The best and perfect colour

In Clothes, Fashionistas, Shopping on April 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm


Before I kick off – just a reminder to all Sydney readers – my column will appear in the S section of the Sun Herald from this Sunday onwards. And now back to normal service…

A couple of weeks ago I got completely hysterically obsessed with the Vivienne Westwood Anglomania dress pictures above (as seen on the Matches website

Not only because it looks like it would be both flattering and very comfortable – a rare enough combination – but because of the colour.

It’s navy blue! This is the cue for me to set off a dazzling display of fireworks and cartwheel along Oxford Street.

Navy blue is the best of all colours. It just is. Of course, I love black, it’s ultra chic and slimming, but the minute the sun comes out – even on a cold day – you feel like a Sicilian widow. Or a Suzi Quatro wannabe. Or a goth.

Also, as the days turn into weeks turn into years and your face is looking less like a pert bagel and more like a collapsed bap (an image I got from my daughter, who wouldn’t eat her soft white roll the other day because, she said, it looked like grandma…), black gets harder to wear.

It drains you and draws cruel attention to the sag harbour of your jaw line. And it makes your make up look more make up-y.

Navy blue, on the other hand, has all the slimming optical illusion of black, without the down side. It’s like a warm version of black. And on top of those benefits, it looks simply wonderful with denim. Dark denim, of course, which is really navy blue denim. Hurray! Life is beautiful!

I think there are very few things which aren’t improved by being navy in colour (and I have interspersed pictures of some of my favourites), but give me in particular, a well-cut pair of super dark denim straight legs (not skinnies, cigarette shape) and a navy blue T shirt/cardie combo (cotton for spring, cashmere for winter) and I am completely happy. It’s so lengthening, you’re just one long column of navy blue.

All you need to lay over it is a bit of a feature scarf, maybe a necklace. Some great earrings. And killer shoes.

These can be anthing from Louboutin/Balenciaga/Louis Vuitton style bonkers shoes (I don’t own any of the actual above, I buy the brilliant Topshop tributes…), to my brilliant Timberland wedge deck shoes. Hunter wellies. Or even lemon yellow Havaianas, as I was wearing today.

Because navy provides such a fabulous popping backdrop for other colours. I hate black with bright colours, the clash is too harsh and obvious, but navy is enhanced by it.

My favourite summer tote is a bright orange canvas take on a game bag. Looks bloody marvellous with navy. Apple green and fuschia pink are also divine with it.

Red, I’m a little more wary of. Mixed with navy it can easily become a bit natty bandbox smart. But just a hint of it is very Riviera (especially with a stripe somewhere in the mix). I have some red wedge espadrilles that fit that box perfectly.

But here’s another wonderful navy colour combo you might not be so familiar with: navy with black. Ooh! Sharp intake of breath! So naughty, so chic, it’s one of my absolute favourites.

I had this Pauline conversion one cold early evening in Milan, leaving the Burberry show in the Duomo square, when I saw one of my favourite New York fashion editors (don’t know her name, not one of the famous ones) winding a navy blue pashmina around the neck of her black jacket.

She was wearing black jeans, black high-heeled boots, black bag and then this navy blue pashmina. Gee-nee-us. I bought one the moment I got back to London and out it comes every winter, just to take the edge of a black coat, tights and shoe combo, without going anywhere near the colour-me-beautiful pashmina thing which is so 1995.

So that’s all the good things about navy, here’s the rub: there just isn’t enough of it about. That’s why I got so excited when I saw the Vivienne Westwood dress. Navy dresses barely exist. They’re the unicorns of fashion.

But even in more everyday pieces my favourite colour can be hard to find. It drives me nuts how often I see great basics that come in every flipping colour except navy. I confess that when my daughter was a baby I often dressed her in boys’ clothes so she could wear navy.

So I was thrilled to open a Land’s End catalogue recently and find they now do all their staples in what looks like a really nice dark shade. From a company that used to torture me with useful things available only in jade and fuschia, this is a major breakthrough.

I’ve ordered this cardigan and I’ll report back.

Or you could have it in this colour….. No thank you. No contest.

