How to do 'traffic light dressing' – as seen on Victoria Beckham and the Duchess of Cambridge

·4-min read
Kate Middleton and Victoria Beckham showing us how it is done - GC Images; Getty
Kate Middleton and Victoria Beckham showing us how it is done - GC Images; Getty

Red means stop, amber means get ready, green means go: they were the basics of the Highway Code before we ever started categorising our holiday destinations by colour. And, it turns out, the classic colour combination is a new season fashion winner.

We have Victoria Beckham to thank for this aesthetic. The fashion designer stepped out in New York this week in an outfit so bright, it seemed that she herself needed sunglasses to wear it.

There was a pillarbox red top and primary yellow high-waisted flares, both of her own design (VB has always been the best ambassador for her brand), which is bold in itself. But with the addition of a colour-of-the-season green Bottega Veneta bag, it became A Look. The trifecta of hues somehow worked, despite defying conventional fashion wisdom.

Beckham was making an appearance on Good Morning America, and anyone with any experience in dressing for the small screen will agree that bold, block colours look best on TV. For real life, though, there are plenty more examples to take your cue from.

Beckham on Wednesday in a knitted red dress from her own collection - GC Images
Beckham on Wednesday in a knitted red dress from her own collection - GC Images

The Duchess of Cambridge on Wednesday wore a vivid green Erdem coat over a matching jumper, but toned the look down with navy trousers in contrast to Beckham’s yellow pair. Beckham stepped out in another version (a knitted scarlet dress) and Olivia Colman showed that deeper and darker hues can be embraced too, in a green boucle coat. Meanwhile Maggie Gyllenhaal wore a citrussy shade of yellow in Loewe at the premiere of The Lost Daughter at the BFI London Film Festival.

Back on the bright side, we’ve seen both the Duchess of Cambridge and Carrie Johnson wear Zara’s red double-breasted blazer in recent months, while Lashana Lynch wore a vibrant yellow custom Vivienne Westwood gown for the No Time to Die premiere. And there was not a single front row at London Fashion Week that didn’t feature a shot of the now-ubiquitous ‘Bottega Green’.

Going for the Belisha beacon brights requires some confidence - and a decent shopping budget too, as primary hues can look cheap if they’re just a shade off or realised in a budget polyester. That doesn’t mean you should opt out of colour altogether, especially at a time when we’re craving it more than ever.

In the wake of a global pandemic, it was inevitable that we would embrace our return to freedom with dopamine dressing: from putty pink to lime green, optimistic hues that celebrate the mood-boosting power of fashion are the order of the day.

Eva bag, £59, JW Pei; Wool-blend Ava coat, £459, LK Bennett; Satin wide-leg track pant, £185, Me + Em; Red Lula jumper, £225, Rixo; Fry Powers gold and enamel earrings, £295, Net-a-Porter; Luna red cotton velvet midi dress, £165, Kitri
Eva bag, £59, JW Pei; Wool-blend Ava coat, £459, LK Bennett; Satin wide-leg track pant, £185, Me + Em; Red Lula jumper, £225, Rixo; Fry Powers gold and enamel earrings, £295, Net-a-Porter; Luna red cotton velvet midi dress, £165, Kitri

Wool-blend Ava coat, £459, LK Bennett; Fry Powers gold and enamel earrings, £295, Net-a-Porter; Red Lula jumper, £225, Rixo; Luna red cotton velvet midi dress, £165, Kitri; Eva bag, £59, JW Pei; Satin wide-leg track pant, £185, Me + Em

If you’re more of a shrinking violet, you will take solace in the fact that the ‘go big or go home’ rule doesn’t have to apply here. The red-yellow-green combination can look just as powerful in more muted versions of these shades - as long as one of the three packs a saturated punch. Consider a mustard yellow coat, for instance, with a pair of forest green cords and a poppy-red handbag. Or how about a ‘Bottega green’ shirt with a pair of amber earrings and red lipstick?

If you find bold shades don’t suit your skin tone, keep them away from your face and limit them to trousers, bags and shoes. Yellow can be a particularly challenging hue to carry off, but on the other hand, there is a shade of green to suit almost everyone - more than enough reason to give the look a go.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting