (left), but Gap will do, too.

Skinny or boot-cut (a shape that has made a welcome return this spring), it doesn’t matter.

Wear with a jacket now, and a tan come summer.

A DRESS

More from Liz Jones…

LIZ JONES: Golden night for black and white: Who dazzled at the Golden Globes… and who didn't
17/01/12

The 6pm sauvignon…could you cope without yours

14/01/12

Why don’t more women moan like me Every week in Femail for two years, she’s let rip at rudeness and sloppy service, now LIZ JONES has a bone to pick with the rest of us
11/01/12

LIZ JONES FASHION THERAPY: Sneering at women who have plastic surgery is plain ugly
09/01/12

Diane has nothing to apologise for (ask King Leopold’s Ghost)
07/01/12

LIZ JONES MOANS: Spas Zen-like No, this one left my nerves in tatters!
04/01/12

Women at their peak at 52 On their knees, more like!
28/12/11

Our style guru's gongs for the most iconic outfits of 2011
25/12/11

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

One that neither feels wintry,
spangly or too summery: I love the J by Jasper Conran dark blue denim
shirt dress (below): perfect for the fuller figured, with good upper-arm
coverage, just 55!

It’s way too soon for:

Any kind of toe cleavageSheer blousesAnything mesh or sportyVests Pastels and sugary coloursBare legs

Fashion moments worth waiting for:

On April 2, Clements Ribeiro’s debut collection, Swan, for Evans hits stores.

Expect gorgeous detail, great print and real understanding of the fact bigger doesn’t have to be boring.

In February, Whistles launches a
range of handbags for summer. The Francoise tote (above) costs 295,
meaning this new range nicely bridges the yawning gap between 25 High
Street bags and the 800-plus Mulberry totes.

In March, Marks & Spencer launches a small collection of florals that reminds me of Erdem’s spring/summer show.

I love the pencil skirt in white,
black and airforce blue, 39.50, a white shift dress with a huge floral
print (left), 75, and a colourful almost hippie shirt, 25.