  1. I adore Navy too … so right about it being a warmer version of black, I would always dress my daughter in Navy too (all my favorite little girl photos of her seem to always involve a navy or a stripe top) …. Yippee, you on a Sunday, how great, looking forward to it !!!

  2. Thank you Maggie … I have always loved navy, and now you have confirmed to me I am not a complete dag, I trust you opinion that much. I to get frustrated when they don’t make it in navy and I dressed my daughter in lots of navy, although much of it was her two brothers hand me downs ( I also love hand me downs )

  3. Love, love, love. I think it’s coming back. Navy was BIG at school – navy blazer, white laura ashley shirt (eek), jeans and absolutely, standard, mary bonn, tassled shoes (zzzzzzz).
    ……..Back to 2011……Witchery did great navy singlet tops last summer, and Sambag & Seed Femme both have lovely navy blazers which I am coveting, probably the Sambag one more. Popping over to check out your new navy cardi!

  4. Ditto re navy being fav. colour. Ditto re dressing baby girl in navy. And now to boast and to make you wish you were still in Australia. My recent purchases include: navy suede wedges from Sambag, a very handy navy cardi from The Gap ( ok ,you can get that one in London), and the best pair of stretch pants from Country Road that came into the store on Wednesday. In navy. Oh happy me.

  5. Did I send my kids to one particular primary school because the uniform was ‘nabee blue’? well no, but they sure looked a lot cuter than their friends in green or (shudder) maroon.

    Oh navy, the same class as black but much less intimidating- I even love navy nailpolish (OPI russian navy) because it doesnt have the same hangups as black but looks very classy and beautiful, AND still matches everything!

    Happy Weekend

  6. Navy and Tan are great together. Yes its my favourite colour also.
    Sussan have a great navy and tan scarf that Im looking forward to wearing with my straight leg navy pants and sweater from swish Myer
    in Melbourne

  7. I spent yesterday trawling stores for a navy blue cardigan for my 12 week old baby! She has a gorgeous apple green, white & navy dress which I’m paring with navy & white striped tights. I do not want a white cardigan, of which there are many. That’s boring. And obvious for a baby. I want navy. Taking a cue from your post Maggie, I shall head out today and search in the baby boy sections of the store instead – wish me luck!

    • Bumpyroadtobubba: Noooooo, don’t trawl the shops, trawl the internet. Cup of tea in one hand, credit card in the other, baby asleep in cot. So civilised. If you’re in Oz, Pumpkin Patch have cute navy baby girl gear, called “From Paris With Love” and Bebe by Minihaha (my all time favourite) have a lovely navy cardi for girls, in the “Sara” line. Navy on baby girls has to have frills, bows or girlie accessories. I had my 4 month old baby girl out the other day in navy striped top and navy leggings (with frill) in a HOT PINK PRAM and I was asked how old “he” was.

    • Let me know how you get on – then please post pic of that outfit. Sounds a-dor-able x

    • If you’re in Australia, Myer has some gorgeous navy cardigans for little ones with a white bow pattern on the front.

      I think David Jones has some Pumpkin Patch ones as well and I saw several at Trade Secret last week.

      Hope that helps.

  8. Maggie, I love this post and whole-heartedly agree. Navy rules supreme. One question though – what is that divine watch? And where can i buy it in Sydney? Can’t wait to read you on Sundays now!

  9. Maggie, I am so with you, I adore navy and always have (when I was a teenager my mother despaired because she said it was an ‘old lady’s colour’).
    Just so you know, if you’re prepared to dye your clothes, navy will cover any colour except bright red – I’ve gotten years more out of things that were a great shape but a not-so-great colour by dyeing them navy.

  10. Hear, hear! I adore black and navy combos.
    It may not be quite the thing in the UK, but I get the Boden catalogue here in the U.S. and have a NAVY blazer that I love. The lining is hot pink with polka dots and the trim is lime green. A good look or am I dreaming???
    I hope to visit a Top shop in the UK when we visit in May. I loved this column! I feel as if I have to explain to chums here that it is OK to wear navy and black.
    I have a treasured pair of black loafers by Gucci that dress up anything. It works for me!
    Keep up the good work and oh my gawd, yes! It is very hard to find navy here. Very hard. Woe.

