Bring me my magic brush

A lick of classy nail polish can help gloss over a bad day.

As I write this, I have navy-blue nails. This will interest you either greatly, or not at all. I've long harboured a deep love for navy-blue nail polish, and it is only very recently that my desire has been fulfilled. But more on this in a minute.

Painting one's nails is slightly fetishistic. It requires patience and concentration, it is deeply selfish and therefore comforting, and in a few brushstrokes, it transforms. After I gave birth, it seemed as if every part of my body had changed - even my feet had. But then I looked at my toenails, the only bit of me that hadn't changed, lovingly coated in Chanel's Rouge Noir by a friend, and I knew everything would eventually be OK.

Before Rouge Noir, which launched to frenzied waiting lists in 1994, pale pink nails were the norm. Flamme Rose, still made by Chanel, was and is the definitive colour for a French manicure (pale pink nails, white tips). Rouge Noir was created by Chanel's make-up artist backstage at the ready-to-wear shows, literally by mixing red with black, hence the name. It is a dark, wonderfully glamorous black-red that makes pillar-box red look hopelessly passé, as if it belonged to another time, which indeed it does. Whereas Rouge Noir is all 1930s gentle glamour, bright red was brittle showiness. No one can beat Chanel for getting colours just the right shade. (NB: this season's Rouge Noir is Tulipe Noir. Fabulous.)

The new nail colours for Christmas nearly all involve glitter, which is fabulous but a bugger to get off, and also they are nearly all slightly disappointing (to recreate the concentration of glitter that the bottle promises, you need to apply about 24 coats). If you fancy pink glitter, however, it doesn't get pinkier or more glittery than Dior's Pink Sapphire. (While you're at the counter, pick up Dior's Crème Abricot for cuticles.)

But back to my search for navy. OPI has a large, chunky bottle of something called Russian Navy. It is glorious and - if you care about these things as a barometer of desirability - has sold out twice already in as many weeks. It looks slightly purplish in the bottle, but on the nail it's a wonderful, solid navy. You need only one coat, although to deepen it still further you can apply a coat a day if you're so inclined. And the quality is great because the shine doesn't fade once dried, as so many polishes tend to do. Navy blue is also a fantastically easy colour to wear.

Now, rather gloriously, my spy satellite trained on the Chanel HQ in Paris has fed back some important intelligence that is A1 in its reliability. The next shade to come out of there will be Blue Satin - a navy blue that is so good, it will, I predict, rival Rouge Noir. It launches here in the cold, grey, boring, what's-the-point-of-living month of January.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 05 November 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Iraq uncovered