No need to be spooked, here's how to wear red

With Halloween upon us and the party season soon to begin, it's time to experiment with the hot stuff. Stephanie Smith picks a few reds.

Red Cowl Neck Mini Slip Dress,  £28 at Miss Selfridge.
Red Cowl Neck Mini Slip Dress, £28 at Miss Selfridge.

Red has a reputation for being difficult to wear. “Oh, I can’t wear red. Not with my colouring. It drains me.” We hear this all the time. Some of us even say it all the time and resolutely believe that red – the colour of courage and devils and parties and festivities – is not for us. Far too many of us have been denying ourselves the experience of wearing red, simply because we believe that it does absolutely nothing for us.

Well, some reds might not work for us, but there’s a good chance that many reds will. Red, like all colours, comes in a variety of shades and tones, ranging from warm through to cool. All we have to do, in theory, is pick out the tones that flatter us, the ones which have a brightening and warming effect on our complexion and eyes, preferably making us look fresher and younger.

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What we don’t want next to our face are those pesky reds that make us look sallow or insipid. The wisdom that is known as colour analysis has it that warm, punchy reds – shades that veer towards the orange spectrum – suit those with darker and more olive skin, while reds with blue undertones (moving towards purple) suit those with a paler skin. However, unless you’re a Pantone colour expert, it’s not always easy to see what tones any specific shade is made up of, and you can be wrong about your own skin tone, too. You might think you’re pale, but actually, there’s a lot more colour going on in your face than you realise. It’s the same with lipstick. Some reds suit and some don’t, and it’s not always easy to work out why. Experimenting in front of a mirror, preferably in a natural light rather than beneath the harsh lighting of some shops, is the best way to unlock your perfect reds.

Red animal print dress, £55, at Wallis.

Talking of Pantone, the international colour agency has highlighted two red shades for autumn/winter 2019: Valiant Poppy (brave, outgoing and effusive in its allure, apparently) and Red Pear (a rich, deep red with decided purply undertones, at least from what I can deduce).

There’s lots of both bright and deep red about for the autumn. Indeed, some designs combine both – check out the red dogstooth sweater from Jaeger. So, with Halloween upon us and the festive party season soon to start, it’s time we ditched any fear of red and instead dipped in. The red slip dress here from Miss Selfridge has Halloween party written all over it. Not literally. But pop on a black cape and some flying bat deeley boppers, and you’re good to go.

Red knitwear, especially the sweater, is having more than a moment this season, with styles ranging from slouchy and fluffy to chic heritage designs featuring argyle and dogtooth patterning, which look good teamed with tweed and check tailoring. A red knitted dress, if you can find one to suit, is an investment worth making, too. There’s one here by Karl Lagerfeld for Long Tall Sally, from a capsule collection called Paris – tres chic and a bargain, although designed specifically for those 5ft 8in and over.

Red animal print is huge on the High Street for the autumn/winter (actually, any animal print is huge on the High Street right now) and can, thanks to its inherently mottled and multi-toned patterning, offer a wearable alternative to solid colour blocks of red.

Double breasted coat, £199; trouers, from a selection, both by John Lewis and Partners.

If you don’t want to go head-to-toe in red, there are some useful and interesting colour combinations to try. Pair poppy red with camel for a thoughtfully classic approach, and with a vibrant blue or a yellow for a primary bright statement. Red and steel grey is worth trying, as is red with plum and taupe. And remember, keep red away from your face if you think it doesn’t bring out the best in your skin tone. Pick a shirt with a collar in white or pink or any tone that suits you, and you can wear any red you like.

Geometric houndstooth jumper, £110; Prince of Wales check trouser, £110. Both at Jaeger.
Karl Lagerfeld ribbed sweater dress, £145, at Long Tall Sally.
Red shoe boot, £32, JD Williams.
Red trouser suit, £570 by Marc Cain at Helen Sykes in Leeds.