Anna Murphy’s new book, How Not To Wear Black presents the ultimate guide to getting dressed. First figure out your body shape and then build a streamlined workable wardrobe for your life. This should be based around 11 key pieces – or Anna’s so-called ‘doyenne’s dozen’ – the opposite to a baker’s dozen, it means the 11 pieces that should be in every woman’s armoury, like a breton top, silk shirt, classic pea coat etc. Our favourite chapter turns to sustainability – a hot topic in fashion right now. Anna’s trick of turning all your hangers to face one way, and then returning 6 months later to see which items you haven’t worn is clever and a useful way to clear out the clutter. As a long-standing journalist and Fashion Director at The Times, Anna shares her knowledge and wisdom on London’s best shopping streets, getting dressed for work and more:
I live in Highbury, one of those so-called villages for which London is rightly celebrated. It even has its own village green. I love to watch the seasons pass on the Fields. I also love the fact that if you stripped away the cars it looks pretty much as it must have done centuries ago.
Which 3 items should be in every London woman’s wardrobe?
A trench coat, alas. Because we have the weather that requires one. Flat shoes, because we are always on the move. And always – always – some look-lifting colour, even it’s just lippy (a favourite of mine is the small but perfectly formed Linda Rodin range, £28, spacenk.com) or a silk scarf (the British designer Louisa Parris has some stunning designs; from £140, louisaparris.com).
Which high street brands are you particularly into this autumn and why?
Arket really nails quality, and is great on tweaking classics, as well as delivering a real-world-appropriate take on trends. John Lewis & Partners, because the collection is a rainbow of deliciousness. (I am a particular fan of the fuchsia coat, which feels and looks far more expensive than £199; johnlewis.com.) And LK Bennett, for its skirt lengths for grown ups, and the perfect pair of party shoes (silver glitter mary-janes; £185, lkbennett.com).
Which is your favourite street in London for shopping?
I have a few, of course! I am a fashion director after all! Near home it’s Camden Passage for vintage jewellery, and Cross Street for Papier Mache Tiger, which combines a top-notch contemporary fashion edit with coffee and St John’s doughnuts. The foodie fashionista’s dream.
Lambs Conduit Street for quirky fashion brands like Folk, plus Maggie Owen, ground zero for interesting modern bling. Connaught Street for beauteous high-end boutique The Place. Cadogan Place for a one-stop solution to looking office-appropriate, courtesy of The Fold‘s pretty store. Bulstrode Street, off Marylebone High Street, for Content Beauty, an Aladdin’s cave of natural products, and Sixty 6, another of my favourite independent fashion boutiques.
Do you believe in having a work ‘uniform’? What’s yours?
It depends upon how uniform, in the wider sense of the word, your workplace is, and how changeable your working week. To get it right in the office you really need to think like an anthropologist: look at what everyone else – your “tribe” – is wearing, then develop a version of similar, but one that makes you visible. You need to be seen.
I spend half my time holed up writing, the rest of it in glamorous fashion land, but whichever sphere I am currently residing in I always make sure I am comfortable. Nothing looks more dated than not appearing at ease in your clothes.
Your new book is all about shifting away from wearing black. What advice do you have for people on getting out of a sartorial rut?
It is not about turning your wardrobe upside down. It’s about a few canny tweaks to how you already dress that will make you stand out in the right way; that will modernise your look. Gamechanger pieces. Looklifters. Mad-ons. (Yes, mad-ons! Like a just-crazy-enough pair of sunglasses.) All of the above are easy one-step ways to change things up. Equally importantly it’s about really getting to understand your body shape and your colouring, and what is best going to flatter both. Few of us have ever been taught this stuff, so no wonder we get it wrong. My book tells you everything you need to know about getting things just right for you.
What’s the most precious item of clothing you have in your wardrobe and why?
Until very recently it was a navy tank-top with a red “A” on it, knitted for me by my mother’s friend Glennis when I was a baby. But I have recently handed it on to my one-year-old nephew Atticus. Which leaves A for Alexander McQueen. A cream tuxedo tweaked with a stunning waterfall of fabric over one pocket. Hi-vis dressing of the classiest sort. I feel empowered when I wear it, which is what dressing your best is all about.
Anna Murphy, How Now to Wear Black is published on 4 October by Dorling Kindersley, £16.99, dk.com
Anna Murphy – Book Launch
Get tickets to Anna Murphy’s book launch tonight in partnership with The Fold, where Anna will be sharing extracts from the book as well as offering styling tips in her masterclass at 7.15pm. Tickets cost £20 which includes a copy of the book and drinks and nibbles too.
Date: Thursday 4th October 2018
Time: 6.30pm until 8.30pm
Location: 28 Cadogan Place, SW1X 9RX