Does anyone remember how hot it was last July? Hot enough to swim in the sea in Norfolk; hot enough to be burned without sunscreen; Hot enough to need the shade of an umbrella to eat outside, and still be outside, sipping rosÃ© after dark without needing a sweater (well, maybe a cardigan).
I mention this now because it is the May holiday, the moment when our thoughts traditionally turn to the summer holidays and what we will wear, and this year is no different.
The fact that we still have no idea whether we’re going to Cornwall or the Costa Brava (if the green list allows it) couldn’t be less important as we don’t think about Staycation clothing any more than we do clothing these days that you can wear abroad. The modern holiday wardrobe must be versatile and hard-working.
Shane Watson reveals a selection of the best items for a modern vacation wardrobe. Pictured: shorts, Â£ 45, shirt, Â£ 59, cosstores.com
What we need in 2021 is an Anycation wardrobe: clothes and accessories that are also suitable for sightseeing in Rome or for sunbathing in Ibiza, such as shopping in Bridport or picnicking in Pembrokeshire.
That is the new goal; Clothes that you not only wear two weeks a year, but that can also be worn anywhere during the holiday season.
Ten years ago, tie-dye skirts, neon pom-pom embellishments, and hibiscus prints were part of the vacation experience. But lately we’ve been less interested in all of this for environmental reasons (none of it has survived a wash) and because it’s worth having vacation clothes that you can wear in your own backyard in June too.
Here are the building blocks of your Anycation wardrobe. It’s that easy. . .
Sandals and FitFlops
An improved flip-flop is a good place to start. They’re comfortable and made of black leather work well at night too. Try FitFlops for everyday use or the Birkenstock styles are still going strong. Hush makes a Woodstock sandal that fits in gold.
Personally, I will wear open clogs after living in these shoes for the last year (Â£ 115, toa.st). But I’m also seduced by Boden’s ankle-bound espadrilles (Â£ 85, boden.co.uk) that work on vacation, provided your hem is long enough.
I pretty much hung up my shorts, except for jeans cutoffs for a beach far away. But I know some women love them. In this case, the way to go – both because it suits the athletic moment and the style is flattering – is the elastic waist cut short.
You want your shorts to be relaxed, with pockets and space available. So the effect is more of a casual mini skirt than a tight Daisy Dukes. Try the yellow shorts from Cos. Or Zara makes some printed, quilted shorts with an elastic waist, which doesn’t sound promising, but could look great with a billowy top with sleeves.
Lots of it, but for my money you can’t improve on Bodens swimsuits. I’ve personally tested the Santorini in three different colors (Â£ 65, boden.co.uk) and can vouch for it holding its shape and making it look 20 percent neater thanks to the clever positioning of the side stripes and textured torso. This year I have my eye on Corsica with the V halter neck (Â£ 70); and when Cornwall waves, the rash vest and matching boys’ pants (Â£ 50).
Just add sunglasses and go. . . somewhere.
Shirt, Â£ 49.99, pants, Â£ 35.99, shoes, Â£ 49.99, mango.com
White is not quite as desirable for summer as we like to think. Color is more flattering on older skin, and there is the obvious downside that white is a dirt drawer.
On the other hand, some things just look better in fresh white, and texture makes all the difference to the portability of white. Me + Em make a cheesecloth bib shirt and matching tie-waist pants that would look cool thanks to the cheesecloth if you wander around the souk in Marrakech or, more realistic for 2021, hang around the garden at home (Â£ 65 and Â£ 95, meandem.com) .
When it comes to staying cool, Mango (left) and Nrby have wide, soft, white linen pants (Â£ 120, nrbyclothing.com) that are perfect for hot weather dressing with one of Nrby’s light blue popover shirts in light, chambray blue or pink (Â£ 99) is suitable.
Carrying a straw bag will make you feel like you’re on vacation.
Better to avoid the simple Moses basket and opt for something a little less plain like Boden’s Amy Scallop straw basket (Â£ 70, boden.co.uk) or Toast’s Toquilla straw basket. The latter is expensive for straw, but its black and white pattern makes it chic enough to double as a summer handbag. Otherwise, you’ll quickly get into the beach mood with a woven tote (Â£ 32, accessorize.com).
A hat trick
They know you’re on vacation when you can see your toes all the time and feel the need for a hat (saves sunscreen and looks classy if done right). Toast makes a line of sun hats that last a long time, Hush has a good crochet panorama (bottom left), and Accessorize is always worth a look.