    • Good look. Oh Gucci loafers! I still have mine – 20 years old. why oh why oh why won’t they do them again??? Topshop has some great bits, but the quality is not great and the prices have really gone up, so brace yourself. I love their shoes and costume jewellery though. xxx

  11. Too true about black being aging! I’ve never really been an all-black dresser,but do love the idea of a good neutral.Navy is perfect.
    P.S. so glad I subscribed to your posts,because I won’t be reading the”Sun Herald”. What a step in the wrong direction getting rid of “Essential style”. I looked forward to reading that eagerly each Thursday.

  12. Since i started buying navy (about 12 months ago) i found my wardrobe coming together really nicely. it only took about 6 items but i suddenly seemed to have so much more to wear. i love tan wedges and tan slouchy leather bags with navy. i still have black (and love it) but i much prefer navy for spring and summer.

    i bought my daughter the most adorable navy/white pants in a thin stripe and t-shirt in thicker stripes. it also has little red flowers on it. i can’t wait for her to be big enough to wear it. a nice alternative to all the pink.

  13. Oooh, yesssssss. Navy Love. I actually have a gorgeous navy breastfeeding top that I’ll keep wearing long after I wean. Looks divine with white jeans. Also have a bee-yoo-tee-ful navy blazer from Queenspark (from at least 5 years ago, they’ve gone off recently) which I still get comments on today. Has white stitching detail on lapels and vertical navy and white striped lining. Awesome with jeans & white t-shirt. Never thought to wear it with black but I am so going to try it. And I am definitely gonna get me a navy pashmina: laughed out loud at the “colour-me-beautiful” dig, so true. Ashamed to say I have a lilac pashmina in my wardrobe (who doesn’t?)

    • Let me know how you get on with it xxx ps I like a lilac pashie with a late summer pastel dress, say, for an evening wedding…. I always thought that worked.

  14. Hallelujah! I whole heartedly agree with you – esp. the black & navy combo, unfortunately Australians just don’t get it. I have often been told in hushed tones – darling you have accidentaly put navy & black together – I just look at them as though they are morons. Have you come across this site yet?, she does black & navy perfectly.

    As always a brilliant column Maggie.

    Love, Katie

  15. Navy and chocolate (colour or if nec the eating kind)

    • Yes, chocolate is my other option – also worn with black – but I had a big choc craze a couple of years ago and am slightly tired of it, just now. It will come back. Navy is the constant for me x

  16. Thank you Maggie – I have been a Navy girl for many years and it so hard to get anything now. My navy garments are washed and dried with infinite care to keep them smart! And navy and olive green and cream is ageless – especially with statement silver jewellery. Love your columns and getting Style Notes to my inbox.

  17. ‘In the Navy -tra la la la la’ Well, I shall be singing that song all summer!! Oh yes, you are (as ever) completely bang on here. Sooo very true. It’s a fab shade. I have over the years gone from black, to grey and have embraced navy now. The best of the blues (oh preserve us from that screamingly hideous royal blue!). Navy is the backdrop supreme – and as you say, such a clever foil for all sorts of colour. Flatters everyone. And a Vivienne Westwood cleverly cut navy blue just has to be a winner. I too cast my eye along the Land’s End/Bodenesque display of colourful knits , skimming past depressing pastels, hoping they’ve included navy! Such a wasted opportunity if not!
    Navy with black, eh? Gotta give that a try!
    Thanks Maggiex

  18. I am feeling part of the zeitgeist. The other day bought the nicest, newest, navy dress from the gorgeous Nicky who has the best boutique and full of good advice on how to wear things. Her advice navy looks great with black.
    Maggie, perhaps a post on how those stylish boutique owners make it easy for the rest of us to get dressed with a bit of style, because they really know how to edit what is out there in the market.
    Anyway, looking forward to reading your column in the Sun Herald. Like Toby, I just love this blog.

    • Thanks, Paula. I love the sound of your dress. Where is said boutique? And any chance of a pic of the dress? x (on hanger is fine!)

