How to Dress Stylishly for Summer in Real Life

by Fashion Features Director and Kate Finnigan from The Daily Telegraph, July 05, 2016

Who knows what the weather will be like on the day that you’re reading this – or  what you might be wearing. Summer dressing is a worry when you’re a Brit, as we generally feel more at home in boots, jeans and a brown coat than an off-the-shoulder top. But summer 2016 has outdone them all, turning the daily challenge of what to wear into an adrenaline-inducing, mind-bending, weather-themed episode of The Crystal Maze.  

Photo by Sweden

Presenter: ‘It’s 8am. There’s a gale blowing and a tropical storm on the horizon that will last until lunch. But by 3pm it’ll be 28C and the pavements will be steaming. Your day includes two train journeys, three meetings and an annual performance review – and it’s your turn to pick up the kids. What do you wear? You have four minutes!’

I’ve been as flummoxed as I imagine you are. I am sad to report that raincoats have been my most-worn items. My new Miu Miu espadrilles, at the time of writing, remain unworn. I haven’t been seen in anything strappy. But still – I refuse to carry on wearing all my winter clothes. There’s a kind of sartorial code you have to adhere to, not for fashion’s sake but for the sake of your soul. I believe that, whatever the temperature, there should be a ban on the sale and wearing of opaque tights between May and September, just for the general morale of the country. 

Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are a five ideas that might help you get round this whole business of dressing for summer. 

Comfort before fashion

This is not a political broadcast on behalf of the Dowdiness Party, merely a suggestion to rule out anything that will make you sweat, get creased up, hot or dirty, or bleed. Goodbye, ivory satin. Goodbye, linen dress that makes you look fresh from the recycling bin. Goodbye, lacerating gladiator sandals. Garments that make you feel or move self-consciously are also not worth it. Too-high heels, skirts with awkward splits and trousers that ride up my calves when I’m sitting – I mean you. I’m a big fan of wafty silk-chiffon skirts and dresses, but check that they haven’t scrimped on slips that go no further than the thigh. Also, anything that requires a strapless bra is a mistake. 

Shirt, £358, Teji Eiola at

Frill blouse, £14.99, H&M, Loafers, £425, Bally, tote bag, £79, & Other Stories, hoop earrings, £70, Dinny Hall, striped top, £82, Petit Bateau, jumper, £380, Edamame London  

Colour is up to you

‘It’s summer, you must wear vibrant florals!’ No, no, no. Down with this insanity (sorry, Gucci). Rather than wearing the whole rainbow, pick your colour – one that brightens your eyes and skin – then buy more than one piece in the same tone. My colours are black, khaki and blue. Opening your wardrobe and seeing a limited palette is so much less taxing than trying to perfect the art of colour clashing before 7.30am. A skirt that matches your T-shirt, or a coat in the same colour as your dress, is the height of now. Fashion people say that tone-on-tone dressing makes them look  ‘pulled together’, which is another way of saying rich. I’m fine with that. 

Let your accessories do the work 

White, metallic and tan shoes and bags can be the lazy girl’s way to mark the season. If pom-poms are your thing, go for it. Or try a brightly coloured suede slipper. Whether you’re a gold or silver jewellery wearer, pile on more – metallics and gems catch the light and enhance a tan, should you have been lucky enough to have left the country. Hoop earrings are a byword for summer. Go wild with your sunglasses. 

Get your coat

Best buys of this season have been my olive-green M&S trench from Archive by Alexa, and a lightweight trench (made from recycled plastic bottles!) by the Scandi brand Dagmar – so thin that it makes no difference between hot and cold, but great at making me look more ‘dressed’. These two coats have been so good that I found two more unlined coats in the Cos sale, one dark denim and one cobalt blue – sticking to my colours, see. 

Layer up

Pinafore dresses over shirts and three-quarter-length tees, shirt dresses over jeans (not leggings), sleeveless tunics over wide trousers   – each one a shortcut to looking contemporary. Loose, long and floaty but in a pared-back, minimalist way rather than a ’90s boho style is the aim. Always have a lightweight sweater on standby. (And some wellies.) 

Skirt, £360, Lisa Marie Fernandez at Avenue32

Bag, £34, Next, dress, £350, Tory Burch, bracelet, £265, Monica Vinader, sunglasses, £94.60, Karen Walker at The Outnet, cardigan, £49, COS, espadrilles, £415, Roger Vivier at My Theresa, hat, £105, Kate Spade, jacket, £175,  Whistles

summer sales gallery


This article was written by Fashion Features Director and Kate Finnigan from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.