Style Police: The fine art of flirting

The late, great Diana Dors had the right idea, says JAMES SHERWOOD. Now there was a girl who knew her lingerie

Fashion is a question of context, consistency and timing. You see some black-clad stick insect at a flash party in London accessorising with a pair of patent acid-yellow pumps and applaud. Put said insect in Brent Cross shopping centre a season ago and the girl would have been lucky to get out alive. See? Context, consistency, timing.

This season yellow, from palest lemon to egg-yolk bright, is key. As colours go, yellow is like steak tartare: an acquired taste. Fashion editors have been spinning the usual nonsense to spread the yellow fever. If we didn't, we'd be the only ones looking like Big Bird. But Style Police think we've found the solution. Watching ITV's recent biopic of Diana Dors, The Blonde Bombshell, the answer came like a lightning bolt from Olympus: underwear.

Diana Dors in her 1950s lacy-drawer prime is inspiring. The sex kitten with more front than the French Riviera made us understand the power of expensive underwear. If a girl's wearing silk and satin next to her skin, she's already feeling sexier than the broad in the sports bra and cotton Calvins. If she chooses this season's colours - searing fuschia pink, pale lemon and cornflower blue - she's giving colour trends a coquettish wink without committing totally. Flirt but don't follow through.

Is there anything sexier than the flash of a lemon satin bra strap or a peep of hot pink lace under a low-slung shirt? The answer is a definite "no", but not everyone, these days, understands that.

As Hugh Grant's arm candy proved at the Notting Hill premiere, celebrities these days dispense with lingerie altogether. Liz Hurley's Versace-sequins- and-no-knickers look makes one shudder to think what she won't wear at the next film premiere. The divine Diana Dors, meanwhile, understood that a flash of lingerie is so much sexier than acres of flesh.

How to wear it

This spring is the season of backless, strapless fashion booby traps. Style Police advocates a variation of the dance of the seven veils. We love the idea of a hot pink satin camisole worn with pedals. We melt at the thought of a colour-clash basque under Helmut Lang's sheer hot pink T-shirts. Flippy little chiffon underskirts work with fine knit sweaters.

You've got to think yin/yang. If you're wearing hot-coloured lingerie, then it's got to be balanced by all those whites, creams and khakis. If you're flashing a little bit of silk, satin or lace, it looks lovely next to more modest linens and cotton. Style Police isn't suggesting a return to early Madonna underwear as outerwear. Never, but never, reveal all.

Where to buy it

If Diana Dors were alive today, she'd be the Gossard girl. Gossard instinctively understands va-va-voom. Their bras walk that tightrope between "Hello Boys" and too tarty. You're not going to find the yellow story with Gossard this season. You go to Janet Reger - the undisputed Queen of expensive underwear - for exquisitely made, 100 per cent silk satin lingerie. You go to Agent Provocateur for naughty little pieces of Fifties boudoir chic.

Knickerbox makes a great Brasilia padded bra (pounds 18) and brief (pounds 8) set in pale lemon and baby blue. Lilac embroidered flowers on the cream Poppy bra (pounds 20) by Knickerbox are simply edible. Gossard is so spot on with hot pink undies in the colour they're calling Lipstick.

Style Police particularly likes Gossard's satin lipstick-pink Ultrabra Balconette (pounds 21). As the name suggests, the Balconette will give any girl a Diana Dors cleavage.

If you're into the cute feminine story, then you want to go for Gossard's lacy pink Gypsy basque (pounds 46). If you're smitten with the sex kitten vibe, then get out immediately and buy the matching briefs (pounds 14) and suspenders (pounds 17). And honey, they don't call it hot pink for nothing.

Address book

Agent Provocateur: 0171 439 0229.

Gossard: 01525 859769.

Janet Reger: 0171 584 9360.

Knickerbox: 0171 730 1665.

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