Fashion: Red’s hot for Christmas (but keep it classy)

Mulberry  Spring/Summer 2017 runway show at London Fashion Week in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Mulberry Spring/Summer 2017 runway show at London Fashion Week in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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It may be Santa’s favourite colour, but there’s a more sophisticated side to the festive season’s signature shade this year, says Stephanie Smith.

It’s the colour of passion and anger, of danger, of love ... and of Christmas.

Silk velvet Bardot top, �109; pleat skirt, �85; brooch, �25. All at East.

Silk velvet Bardot top, �109; pleat skirt, �85; brooch, �25. All at East.

Red, of course, takes centre stage every festive season, but this year, it’s particularly fashion-hot and on-trend. It’s also rather sophisticated this time around, which means it’s not just for show-offs, those on the prowl and the ones who always take Christmas just a little bit too seriously.

But first, some myth-debunking regarding that most famous red-wearer of all time, Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas.

In recent years, it has been popularly thought that the real reason Santa wears red is all down to Coca Cola and its advertising campaigns that began in the 1930s, showing the big man enjoying a refreshing drink of Coke at the homes of those kind enough to leave it out for him instead of boring old sherry. The 1937 slogan “Give and take, say I” is a classic example.

However, as much as Americans would like to believe that they invented Christmas, it is not true.

Truffle lambskin coat, �895; hmohair top, �165; Truffle leather skirt, �329; ankle boots, �375; knee-high boots, �595. All at LK Bennett.

Truffle lambskin coat, �895; hmohair top, �165; Truffle leather skirt, �329; ankle boots, �375; knee-high boots, �595. All at LK Bennett.

Even Coca Cola admits that Santa was wearing red long before either its adverts or the brand itself was created. Nor was a red-clad Father Christmas invented by the Victorians (although they did come up with crackers, cards, trees and turkeys).

Red has been associated with the festive season since mediaeval times, and probably much earlier, with influences from Celtic and pre-Christian eras picking up on red berries and evergreen foliage as symbols of life and continuity.

Then there’s the actual Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra in the 4th Century, famed for his kindness and generosity. Red was the colour of bishops’ cloaks, still seen in depictions of Santa, for example, in Holland, but over time replaced in the 
UK by the fur-trimmed suit we know and love today.

During Victorian times, Santa became a more jolly figure, and in the 1930s, Coca Cola’s artist Haddon Sundblom created adverts that gradually developed Santa into a cheery fat fellow in a red suit trimmed with fur and with a large belt.

Kaleidoscope jumpsuit, �189, Fenn Wright Manson.

Kaleidoscope jumpsuit, �189, Fenn Wright Manson.

And now, red is this Christmas’s colour of style for all of us, not just Santa. Aurora Red has been a leading Pantone shade for autumn/winter 2016, which means it has been strongly characterising fashion with a bold, warm, dynamic and confident input. For spring/summer 2017, there’s Flame, a red-based orange, flamboyant, fiery and theatrical. If you spot pieces in the shade now, snap them up to wear both for Christmas and to give a key colour update to next year’s wardrobe.

There are all sorts of rules regarding skin tones and warm or cool reds, but really, you have to see the red garment against your skin in both daylight and evening light to know for sure. If a bold, bright red is just not for you, try a berry shade – beautifully festive, but wearable for most of the year too. On Christmas Day itself, you will probably be sitting down a lot, at table, on sofas, so your top half will be on display most. You might also be maybe playing games (do we have to?), so make sure that you can actually move in your outfit.

Oh, and by the way, it is acceptableto wear a bright red outfit with 
matching bright red lips and 
nails on Christmas Day and 
maybe Boxing Day. But only then.

RED

Red jersey dress, �35, sizes 12-24 at Lavitta.co.uk.

RED Red jersey dress, �35, sizes 12-24 at Lavitta.co.uk.

Red Volcana dress, �149, at Fenn Wright Manson.

Red Volcana dress, �149, at Fenn Wright Manson.

Finery London crimson red jumper, �59, skirt, �89, at John Lewis.

Finery London crimson red jumper, �59, skirt, �89, at John Lewis.