“I wore nothing but yellow for a week, and this is what I learned”

Posted by
Susan Riley
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Susan Riley, as a rule, doesn’t wear colour – so how did her outlook change when she tackled the yellow fashion trend for a week?

Yellow was last year’s colour du jour, and it shows no signs of slowing down in 2019. 

All summer long, the sunshine hue has been seen all over the high street, in heatwave-friendly dresses and cool linen pinafores. Now, as we step into the sludgey greys of autumn, yellow is having yet another moment at London Fashion week: indeed, if you take a proper look, you’ll note that mustard, gold and olive is pretty much all over every Soho pavement, front row and catwalk.

So, to celebrate this newest onslaught of primrose pastels, buttery creams, zingy citrus shades and yolk yellows, here’s what happened when we challenged Stylist’s colour-shy editor Susan Riley to wear nothing but yellow for one week…

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It was in a meeting a few weeks ago that I unwittingly agreed to be yellowfied. In truth I don’t think I was properly listening; I nodded to something someone said and duly heard a: “GREAT”. Turns out I agreed to spend a week being the human equivalent of margarine. You can’t win them all.

I wear very little yellow (do any of us unless we are Amal Clooney?). In fact make that none. Save for a pair of yolk-y mustard heels that pop brilliantly with black, and a yellow t-shirt I’m quite sure I’ve never worn.

I’m happiest clad in greys, navy and khakis and denim. Leopard print is also always a yes. An almost neon pink can also be my friend. But yellow? Nein.

Reasons for this yellow amnesty are unclear. Perhaps it’s because the only yellow I regularly see in the Stylist office is the high vis cycling vest strung on the back of my colleague Helen’s chair. Or the fact when I was 16, so many people commented on my friend Caroline’s lurid yellow denim jacket that I consciously decided there and then I’d never wittingly be so conspicuous. 

Most likely, it’s my colouring: pale skin and blonde hair seeps into yellow clothing like gloopy custard, with you not quite sure where the material ends and the human begins. 

I also suspect (and don’t tell anyone this) that yellow does not match my demeanour. My humour is dry; my face largely the opposite of Little Miss Sunshine, even when I’m inwardly grinning. Hang on: this can’t be why they volunteered me for this task, surely?

Anyway, the upshot is I fear that this experiment is only going to make me look like a washed out cream puff. And an unfashionable one at that. Particularly when Stylist’s fashion team have already nicked all the best looks for their fashion story for our special yellow edition. 

They even matched the best shades of yellow with their skin tone and all managed to look bloody amazing. Obviously, I’m not jealous in the slightest. That would mean I was green with envy and that’s simply not allowed in this article. 

Day 1 

It is not a yellow day. My four-year-old is having the mother of all strops about Banana Weetabix (at least she’s sticking to the theme) and I am recovering from a bout of food poisoning and feeling pathetically weak from not having eaten for the last 24 hours. This means I look a bit yellow before I’ve even started, but not in the way I’m meant to. 

It’s also – after weeks and weeks of heatwave - a very cloudy overcast day outside and not in the least bit sunny. Nonetheless… I pull on a yellow Topshop dress. It’s backless, but I have no time to change. So ,in a fit of panic, I throw on a fitted mid-blue denim jacket over the top and leave the house. 

Yes, you heard me: A FITTED MID-BLUE DENIM JACKET. The inclusion of yellow in my wardrobe has thrown me so greatly that I have delved into a box of old holiday clothes and now look like a 16-year-old in search of a line-dancing contest. I feel very un-me.

Upon arrival at the office, my line-dancing suspicions are confirmed when Stylist’s fashion editor Polly gently suggests with a kind smile that I change from my BeWitched homage (I realise not everyone will get this. If you don’t please feel free to YouTube; you’re in for a treat) into a navy jumper. Yes, much happier. 

However, due to the backless, beachy good-god-why-am-I-wearing-this-to-work nature of my dress, I can’t take my jumper off all day. Even when I feel I’m about to faint from the humidity and my friend starts sneezing at dinner because she’s allergic to merino wool. Yellow, it’s all your fault.  

Day 2 

Another day, another yellow dress – this time from Reformation and much more work appropriate, with a subtle print that helps lift the lemony silk. I feel trés chic. However, I’m still not sure it does my skin tone any favours, especially post-food poisoning.

