PENNY McCORMICK explains how wearing white top-to-toe brightens the complexion and makes the wearer look younger …
There is no antidote to ageing, yet small miracles can be performed sartorially: one of which is wearing white. If the thought puts you on high stain alert (make-up smears! red wine! chocolate!) or is counterintuitive to all you’ve learned about dark, slimming colours, think again.
Women such as Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Martha Stewart, Helen Mirren and Joan Collins all know an effective way to brighten the complexion and look younger is to wear something white, which reflects the light.
Knowing your most flattering shade is vital. Choose from pure, soft whites to warm creams depending on your skin tone, advises Joan Rolston, a Belfast-based Colour Me Beautiful consultant. Women with black hair and very pale skin, or very dark skin can wear bright white beautifully. Those with more sallow or warmer-toned complexions have to lean in the direction of ivory.
The cornerstone of a youthful, timeless wardrobe is a good white shirt, such as one from Sharon Hoey’s AndTate collection – a range for women based on the traditional shirt for men. Hoey deliberately designed the collars to flatter and to stand out from the neck lessening make-up transferral.
Stylist Catherine Condell admires how Emmanuelle Alt, editor of Paris Vogue, pairs white blazers with dark trousers – the only accessory needed is shiny hair. It’s a quick way to re-energise, not only your demeanour, but dark year-round dresses, tops and bottoms, without making a major investment.
Even better is a white suit, which creates an elongated vertical line and stretches your shape. Remember how Kamala Harris glowed wearing a white Carolina Herrera trouser suit, with an ivory pussy-bow blouse, when addressing delegates in Delaware as vice president-elect in November 2020? Many saw the choice as a nod to the suffragettes of the early 20th-century and also refuted the American “No whites after Labor Day” (the first Monday in September ) maxim. Harris demonstrated how a white suit lends the wearer the kind of power that only comes with age and wisdom.
Irish businesswoman Sharon Bannerton has an enviable selection of LWDs (little white dresses). “When you’re wearing white you’re not hidden behind complex patterns, the style statement is more about your personality and the cut of the suit or the overall silhouette of what you’re wearing,” she believes.
White jeans, like whitened teeth, give everything a lift. They look fresh and bright: it’s not how much you spend or the size, but the fabric, so finding the perfect pair can take perseverance. Universally flattering are straight-leg, loose boyfriend styles.
Rolston advises: “As we get older, fabric can play an important role in maximising the impact of white. Smooth fabrics reflect more light while a textured fabric immediately softens. Curvy, more rounded shapes require fabrics which drape while straighter bodylines look best in a more tailored approach.” Check for opacity and consider skin tone underwear
As for white shoes, many believe unless you’re a nurse, or former editor of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman whose white Manolos are a style signifier, white shoes should be avoided. Yet the addition of box-fresh white Supergas, midi-kittys (mid-kitten heels) or block-heeled sandals are an excellent way to de-age your shoedrobe.
Remember to update make-up too (best applied after dressing, perfume should be applied before to prevent staining). Trinny Woodall says a red lip is more fabulous with white rather than with black clothes. “In summer, especially if it’s a tomato red, I think it’s my favourite look.”