Autumn colours

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Even though the weather’s still warm, I notice I’m changing colours with the season. Mustard parka

It’s nearly November and the weather is still unseasonably warm. I hear it could drop off a cliff in the next few days, but the past few weeks – bar one really cold day – have seen ridiculously high temperatures for the time of year – the high teens and even 20 degrees. 

It’s beautiful here in Normandy at the moment. The trees are turning colour and since there’s been little wind and lots of sunlight, they’re keeping a lot of their leaf. The parrotia persica in our courtyard is changing to its fabulous traffic-light autumn colouring, with shade of ochre, orange, saffron, chrome, purple, red and vermilion all intermingling with the basic green.

Pink Eddy tee

Meanwhile, at the lake where we walk the dog each day, the stands of poplars are turning mustard-yellow and drifts of rust-coloured beech leaves are falling into the water. The eupatorium has dulled and softened to a pinky blush, and the shrubby rhus bushes have come out in shades of screaming orange and scarlet.

Woolovers cardi

Perhaps it’s for this reason that I notice I’ve changed my colours lately, although not the weights of my clothing. It’s still perfectly possible to dress in cotton right now, although I’ve popped on a merino vest under my tees this past few days. But the pale pinks and pale blues and bright leaf greens that I favoured in spring, and the white linens and navy cottons that seemed so appropriate in summer, so longer seem ‘right’.

Plum dress

Instead, I find myself choosing plum and chocolate, teal green and petrol blue – richer, darker colours that feel more caressing on a body that will soon be assailed by winter. Even the pink I’m wearing is a soft, subdued version with a lot of grey in it. I’ve really enjoyed wearing my mustard-coloured parka, exactly the same colour as those poplar leaves, to walk over those leaves around the lake. 

It’s also lovely to have plum in my wardrobe again. This is a colour family I have to be careful with – burgundy is not right for me at all – too much yellow in it – while purple isn’t good either, if it tends to the Royal purple shade. But a true plum, that soft mix between royal purple and burgundy, is very flattering, as is aubergine – a purple so dark it’s almost black. Only a shame it seems so difficult to find. 

fleece tights

Back in the mid-70s when I was about 11, we went on holiday to Wales. This was a long way out of my parents’ comfort zone, but they were encouraged by new friends, and we all shared a cottage together out in the wilds. To celebrate the occasion, I got some new clothes (anyone who remembers the days before mass consumption may well remember this seasonal buying spree, when you got one new thing for summer or for winter).

Mine involved two new pairs of cords and the colours I instinctively chose were teal and plum. I still remember the soft, thick, comforting feel of the corduroy, and how wonderful I felt in those trousers. About the style I can’t recall a thing, and I don’t doubt they were of poorish quality, probably from C&A or somewhere similar (we were not Marks and Spencers dressers but lived out of street markets and the lower-end stores), but I remember them as wonderfully soft and plush. 

Strangely, I’ve scarcely worn those colours since, and it’s nice to have them back in my wardrobe, in thick, soft pima cotton jersey from Wall London. And to go with them, I’ve just ordered fleece-lined tights from Japan, in shades of navy, plum and grey. Next month, knitwear from Woolovers…


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