Big yellow maxis: all hail this year’s most uplifting look

There is only one way to make an entrance this spring, and that is in a yellow maxi. That’s right – maxi, not taxi. What you are looking for is a new-season dress, in supersized sunshine.

The long yellow dress was the left-field hit of the spring catwalk shows. Alexa Chung had a modern tea dress in yolk yellow, perfect for wearing to the pub for someone’s birthday with flat jelly shoes. Carolina Herrera had a dress the exact same colour, but this time a formal off-the-shoulder gown, for the woman whose social life consists of “events”. There were yellow dresses at Erdem and Givenchy, Moschino and Oscar de la Renta. And the outlook is bright, because, for next season, the look continues to be major at London fashion week: incoming highlights include a fluid halter neck in Easter chick yellow at Halpern, and a Creme-Egg-yellow day dress to just above the ankle at Emilia Wickstead.

Rihanna at the Met Gala, New York, 2015.
Rihanna in the omelette dress at the Met Gala, New York, 2015. Photograph: David Fisher/Rex/Shutterstock

The yellow dress began with Emma Stone – but not the dress you’re thinking of. The canary yellow dress in which Stone’s character Mia danced against the LA night sky in 2017 was itself inspired by a yellow Atelier Versace dress, which Stone wore for the world premiere of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 three years earlier, in 2014. La La Land costume designer Mary Zophres, sold on how “stunning” the colour was on Stone, pitched it to director Damien Chazelle for the La La Land sequence.

Yellow is not a traditional choice for red-carpet glamour, which is the whole point of wearing it. It has impact, giving the wearer kudos for her directional, non cookie-cutter choice. Amal Clooney all but stole the show at last spring’s royal wedding, in daffodil Stella McCartney with a matching hat, shoes and clutch. And who can forget Rihanna in the infamous omelette dress at the Met Gala in 2015? It demands our attention, and lends fashion credibility. In the modern pay-per-eyeball attention economy, that credibility is gold dust. Note that after her yellow dress triumph in La La Land, Stone went on to sign as the face of Louis Vuitton for an estimated $10m fee in 2017, while it emerged earlier this year that LVMH is backing Rihanna’s pipelined fashion brand to the tune of €30m. Wear yellow, win gold.

Constance Wu on the Oscars red carpet.

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Constance Wu on the Oscars red carpet. Photograph: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

According to Korean-born, London-based ex-ballerina Haeni Kim, designer of cult label of the moment Kitri, “yellow is the colour to rival millennial pink”. Last year’s Titania sunshine dress, in a golden blond shade, which Kim settled on “after spending a long time perfecting the shade that would suit most skin tones”, was a sell out; this summer’s Francesca Frill wrap dress in yellow gingham, £125, looks set to follow suit. “There’s nothing more uplifting than yellow, and it’s particularly potent as a block colour. Once you try on a yellow that suits you, it lifts your mood. You never want to take it off,” Kim says. Catherine Johnson, who, as founder of Three Graces London, makes effortlessly chic holiday dresses beloved by the Instagram in-crowd, sees yellow as a mood as much as a shade. “It’s just a really joyful, uplifting colour.” She credits the recent trend for yellow on the red carpet – Claire Foy and Rachel Brosnahan at the Golden Globes, Constance Wu at the Oscars – with making women feel more confident about trying it. Her Ninetta linen maxidress, £450, is doing brisk business with spring shoppers.

Besides having a moment in Hollywood, yellow is being imported from Scandinavia. Scandi-chic is the new French-girl-chic, with Copenhagen fashion week now inked in to the catwalk schedule and the Danish stylist Pernille Teisbaek leading a new generation of fashion power players with a mighty internet power base. The aspirational Scandinavian lifestyle – which, on Instagram, is a mishmash of fresh air, cycling, mindfulness, culottes, spring macs and unfussy clothes in bright colours – adds up to a kind of sunny minimalism, which in turn lends itself to a lot of yellow. On the cover of her book Dress Scandinavian: Style your Life and Wardrobe the Danish Way, Teisbaek is wearing a yellow jacket and yellow trousers, over a T-shirt emblazoned with a bunch of giant bananas. Ganni, the most white-hot of the Copenhagen brands, features a midi-length shirt dress in soft yellow denim, £220. “Yellow works really well for us,” says designer Ditte Reffstrupp. “I think it shows that Ganni girls aren’t afraid of colour and having fun mixing things around.” Even if you don’t think you have been wearing yellow, I bet you have. The ubiquity of leopard print has snuck it in the back door. Rixo has followed up the toffee shades of last year’s smash-hit split-to-thigh Georgia leopard skirt with the Tina skirt in mustard tiger, £235, in bold yellow and black stripes, which is proving to be one of the best sellers of the season so far.