If you wear a baseball cap, this is the year you can make money as Celine made it the cool accessory of the summer. Boden makes a cute one (bottom right), or if you want the full beach vibe (especially good for ponytail lovers), try the woven paper visor (yes, really) (Â£ 25, boden.co.uk).
The beach or garden dress
Why should one get involved with the idea of ââ”beachwear”? What does “just beach” actually do? Is it the sharpness (just enough coverage to get you and your bikini out for lunch) or the wavy shape and bright tropical color? What if you just wore something slip-on and lightweight? Or a dress that is light and airy, but not see-through (see bottom)?
I spent most of the hot days last year in one of Nrby’s cheesecloth anklegrazing dresses – with a pair of panties when I was out of the garden and wore a swimsuit underneath. This year’s version is a light linen popover maxi (no panties required) in light blue chambray with a pink lined belt or light pink back (Â£ 150, nrbyclothing.com). It also comes in a pale candy strip.
Dress, Â£ 98, sandals, Â£ 80, boden.co.uk
What is stopping us from the problem of light colors? Turquoise is suitable for both an English summer and the south of France. Again, Nrby makes (his selection of simple styles made from bright fabrics and pretty colors makes for great vacation basics) a floating gown with flowing sleeves in turquoise or white that makes an ideal beach dress (Â£ 125).
The secret to keeping a vacation dress versatile is sleeves and a hem below the knee, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Boden’s light, strappy dark denim dress with a fitted body, square neck and not-too-skinny straps could be the sundress you thought you’d never wear again (Â£ 98, boden.co.uk).
A sundowner maxi
It’s ankle-length, pretty (but not elegant), and pairs with white plimsolls or thick-soled flip-flops for watching the sunset.
H&M does a good floral print on a black dress with a wrap top, full balloon sleeves, and (in detail this season) a deep, gathered layer from the knee (Â£ 24.99, hm.com). We think you might be grateful for the sleeves on the Norfolk nights, but if not, Phoebe Grace makes a good line in long wrap dresses with elbow length sleeves.
For other longer dresses with pretty prints, try Rixo (rixo.co.uk) and Ghost (ghost.co.uk).
Dress, Â£ 175, phoebe-grace.co.uk
You might think long is too elegant for your needs, but in all honesty it’s just the thing for summer nights: elegant and airy, and good for protection from mosquitos or cool breezes. The other advantage of maxis or extra long dresses is that you can wear bright, bold patterns. A lot of patterns on their own work best as long as you keep everything else simple on the beach – no heels whatever you do.
Or how about a simple, long, elastic waist skirt, maybe one with a bit of sheen from Ba & sh (Â£ 260, ba-sh.com) that goes with a linen T-shirt (Â£ 9.99, hm. com) is worn?
Linen t-shirts are more elegant, less clingy, and generally look a lot better than cotton. A linen V-neck T-shirt (Â£ 44, jcrew.com) with gold chains and bracelets is your anycation equivalent of a silk shirt that is wrapped around when it’s cooler.
With that, try Nrby’s cotton cashmere wraps with blue, pink and orange stripes and tassels (Â£ 99, nrbyclothing.com) – all the colors you might want to wear in one.
An all day / sightseeing dress
Flowery tea dress, Â£ 225, meandem.com
The difference between a dress that you wear on the beach and one that you wear all day in the city and by the sea is buttons and / or a belt. Shirt dresses leave some people cold, but if it’s a long, tailored shirt with tails or a split of the sides, then it’s a vacation wardrobe best friend.
H&M makes a calf length, blue and white striped style (Â£ 39.99) or a black and white striped shirt dress (Â£ 16, hm.com). For something pretty but useful, try the Me + Em garden flower tea dress made from super practical machine washable satin.
Alternatively, you can buy a really long shirt in Cerise Pink (Â£ 19.99, hm.com) and wear it half unbuttoned over shorts.
I like having some things in my vacation wardrobe that I wouldn’t wear at any other time, and a vest is high on that list. The great thing about a sparkling vest is that it’s an instant cocktail upgrade that can be worn from cheesecloth pants to a long skirt or seductive palazzo track pants from Me + Em (Â£ 150, meandem.com).
And if necessary, you can wear it under a short cardigan or denim jacket. Try the metallic knitted vest from Reiss.
If you want to spice up pretty things in the evening but still want to keep it casual, you can’t beat a draped viscose top (silk is too chic). This blouse by Nrby has soft, ruffled sleeves and a V-neck and is available in the colors sorbet pink, orange or bright sea blue.
Blouse, Â£ 69, nrbyclothing.com