      • Ooh – said boutique in Brisbane – I know end of the earth! Bit technically challenged to get you a pic, but the brand is Joseph and I noted there is a white version on the site. Thank you for asking.x P

      • It’s not the end of the earth. As i said previously, have never seen such stylish women as I did in the queue for Valeninto expo there last year… x

  19. hi Maggie. enjoy your columns. the only word of caution I would insert on your navy love fest is that it should suit your skin tone. I am a brown eyed brunette with olive (tending towards sallow) skin in winter and it looks ghastly on me-at least anywhere near my face. ditto re black. On other the other hand chocolate brown looks fab. ciao K

    • The American editor who inspire by my navy pashmina had exactly your colouring… So I hear what you say, but I think it’s all about the make up. Mind you, I love choc brown too. I have a choc brown pashmina which I wear with black too! xxx

  20. This afternoon tried on a heap of black tops which all made me look old and tired, before settling on an old favourite navy top for the theatre and dinner.

    As well as the ageing thing, I just think the navy just looks a bit more stylish and “in the know” than black.

  21. Maggie, I adore this blog, have read all your books, am deeply committed to looking at my best ( even with a new baby ) but your most recent blog has me doubting our ‘friendship’. Navy ? Eek!
    I was subjected to the horrors of a Navy / White / Red uniform at school which as an ash blonde with yellow toned skin had me me looking pasty for 6 long years. *shudder*
    I am however, fascinated that there might be another option to the standard Melbourne black this winter – your wisdom and counsel on how different skin / hair colours can rock Navy would be so appreciated.

    with thanks and luv, Sarah

  22. So chuffed to read this, have always loved navy, still have a few pieces, but have lamented the dwindling number of items available on racks. I, like many others, have gone over to the dark side and become a predominantly black wearer, but will now proudly keep my eyes open for some navy additions.

  23. I ADORE navy. Just love it. I have let my hair go white/silver this year and even though I have only just hit 40 I find black can be a bit harsh now.

  24. For years, my closet looked like a bruise – black and navy and dark purple, but black was always my go-to. Then I discovered on my own that (suddenly?) black was a wash out, so I started piling on color again. A jellybean closet was not the best solution.

    Enter: Midnight! The best men’s tuxes are midnight — Can you find a great suit in midnight for women? Oh, please, let me know if you do!

    And really, the new very dark teals look good as well and you can even find them in Target now.

    So glad I found you Maggie.

  25. Totally and wholeheartedly agree! It is simply a great basic colour without, as you say, the draining qualities of black. I have a vintage shop in Leura and the number of lovely older ladies who come in looking for navy bags or shoes is amazing. Some of them would never normally consider a “vintage” shop, but they simply can’t find navy any other way. A modern take on this classic colour would be very welcome.

  26. I had a navy moment this summer. Bought a navy cotton cardi as an experiment (so went the budget version) and ended up wearing it to death with everything.

    My navy cardi and this post has made me review my wardrobe. I feel liberated from my mental navy=summer and black=winter equation. I’m getting myself some more navy!

    Last winter I got close to buying the perfect navy trans-seasonal dress (3/4 sleeve, v neck, fitted in bust, slim thru waist and hips, hem just below knee) but I didn’t buy it because I had a styling dilemma, couldn’t work out what to wear it with and was worried that it would look boring. Now I am kicking myself; it would look fine with black or grey accessories (don’t have any tan or choc, perhaps I should.)

    I need a navy dress. And a navy blazer.

  27. I tried to buy some navy heels a number of years back, specifically to go with a neutral suit. I had a gorgeous navy silk scarf to complete the ensemble.

    I couldn’t find a shoe shop anywhere that sold navy heels! Suit has been mothballed. I should dig out the scarf though – I am ashamed to say I have never warn it!

  28. I have been a long time lover of navy and bought a very smart navy & white linen dress for summer, from the bargain rack because it seems the Melbourne girls just don’t get navy. My favourite work suit is navy with a very subtle red pinstripe, I feel extra tres chic in it….

