I’m going to ‘fess up here. Such is my obsession with holiday clothing that I don’t think I could go on long enough a holiday to justify the amount of kaftans, pretty wisps of broderie anglaise, baskets, hats – oh God how many straw hats?? – stripe linen beach towels (at least 10 of differing stripe widths) and a myriad colours.
Some women love jewellery, heels and designer handbags, I was born wired to collect raffia.
My mother has no idea why anyone would want to get dressed up for a holiday. For her, a holiday is the chance to totally slob out and to hell with what anyone else thinks.
It’s not that I care either, but for me a holiday wardrobe allows me to play out a fantasy lifestyle: ha, the chance to indulge in my guilty secret of wearing matchy matchy everything and reveal my true (not very cool) middle class suburban roots. If I profess to affect a tomboy-ish minimal dresser in the city (think Charlotte Rampling as inpso), on holiday I get to be utterly girly. Don’t ask me why it feels right wearing a flamenco inspired, ruffle sleeve dress for an Aperol spritz overlooking a sunset in a way it doesn’t on the 8 am commute.
Like Natalie Kingham, buying director of Matchesfashion.com, I’ve day dreamed about what “you might pack to wear on a yacht, what to wear in Morocco, Ibiza”. Like her, I think many women fantasise about the couple of weeks they have each year to be another person when they’re not at home. “All of a sudden that clean minimalism – the camel coat and crisp white shirts –fly out the window, “says Kingham, “and in comes a proliferation of bells and pompoms.”
Another thing I enjoy is the artisan element of many holiday items and that sense of discovery too in the local market. A good friend, Pippa Holt designs kaftans of the same name (the ones that fashion eds gravitate towards) which are handmade in Mexico using weaving techniques that are passed down generations. Each is unique and undoubtedly a forever piece.
But mostly I love the fact that a pretty dress is a pretty dress is a pretty dress. For someone who is a ruthless “chucker-outer” on the wardrobe front, my holiday collection has items which date as far back as ten years ago because really fabulous holiday style doesn’t date, it just needs a good tweak every so often.
Like building a fabulous coat wardrobe which is timeless, it’s really worth repeating the same for your holiday attire. The upshot is that you won’t be sent into mild panic the night before you have to pack, because you have tried and tested pieces, heck you even have the holiday pictures to prove it. See how time efficient this is too?
Also, the chances are, your figure is unlikely to change dramatically shapewise, from year to year so all that effort and hours spent crying in a fitting room trying to find the swimwear shape that suits your boobs and tummy will not be wasted. Actually, on this very subject, one pieces may be all the rage currently and a boon for tummies that have been ravaged by childbirth, but do look for something that elongates your leg and doesn’t swaddle your body in excess fabric. Those 50s styles can sometimes be a bit tricky to pull off.
Here is what you need to pack and a few new labels to know about this summer.
The cover up
Kaftans are still very much at where it’s at (as opposed to, say a sarong), possibly because they are the very democratic item in your wardrobe which don’t require you to be tall, short, thin, fat etc. On the (niche) designer wear front, I love those by Thierry Colson and the Japanese label Arts & Science. Other great ones on the high street are to be found at Gap, Whistles and Cos.
Deck chair stripes are still very coveted but so too this summer is gingham. The designer to know for this trend is Caroline Constas.
The flat sandal
Seriously you can never have too many pairs. Let’s agree now that beachy holdiays are not the place for heels but I’m going to let you pack at least 10 pairs of flat to make up for that. I love everything from the very minimal Ancient Greek sandals or K. Jacques (or check similar from Dune) to the bright styles made in South Africa, Kenya and Morocco by Brothers Vellies which are like pops of candy coloured cloth on your feet (check out their gorgeous yellow version). My latest and very fab find however are the understated raffia styles by Carrie Forbes available at Mouki Mou.
A low maintenance dress
Naturally, I don’t mean you need to look low maintenance, but rather, find something that is crease free. A maxi in a block colour perhaps. I love the Caramel boho dress in white or navy which can be accessorised with any number of items. This will be the hardest working item in your suitcase by a country mile
I’ve said it before but all those styles rules, the sort you read in fashion glossies about Fifties shaped swimwear slimming down your thighs and obviating the point of a six week good fats diet are not true. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has wholeheartedly embraced Bridget Jones style. The most stylish and flattering swimwear for most body shape types (mostly you get what you pay for) comes from Lisa Marie Fernandez and Zimmerman. While new label Matteau the Plunge (matchesfashion.com) does good quality, uber flattering on the legs and deep v fronts which I’ve found universally more flattering on larger and smaller chests alike.
The straw bag
Not so long ago, bits of raffia were you what you picked up from the local market for a song. Not anymore. Raffia has become the jetset’s stealth-wealth fabric of choice. From sun hats to intricately woven baskets on the catwalks of Dolce & Gabbana and Prada. Invest wisely and you will reap the benefits of stylish, understated accessories for many, many years to come. Accessorise do great clutches but for something mid-price head to Muun bags, a newish label which has a cloth panel which you can tie up and offers a degree of privacy and security.
P.S A word about Beach towels
It’s all about the flat linen towel; easy to stuff into a bag, favourites are the Hammam styles from Conran, Frescobal Cariocoa and Toast. They look rakish, invariably match what you are wearing and are light as a feather. What’s not to love!