How to wear white without looking like a bride. Ellie Goulding - plus Sandra Oh and Helen Mirren - step out on the red carpet

The white stuff is a major trend for the summer. Stephanie Smith has advice on how, when – and when not – to wear it with style.

Where's the groom? Singer Ellie Goulding wears bridal white in this '80s-inspired gown by Adriana Degreas, as she arrives for the premiere of Netflix's 'Our Planet' at the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London, hosted by Sir David Attenborough. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Let’s get one thing clear about wearing white. It is not a go-anywhere colour. Just imagine if Ellie Goulding had worn this, er, rather elaborate fringed white dress to a wedding, as in a wedding at which she was a guest, and not the bride (she’s getting married to Caspar Jopling soon so is perhaps trying out a few looks ahead of the big day). Actually, it’s all good because this was Ellie doing fabulously on-trend red carpet white (well, wet steps white) for the premiere of Netflix’s Our Planet at the Natural History Museum in Kensington.

White has been a massive red carpet favourite so far this year, worn by the great and the good at keeping clean at the Golden Globes, the Baftas and the Oscars 2019 with, variously, Sandra Oh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Regina King, Amy Adams and Rachel Weisz among those looking for all the world as if they were about to walk down the aisle in the fabulous big white dress of their dreams.

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Now, of course, you simply cannot – must not – wear a white dress to a wedding unless you are the one getting married, but that’s where it ends. If you become an Oscar-nominated actress, you can take full advantage of the occasion to select the sort of dress you wish you had worn for one of your own weddings, without fear of accusations that you are trying to upstage the bride.

Killing evening dressing - How to wear white for night - Sandra Oh steps out for the season two premiere of Killing Eve in Los Angeles serene and elegant in a simple white trouser suit worn unadorned. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

And for special occasions other than weddings, white is a great choice, as long as you are reasonably good at keeping yourself clean (so make sure you steer well clear of red wine, gravy or jus and small children).

As Sandra Oh demonstrates here, the white trouser suit is a simple but elegant solution to so many modern-day what-to-wear problems – for example, when you want to look fabulous and stand out for all the right reasons, but not as if you have spent several months in trying to achieve this end.

So, if you are ever feeling over-exercised by trying to find something appropriate yet amazing to wear, follow the lead of Emma Watson, Helen Mirren, Sharon Stone, Meghan Markle and countless other canny premiere dressers and find a fabulous skirt (maxi or midi, preferably voluminous) and then simply wear it with a white shirt. A waist-cinching belt might help. Maybe a bit of bling such as a statement necklace or a pair of chandelier earrings, but that’s up to you.

White is a staple for ladies’ days at the races, either by itself head-to-toe or teamed with a touch of black – very Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, evoked here by Vogue Williams, recently announced as the 2019 Investec Derby Festival ambassador. Yorkshire ladies’ days don’t start until next month but Aintree has already confirmed that white and monochrome looks are firm favourites for the season.

The red carpet white shirt - Find one fabulous skirt and all you need is a fitted shite shirt to create a simple statement red carpet look, as Helen Mirren demonstrates here at a presentation for The Good Liar in Las Vegas. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The high street is awash with all manner of head-to-toe white looks ideal for holidays and mess-free weekends. Head to Marks & Spencer for easy dresses in cotton and linen, then simply add a pair of pristine white sneakers and a brown leather cross-body bag.

The big question is, is white a colour? Because apparently it is not, according to purists, who maintain that it actually represents the absence of colour, hue or chroma as it cannot be created from the three primary colours of red, yellow and blue, as black theoretically can.

Nonetheless, white is an essential ingredient of any colour palette, whether for art or for fashion. It’s a summer staple and denotes elegance and purity, all things clean and minimalist. It works brilliantly with pretty much every other shade, from pastels to bold, bright hues, never diminished in value by any pairing but rather acting as an enhancing, cleansing contrast and foil. So that’s all white then.

* There’s more fashion and beauty here

White for the races - Vogue Williams has been announced as 2019 Investec Derby Festival ambassador. The Jockey Club/Sane Seven/PA Wire.
SUMMER WHITE - M&S Collection dress, £29.50; bag, £29.50; shoes, £45. All at Marks & Spencer.
White button-through dress, £49, by Principles at Debenhams
White leather brogue, £120, at Dune and John Lewis.
Let's see it again - Ellie Goulding attending the global premiere of Netflix's Our Planet, held at the Natural History Museum, London. Ian West/PA Wire
M&S Collection shirt, £35.50, and t£19.50, coming soon to Marks & Spencer.