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Save Me From the Allure of the Crisp White Shirt

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Prim may be a huge trend for S/S13, but I'm with Hilary Rose on The Crisp White Shirt. Earlier this month, the hugely entertaining Times journalist produced a list of 17 "lies that fashion editors tell". It was a list that any regular reader of fashion pages and magazines will recognise as the holy writ of fashion pundits, variable each season, but featuring some perennials, all of which Rose hilariously debunked.

These included the lie that "Every wardrobe should include a trench coat", that "It's better to buy one investment piece - you will wear it for years", that "Sales are a useful place to pick up an investment purchase, such as the perfect navy cashmere sweater," and "Everyone should have a crisp, white shirt in their wardrobe"...

I chortled at most of her list; as a former fashion editor, and now fashion director at SoSensational, the shopping website which edits fashion for grown up women, I have been guilty of doling out similar advice. I would probably have been less specific about "navy cashmere", recognising - like Rose - that finding navy (or grey, black or any other truly covetable colour) would have long ago sold out at full price.

I would have been culpable on the trench coat recommendation, however (indeed, SoSensational produced a page of them just last month, saying exactly that, and pointing out how clever a trench is as a transitional buy. But in an accompanying blog post, I acknowledged that, to make it work for you, you might need to leave it unbelted and/or open, with the collar up, and with the sleeves rolled up (best done before you put the coat on as it's next to impossible to roll it up once you're wearing it).

But when it comes to the Crisp White Shirt, I am, as I said, with Rose 100 percent. Her response to the nugget of fashion editorly advice which advocated one as a wardrobe essential for every woman was this: "Oh really? Even those of us who are high-waisted and big-busted, for whom a crisp white shirt has much the same effect as wearing a white cardboard box?"

I am neither high-waisted nor big busted, but a crisp white shirt is no more successful on me than it is on Rose. The sharp collar - especially if small - doesn't work for my face shape which is curved, or my neck, which is less than swan-like; the white drains me of every vestige of colour, and rather than making me look pulled together, "crisp" and emulating Celine's Phoebe Philo or Stella McCartney, the overall effect is to make me look as if I have borrowed my husband's shirt because a blaze destroyed all my own clothes - and not in a good way.

If you thought that my lack of success with a CWS is an indicator that a) my closet doesn't contain any, or that b) I am not constantly seduced by the siren call of The Crisp White Shirt, you would be mistaken on both counts.

I have two in my wardrobe currently, having sent a third to a charity shop last summer. One of the two is wearable - just about - layered under a trophy jumper, with the collar peeking out. The other hangs, unworn, unloved, in my closet reproaching me for my stupidity in falling, yet again, for the illusory charm of a CWS. Am I immune from buying another? Would Phoebe Philo trim a frock with frills and rhinestones? No, I am not.

Indeed, I was quite recently browsing the rails in Uterque, Zara's up-scale Inditex sibling (no UK stores yet, sadly), and my eye was caught by a white shirt. Before you could say "prim for spring" I was heading for the fitting room. I confess, I came very close to purchasing it - in my defence, the collar was rounded and bigger, so it was more flattering than conventional CWSs. It was also a very fine cotton lawn, so less crisp than conventional white shirts. Reader, I resisted. Not from any sane realisation that I DID NOT NEED OR WANT ANOTHER CRISP WHITE SHIRT, but just because it was too long for layering and far too long to tuck into jeans or a skirt.

So, if there is a self-help group for CWS addicts - Crisp White Shirts Anon, perhaps - please let me know the address...