  29. Love this post to bits Maggie!!!
    I too have slowly turned too navy as a neutral. I heart the Vanessa Bruno cotton cardi from netaporter and I get rave reviews when I wear it with jeans. Who knew you did too?
    Love that dress but Aussie dollar not as brll against the pound as US.
    Off to Netaporter USA site for inspiration
    Kat Bx

  30. Love this post to bits Maggie!!!
    I too have slowly turned too navy as a neutral. I heart the Vanessa Bruno cotton cardi from netaporter and I get rave reviews when I wear it with jeans. Who knew you did too?
    Love that dress but Aussie dollar not as brll against the pound as US.
    Off to Netaporter USA site for inspiration
    Kate Bx

  31. So good of you Maggie to set this trend…we need more in the stores.
    I’ve loved the Navy/Black combination for a long time…but not every navy works well with black. Sometimes I dye an average navy with black at half strength, and it looks great. There are other ways to go about it, for the ones who can mend and have the patience: add little navy borders, pockets, buttons, rubbans, to something black.
    There is a woman in Nelson New Zealand who can customize anything…I’m good with disguizing holes in cashmere knits…

  32. I love navy! A woman once said I couldn’t wear it because only blondes can wear it but I think that is rubbish! My 42nd birthday is just days away and I have had to admit that black is starting to make me look a little harsh, even haggard sometimes. But navy is delish. I love me some dark denims, and a navy jacket is perfection. But my current favourite navy item? Navy wellies in riding boots style. Fantastic.

  33. And I find navy with dark chocolate is a great combo too…

  34. Navy is the bomb. Plus it doesn’t show as much fluff and pilling as black. Also cheap black fabric looks Wrong whereas cheap navy fabric is quite chic. I once read that Gaultier has a navy and white fisherman’s whatsy top in every collection. Your daughter is adorable. Glad you’ll be back in the Sun Herald. Cheerio.

  35. Oh, I’m loving navy at the moment! I’m definitely well past the fashionable stage, and enjoying buying quality yet quirky classics. Navy fits the bill perfectly. And I hardly ever wear black. Will be rocking my me vintage Country Road boucle cropped jacket and melton blazer this winter. In perfect navy! Guess I must have cottoned on to the wardrobe classic thing earlier than I thought, as they’re both 15!

    Coincendentally, today I wore a CR black shirt dress with a patent navy Marni belt. 🙂

  36. This is great news – coming from you. I have just rediscovered navy myself and was wondering whether it might by my new black – so much softer… Yes to navy and black together – a nice twist.

  37. This article thrills me to no end because I have long been a navy advocate!! You manage to articulate the beauty and essence of navy so well (no surprises there). I can’t even count the number of things I have bought simply because they were navy and that made them all the prettier.

    Though I will say the idea of a navy top with navy jeans is a little scary. I once heard this look referred to as ‘a blueberry’ and I can never go back…

    • No believe me – the denim makes it different enough. My Land’s End cardie is genius. Looks great with jeans and navy T shirt. Being short, the head to toe thing works for me – then fab details on jewellery, belt, shoes. Trust me! x

  38. So shoe shopping today. Choice between suede boots in black or navy. Nearly went for the safety net of black…stopped myself and now own the navy!

    • Oh my! I’ve been looking for navy suede boots since I missed out a Sachi pair three years ago. Where did you find yours?!

  39. Love navy, glad it’s making a comeback. Like the look of those jeans too, what are they?

    P.S. Have just started reading In a Summer Season by ET…on your recommendation, good so far.

  40. Finally getting around to posting pic of my love bug in her navy cardigan with her green, white & navy dress & navy & white striped tights, but can’t figure out how to attach the photo to a comment? At almost 6 months, she still fits the 0000 dress and leggings and the 0-3m cardigan is only a little too big. Good things come in small (navy wrapped) packages! x

  41. Trying to buy a simple cotton navy cardi (to go with summer dresses), I visited 12 stores today and no joy.

    Why is it always so difficult to find the absolute basics when it comes to clothing. I am nearly going mental. I was certain Sportscraft and Country road wouldn’t let me down.


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