Slacks, sweater, hat - Marion Hume feels inspired by the elegant simplicity of the late Diana Cooper, socialite, model and pig farmer
It's that "what to wear?" moment, that rather glum time in between seasons when you realise that summer is not going to last for ever and that clothes for autumn have to be thought about.

But it is not yet cold. It is too soon to cover up completely. It is too early for sweeping camel coats, for shin-high Prada boots (or their many imitations). Nor is it time to get out the to-the-knee skirt in tweed or wool crepe or the angular shift dress and matching coat - all of which are the "fashion news" for winter. And yet the shops have shifted on from summer. You are bored with the little dress, the micro-shift. You are fed up with tiny t-shirts that spell out messages like "Babe" and "100 per cent Virgin" (which may have seemed funny when temperatures were in the 90s, but have now ceased to be amusing).

What you need is something sophisticated. Take a pair of well-cut pale trousers, a soft cotton, silk-knit or cashmere sweater and - if you have the figure for it - leave a daring gap around your midriff between the two. Top it off with a crisp, tailored jacket (but before the full formality of winter sets in in the office, wear it slung around your shoulders, looking as though you have just returned from some fresh-air sailing holiday somewhere much smarter than the Isle of Wight in September).

If you're having difficulty pulling the look together, it might help to think of Lady Diana Cooper - beautiful, intelligent, witty, outrageous and unforgettable, according to those who knew her, saw her or have written biographies of her. She was also famously well dressed. She was the toast of society, an actress, and a model for Cecil Beaton. She grew up during the Great War and, in the Twenties, was known for her extravagance. The Thirties saw her travelling through America, Asia and Algeria, while she spent the Second World War running a pig farm. Whatever the time and place, she always looked splendid.

A friend in the fashion industry, who is a wee bit older than the Independent team, can remember seeing an exquisite young woman dressed in slacks, a cashmere sweater and a huge straw hat, swinging her legs while sitting on the arm of a chair. When the woman turned around, he realised she was the octogenarian Diana Cooper.

Although her style changed with the many decades she lived through, some things remained constant; a penchant for simple pieces teamed with an extravagant taste for hats. Hence the headgear pictured here; perhaps not terribly practical, but certainly perky when added to the most uncomplicated ensembles. A wide-brimmed velvet stovepipe, a jaunty PVC version of the sailor's cap - Diana Cooper, who was particularly fond of topping off simple daywear with a snakeskin sou'wester, would no doubt have approved.

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