Fashion: dress sense

GOOD MORNING. Here is the Fashion News: Yellow is the New Black. No, okay, only kidding. Just testing you. Obviously, anyone who hasn't been trapped in a dentist's waiting room for the past year, with only 1995 copies of Hello! for company, knows that Grey is the New Black.

Yes, it's that time of year again: fashion editors are compiling the new season's "must-have" list. You know, the three/six/10 "absolutely essential items for the modern woman's wardrobe", the pieces even the most casual of style-watchers can't possibly manage without.

So I've prepared my shopping list, and frankly it's a worry. First there's the skirt issue. It's going to be tough to convince most of us that ankle- skimming tweed skirts do much for the average size 14, under 5ft 5in woman. Yes, even if Gucci did show them. And I admit that they looked great with suit jackets at Paul Smith. I was there. I saw them. But wispy 6ft models look good in anything. I'm wavering on this one.

Then there's the pleated skirt. I ache for one of those completely circular, twirly sunray pleat jobs in some luxuriously heavy cloth. Sadly, you don't have to have saddlebag hips to push the perfect lines out of whack. I know Wallis do a fabulous version at a realistic price, but it should come with a warning: "This skirt could seriously knock your confidence." And the problem with the more flattering sewn-down pleats is their county- lady associations.

Next on my list is a pair of wide-leg trousers, which in order to be truly "now" should, apparently, be at least one foot around the hem, fall slouchily to the hip and be flat-fronted and snug round the bum. Love them, want them ... but wish that the fashion police would allow the tiniest of pleats to sneak through.

That's the problem with style diktats - the must-have lists would turn us out as uniform (if slightly flawed) fashion plates. Whenever I feel moved to assemble a "new basic wardrobe", a reluctance to appear earnestly hip keeps the urge in check. And when I finally decide that a lace-edged slip under suits might just look okay on me, the moment's passed. The dilemma sees me retreating every time into vintage clothes shops and the comfort of retro classics.

As for grey, my school uniform was blue, so I've no problem there - but if everyone follows the rules, the British winter is going to look bleaker than usual. Thank God (or Prada, perhaps) that Red is the other New Black.

! Tamsin Blanchard is away.