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A toast to autumn

I spotted this gorgeous outfit in the window of Toast the other day. The chunky sweater and cord skirt combo instantly transported me to an idyllic fantasy world of roaring fires, red setters, falling leaves, afternoon tea (with walnut cake), country walks, russet apples, theatre matinees, red wine, shiny conkers, the wild west wind, golden sunsets, and all kinds of autumnal loveliness.

In colour season terms, autumn shades like ochre, rust, mustard and burnt orange fit into in the ‘warm and muted category’. They don’t suit everyone but luckily softly textured fabrics like corduroy do.

I’ve always adored cord. It’s comfortable, hard wearing, not too warm and not too cold (particularly practical if you suffer from internal overheating).

Traditionally it was used to make men’s work and sports clothes. In the 17th Century it was worn by French royal servants, which is where ‘corde du roi’ comes from.

I can’t remember quite that far back. My first memory of cord was in the 1970s, when it was everywhere, from fitted jackets to maxi skirts.

My first proper grown up outfit, when I was about 13, was a pair of navy cords – flares of course – a white broderie anglais smock, and brown suede sandals with cork wedges. It was all as cheap as chips but I felt like a million dollars. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so good in an outfit since then. Looking back, I realise it wasn’t so much the clothes as my transformation from a girl into a young woman.

I’m glad to say corduroy seems to be in fashion again. Here are some guidelines for looking good in it. Especially if, like me, you haven’t been 13 for quite some time:

  • Corduroy is by its nature casual, so keep it dressed down.
  • Because cord has such a lovely texture it’s divine with other soft textures, like a sheepskin or faux fur gilet, Guernsey type sweater, ribbed tights, suede boots. Unless you’re in Greenland, just be careful you don’t overheat.
  • As in the 70s, cord makes a great fitted jacket, maybe with a tie belt.
  • It’s absolutely spot on for a midi skirt and there are loads around right now.
  • A pair of cords rather than jeans is as lovely as ever, although there are a couple of strange connotations. There’s tatty Corbyn beige, usually worn with a tweed jacket. And middle-aged Sloaney man, in scarlet, canary or emerald, usually worn with a Barbour jacket. Please stay well clear (of the men as well as the clothes). Stick with navy, black or (if you’re slim enough, damn you) cream.
  • Cord comes in different thicknesses, from fine to chunky. I dimly remember in the 70s we used to call it needlecord and elephant cord. Obviously, the chunkier you are, the less chunky your cord should be.