How To Wear Corduroy, According To A Stylist

You might think corduroy is a little old fashioned, but revered stylist Anna Bromilow says it deserves a place in your autumn/winter wardrobe. From styling tips to the pieces worth experimenting with, she uses her latest SL column to explain how to get it right…
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Let's face it, corduroy isn’t sexy. I have friends who wouldn't dream of wearing something considered so old-fashioned. True, the hard wearing, traditionally dense fabric can be unflattering, so why are so many women making room for it in their wardrobes this season? Handled with care, chosen carefully and styled well, corduroy can add sumptuous depth to a layered winter look and it’s fast becoming my go-to for adding a rich, contrasting texture to my look. A subtle alternative to leather and more practical than velvet, it also harks back to one of my favourite fashion eras – the 70s. If you're ever in doubt about how chic corduroy can be, look at Jane Fonda's iconic belted cord trench when she stepped out with Marlon Brando. Jane Birkin, Diane Keaton, Ali McGraw – all these iconic women are champions of corduroy. It might not be for everyone, but if you’re keen to embrace it this autumn/winter, here’s how to buy, style and wear it now.

The Colour

Camel, tan, ochre – these are the tones that reign supreme when it comes to corduroy. As for other neutrals, black does very little for me in this fabric; grey looks flat and unimaginative; navy is just too reminiscent of school. Tan, however, is such a classic tone and goes with everything. Start with a pair of seriously well-cut trousers – flares are a great idea, and Nili Lotan and Redone make some of my favourite styles. To put a retro spin on your look, pair them with a roll neck and oversized blazer. Tan cord looks great with a denim shirt or cream cable knit (think Ralph Lauren), and always offers a rich, contrasting pop against black. A good camel coat will help you nail tonal dressing head to toe. 

One thing to bear in mind is how thick the corduroy fabric is. Anything too flimsy, thin or stretchy will go baggy over time, and cord needs to have structure to look sharp. Gravitate towards a thinner ridge if you can. Not only does it look neater, it’s more flattering. Also, check the detailing at the back – whether it’s patch pockets on tight trousers or concealed pockets on looser pairs, corduroy can be unforgiving when it’s curved out of shape. If you have the chance to buy a matching blazer – take it. Saint Laurent's full brown cord suit is one of my seasonal heroes. Equally, if you tend to steer clear of trousers, a midi skirt is a great alternative – especially when worn with long boots. Bellerose has a great one. On the high street, Warehouse has released a statement collar blouse in the kind of shade that works so well with denim. For those with deeper pockets, Gucci's monogram trench is a showstopper.

The Cut

The AW21 catwalk was awash with post-lockdown colour – and cord has been given the rainbow treatment too. Due to its traditional heritage and sumptuous texture, cord looks great in brighter colours. Whistles has made a perfectly tailored cord suit in a pale yellow – the more masculine wider ridge of the fabric is offset by the puffed sleeves and tapered waist. Cleverly, the high, double-breasted jacket style means nothing needs to be worn underneath, however, this kind of co-ordinated set always looks great layered with a neutral top or camel roll neck as the weather cools. The Kooples also has a sensational cord suit in the deepest olive green. With a streamlined blazer and long, lean trousers, it’s elegant, and can be worn from day to night. Team it with a black fine knit and trainers in the day, and style it like a velvet suit for the evening – just add strappy sandals and statement jewellery. 

For something more feminine, Bella Freud has made her classic Bianca suit in a soft shade of pink this season – the pretty tone works so well in sharp tailoring, and offers real balance between the masculine and feminine. Paul Smith's pink suit is a darker, richer shade, while the matching cropped trousers give off a more relaxed vibe. Victoria Beckham has also worked with bold, heavily ridged cord for autumn/winter, managing to make it look long, lean and super flattering. Her deep-red matching flares and tailored trench are 70s heaven. 

Remember, tone is key when it comes to colourful cord. Too much colour with a tactile texture can look a bit much – so gravitate towards double-breasted jackets which feel more contemporary if you can. Don’t over-layer and get the most wear out of matching suits by styling them as separates, too. A cord blazer is the perfect piece at this time of year – you'd be surprised how much you can wear it with.

The Pattern

Corduroy doesn't have to be plain. This season, printed needlecord is everywhere, especially floral prints. It's one way to extend the wearability of such delicate prints into the winter months, and the velvety texture of cord lends itself so well to pattern. 

A printed Dôen dress I bought a few seasons ago has been one of my most worn autumn dresses over the years – the needlecord texture offers more depth and gives the vintage design an authentic quality. Horror Vacui is known for its maximalist nightdress styles and its current cotton-corduroy designs are stunning in a heavier weight fabric. MATCHESFASHION stocks a couple of the brand’s Lisa midi dresses, while the printed blouses really hit the spot in terms of scale and colour. 

Just be careful not to go too bold with prints – similar to velvet, if the pattern is too distinct, it starts to look like haberdashery. Celia B's new collection is one exception – think scalloped trimming, florals and pretty collars in both mini and midi styles. There’s so much to choose from. Seraphina London has also embraced the floral corduroy trend, incorporating it into its signature, elegant peasant dresses – style one with long boots and go. If a floral top is more your thing, pair it with a lighter fabric like denim or heavy cotton – double corduroy (unless it’s a matching suit) doesn't work, and leather somehow looks wrong. For wearable Victoriana blouses, make Bytimo your go-to. My final styling tip? Add a charm bracelet or chunky earring to transport corduroy into luxe territory.

 
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