Sequins and satin are for girlies and old ladies, says JAMES SHERWOOD. Real women know that less is more
Can we have a minute's silence for the death of Quentin Crisp? One of his most famous bon mots told Style Police more about fashion than a lifetime subscription to Vogue Italia: "Never try to keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It's cheaper." High fashion is Miss Jones. She's a flighty little madam and even Platinum Amex owners can't keep up with the merry dance she leads. Just try and wear every seasonal must-have in one outing. Suits you, Miss Jones, but only if you're sitting on top of a 6ft fir tree holding a wand.

Style Police has said it once and we'll say it again. Fussy is finished. Most of us need frilly dressing like Tony Blair needs Red Ken for London mayor. Have none of this new femininity nonsense. If you could see the old broads in the fashion biz hobbling around in sequinned stilettos, ruffle satin skirts and beaded cardis then you'd truly understand the meaning of mutton dressed as lamb. Turn it around: Denise looks nothing more than lamb dressed as mutton.

But this doesn't mean you must look dull. The message this season is loud and clear colour. Only now are we ready to embrace olive, blood orange and shocking pink as wardrobe basics. Last winter's black/grey/red colour blocks made it easy. We understood the simplicity of streamlined shape and basic colour. The designers have simply shifted up a gear for winter 1999 by flashing hot colour into our fashion spectrum. The streamline shapes remain but the colour has reached high-octane heaven.

Admit it, you'd have died if grey wasn't retired for the time being. Aren't you even a little thrilled at the prospect of the hot-orange sweater, olive-green cashmere scarf or shocking-pink kid gloves for winter? Of course you are but, goddammit, everything is either beaded, embroidered or appliqueed. It seems the sequin fairy has been putting it about too much this season.

Your antidote is simple. Avoid decoration. Embrace the colour flash. Keep the line streamlined. Style Police detests bulk in winter. You need three easy pieces: the skirt (be it A-line maxi or A-line midi), the knit polo neck top and the tight-fit coat (funnel neck knee-length or crop zip leather). Only one piece per silhouette needs a colour flash of seasonal hot orange or rich green.

How to wear it

When Style Police says keep it simple, we don't mean woolly pullie and a nondescript skirt. This is sharp-simple. The rib-knit top has to be tight, bright and feel fabulous against bare flesh. We're loving this season's sleeveless or crop-sleeved polo neck sweaters. They banish the bulk and prevent your overcoat sleeves feeling like a pressure cooker. Speaking of overcoats, no shrouds please. Make it fit, make it stop on the knee and make sure the fabric is fine. Remember this is the season when layering is laid to rest. We don't want any coats over cardis over sweaters over vests. That's not a look. It's mummification.

Mark our words, the skirt will only get longer, fuller and more extravagant as the season progresses. The maxi is major on the high street and you all look darling in it. Love the fine wool A-line maxi, love the heavier tweeds and simply adore liquid satin evening skirts. A cracking maxi should cling to the knee then gently spread like ripples on a pond to the ankle.

Where to buy it

If you've been paying attention then you know Style Police covered the ultimate winter white coat and the A-line maxi skirt weeks ago. So let's get that pesky little colour flash sorted. The minute we saw Honor Fraser modelling Pringle's orange cashmere, short-sleeve polo neck (pounds 165) it was love. The orange is zingy without being radioactive-bright. The fabric is lush and the fit makes Style Police want to buy Pringle's technicians a large whisky. If cashmere is a bit flash for you, then you can pick up a wool/silk mix from pounds 67. Pringle has also launched a limited-edition Pringle Vintage Collection, which includes a fab claret-coloured tweed maxi for pounds 195.

We haven't mentioned Issey Miyake's Pleats Please range for a wee while. The early pleated pieces didn't quite mould to the body - they undulated like a choppy sea. Miyake's new stretch pleats have solved the design problem. Pleats Please sleeveless and short-sleeve polos in shocking pink, blood orange and pillarbox red are the ultimate zero-bulk colour flash (from pounds 80).

Meanwhile, there's plenty of colour about on the high street, but is it the right colour? Only if the sign above the door says Jigsaw, my lovelies.

Address book

Issey Miyake Pleats Please (tel: 0171 495 2306).

Jigsaw (tel: 0171 491 4484).

Pringle (tel: 0800 360 200).