Enroute to work I feel compelled to explain to a friend on the train why I’m wearing yellow for a second day running (I have no idea why I do this; I have worn blue concurrently for days and never felt I owed anyone an explanation), and she nods at me sympathetically. Is that pity I see in her eyes? Or just bemusement at how random a work task this is? As we’re talking, though, a woman sat opposite decides to interrupt us. She tells me that she knows what I mean; she doesn’t suit yellow either but that actually she really likes my dress and it’s lovely and bright. HOW NICE. I’ve made a train friend. 

Navy, pay attention – this never happens with you.

Day 3

I’m having a day off; sue me. Well, I’m wearing a pair of chunky yellow shoes from Office, which feels like a bit of a cheat but I had so little time this morning and yellow dressing is as time consuming as churning butter (or so I imagine). 

First you have to pick the right shade. Then you’ve got to work out what that shade goes with (this is never an issue with black or navy). Then the fit and how it hangs become so crucial because yellow’s so stand-out and garners so much attention that you become ridiculously fussy and nitpicky about how it looks. 

Upshot is, I’m not convinced my hectic mornings are built for this. How does Amal Clooney do it? (Apart from getting Stella McCartney to custom make it and fit it to her, obviously). Anyhow, yellow shoes are a winner because they suit everyone and don’t have you overthinking it. Go forth: lemonise your feet.  

Day 4 

So. If I were a member of our sartorially-blessed fashion team, I would have tried on all the yellow items I have been kindly lent at the start of the week and hung them up to make a series of decadent outfits: one for each day of the five-day yellow challenge. 

However, I am not a member of the fashion team which means, 20 minutes before I’m due to leave the house, I’m still unsure of how I’m ‘yellowing’ today (it’s a new word I’ve coined) and am madly trying things on (although the choice of yellow pieces I would actually wear makes for slim pickings).

It’s also bucketing down outside, which makes things even trickier. YELLOW’S MEANT TO BE SUNSHINEY AND JOYOUS, GODAMMIT! It feels like anything I wear today will be in direct contrast to the earth and everyone on it, and, therefore, slightly ridiculous. 

After casting aside a sleeveless silk yellow vest (too holiday), wide leg palazzo pants (they will soak up the rain brilliantly) and a very bright yellow silk shirt (good god no), I plump for a golden furry Baum Und Pferdgarten jumper paired with cropped dark denim jeans and white trainers. 

Fortunately, I have no one to impress at meetings today, otherwise this look wouldn’t wash for work. By now, I have to admit I’m struggling; with yellow’s constraints I’m not styling it with confidence, so am opting for some fairly safe colour combinations and styles. Perhaps this hue would be better in someone else’s (far more adventurous) hands?

Day 5

I have yellow fatigue. However, today’s Topshop skirt is really rather lovely (teamed with my failsafe grey Joseph jumper and silver metallic flats, it’s professional and feminine), and Stylist’s fashion writer Billie tells me the shade suits me. HIGH PRAISE.

Everyone seems to know that today is the last day of my experiment, which means that either the office has noticed my clothing more this week OR they’ve heard me loudly huffing and puffing about the task that’s been set me. It’s hard to say with confidence which. My ‘yellow-ing’ has even been clocked by my four-year-old, who has insisted on getting in on the act the last two days, having already sported a yellow dress and now a yellow t-shirt. Her sheer joy and happiness about this fact has made me realise that wearing yellow is far easier (and perhaps far more suitable) when you are under the age of 10.

The verdict:

Looking good in yellow is not easy – you have to consider shade, cut and fabric; items you may have loved in other colours suddenly become out of the question. This is not the LBD of colour.

The pressure to be happy in it is also immense, especially when it’s raining or you’re not in a great mood. People comment on it, as if you should be sunny of disposition. This, people, can be draining.

Part of me did love being forced out of my go-to outfit combinations and I’ve been surprised with the fact a pale lemon suits such a pale Susan. PLUS remember: I did make a train friend (what was her name again?) so there have been numerous advantages to all this. 

So my learnings are as follows: do not discount yellow as something that doesn’t suit you, as so many of us do, because there will be a way for you to wear it well. However, tread with caution. Yellow is a colour best worn loudly, but in very small doses. Unless, of course, you’re four.

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Please note that this article was originally published in August 2018.

Images: Supplied by writer


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