High summer season in London – not always a great look. The tube is rammed with tourists and locals and the default girl-about-town uniform of Summer ’23 seems to be strappy mini slip dress layered over a less-than-pristine white tee, mashed-up 90s trainers (Stan Smiths, Converse, Reeboks) plus equally lived-in trainer socks. It’s aiming for a sort of Kate-Moss-by-Corrine-Day grungy romanticism but widely missing the mark.
The truth is, we do summer dressing far better when it’s a little bit cooler, when the layers are more knitwear-leaning and yes, when there’s a hint of hailstorm in the air. More Iris Palmer bucolic realness by Tim Walker circa 1996 if you will.
Unsurprisingly, sensible sweaters feature heavily in the Englishwoman’s core summer wardrobe. Whether oversized cricket knits tied over shoulders, hand-me-down Aran jumpers* tugged round waists or hand-knit chunky cardis* that double as a beach blanket, a love of layers is an inherent trait.
Ralph Lauren arguably based his entire aesthetic on this rustic trope, so no surprise that most of these feature heavily in his collections along with the chunky short-sleeve fair isle*. Yes, short-sleeve knits are a practical paradox. The & Daughter Wicklow short-sleeve sweater* is a top pick or for a lighter option, the fine-knit short-sleeve sweater is an undisputed work horse – John Smedley*, Lauren Manoogian* and N Peal* are my go-tos.
We don’t really seem to do short shorts in the UK. Again, I think it’s the fear of a downpour at any moment. Instead, the Bermuda shorts and big jumper combo (preferably in creams and oatmeals) is a beloved mainstay, with something skimpy layered underneath. (This seems to be the year of the sporty racer-back tank*.)
Arket*, Theory* and COS (on sale here!*) are all killing it on the big shorts front and Laura Manoogian’s slubby rib knit* is a good companion if you’re aiming for ‘90s Banana Republic campaign’ authenticity (above).
While the shorts, socks and bright white trainer look is all the rage right now (think 90s Brat Pack but with a 2020s nepo-baby twist a la Hailey Bieber), I still prefer the orthopaedic sandal and contrast sock duo. Me & Em’s canvas footbed sandal* is an alternative to Birkenstocks with its refined contrast leather piping, but I would pair it with a Toast marl sock* or a bright red one as spotted on a lady in my local breakfast hangout.
Grenson’s fisherman* and Saltwater’s retro flat sandals* also do the trick, while the Hereu Pesca* (still obsessed) and Margaret Howell’s T-bar are a little smarter. If this all sounds somewhat ‘octogenarian style’ that’s because it is. The kids call it #grandpacore (of course they do) according to the FT.
All that’s left for the English all-weather summer is your outerwear layer, your rain/sun hat and your sunglasses – a suitably incongruous combination. For the top layer, K-Way’s pop of orange* or Prada’s ice blue* get my vote. Accompany it with a bucket hat from A.P.C* or Muji or a raffia-esque Mulberry one* if you’re feeling optimistic. On which note, don’t forget the most upbeat of accessories, the statement sunnies*. At your service come rain or shine.
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WORDS: Disneyrollergirl / Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Margaret Howell SS23 by ANNEMARIEKE VAN DRIMMELEN; David Sims; Kate Moss in Banana Republic campaign by Bruce Weber; Margaret Howell ss23
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