These are strange days of bleak uncertainty. Words like racism, sexism, hate and demagogue haunt our waking hours. I go to bed spooked by talk of nuclear codes, terrorism and fascism, dream of war and wake with that awful knot of anxiety that comes with the sense that the world is irretrievably scuppered.

It makes the work of a fashion editor all the more bizarre. “What are we doing”, asked a colleague last week. “With everything that’s going on, we’re just talking about this . . . stuff.”

A model walks the runway at the Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2017 fashion show during Paris Fashion Week on October 3, 2016. Designer Sarah Burton was so inspired by the Fair Isle on a trip to the Scottish Highlands.
A model walks the runway at the Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2017 fashion show during Paris Fashion Week on October 3, 2016. Designer Sarah Burton was so inspired by the Fair Isle on a trip to the Scottish Highlands.
Image: Catwalking/Getty Images

The details of the new season’s fashions have been tempered by the current vogue for political impotence. And while Melania Trump’s First Lady style might signify something, I haven’t yet the stomach to unpick it.

But as Tom Ford reminded us over lunch last month: “We are all material creatures.” We instinctively seek comfort from the stuff that surrounds us. “Certain things help us get through the day,” he went on. “Cashmere feels good. Certain things make us feel refreshed — a new pair of shoes, a new suit. They make you feel better about yourself.”

He’s right. Some things do feel good. Certain things lift our spirits. But how many things, I wondered, are universally enchanting? And so began a challenge: the feel-good guide to style and a catalogue of stuff that is unequivocally mood-enhancing. Like, for example, the Fair Isle sweater, as worn by Paul McCartney during his ruralist phase on the Isle of Mull and the very essence of feel-good because, like the Aran or the Faroe, it represents a community all knit together with family lore and intergenerational magic. Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton was so enchanted by the Fair Isle on a trip to the Scottish Highlands last summer she made it a theme of her spring/summer 17 show. Even more charming, the collection’s starting point was a Taatit, the traditional Shetland rug of two halves, each made by the bride and groom’s family and stitched together to dress the marital bed. “It was about coming together,” explained Burton, “and the imperfections in that unity”.

Similarly cheering are the printed checks of a patchwork quilt, or hand-embroidered linen. Anything, in fact, that speaks of patience and kindness and affection is lovely to behold. But not all lovely things need to carry so much meaning.

“Chanel No 19, coffee, and a new bar of finely milled soap”, offered Nicola Moulton, the Vogue beauty director who was struggling to find joy in a world bereft of Leonard Cohen. “Singing, Clarins hand cream, Waterloo Bridge and, maybe, Ryan Gosling.”

“Dim Sum, goose-down duvets, pedicures, a blue-and-white striped cotton mariniere and Floris rose geranium bath essence,” added Fiona Golfar, Vogue’s editor-at-large and a specialist in the finer points of feeling better. She then suggested a tremendous many foodstuffs, including chips, mashed potatoes, cheese on toast, butter and cream. Of course white carbs should feature on every feel-good list, but only with the caveat you may feel less upbeat about the waistline that will accompany them.

Mac Ruby Woo
Mac Ruby Woo

The list keeps growing, and like Maria in The Sound of Music, it is proving a marvellous tonic. I’ve taken to canvassing anyone who’ll play. No one has yet denied the restorative power of a bath. Also, tiaras, snow globes, cashmere polo necks in which to bury one’s chin, vintage Levi 501s, Mac’s red lipstick Ruby Woo and almost all things navy blue. Texture is often key to happiness: the familiar brush of a worn flannel shirt, the strange bumpy pile of corduroy. But there is much debate about bedwear: pyjamas and slippers have been dismissed by the warmer-blooded souls while silk tiptoes too closely to Terry-Thomas to be considered universally thrilling. Everyone, however, is in accordance about the house trouser — that beloved but lamentably ugly garment in which we like to relax. The letter C is the keeper of many pleasures: camel coats by Maxmara, the Cape Cod watch by Hermès, Caran d’Ache colouring pencils and new-season clementines. “Jelly”, offered the designer Jasper Conran, from his home in the bosom of the Blackdown Hills. “Who doesn’t love jelly, from a jelly mould?” He then waved towards vases full of vivid bright ranunculi. “The colour combination of yellow, orange and pink,” he added. “I mean, that’s the happiest colourway of all.”

Beige Max Mara camel hair coat
Beige Max Mara camel hair coat
Image: Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Open fires, chocolate, the supermoon, a trip to design store David Mellor, and those pillowy soft shoulder bags by Céline. Sports montages, sunshine, Saturday afternoon matinee screenings: the joy of a really good hair cut. I might perhaps censor the friend who told me that happiness was knowing all her apps were updated, but I allowed her the content one feels towards a fully charged phone.

Trees, mountains, a tidy sock drawer. Tragically, not everyone shares my passion for a Broadway musical, but while music and fiction are too subjective for inclusion a rubbish gag really does go the distance. Midst reading yet another op-ed predicting our certain Armageddon this week, I received a text: “I’d love to get in touch with Emilio Estevez,” it read. “Has anyone got his Emailio addressteves?” Part of a years-long text exchange, initiated by my husband and to which I have only occasional membership, the joke was so preposterously daft and peculiarly outdated I nearly cried with laughter.

I’m not done yet. The search continues: and more urgently every day as with each news bulletin I am sent scavenging once more to find some new small reassurance. The stuff that makes us feel better. 

This article was originally published by the Financial Times
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2016

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