Festival season looms. Even if you dodge the bullet of actually camping or having to stand in mud to watch a pinprick version of Radiohead, you may well find yourself heading towards our gorgeous countryside this summer.
For those of us who find wardrobe strategising highly therapeutic, country mini-breaks are bliss, even before they start. To paraphrase Sir Ranulph Fiennes, there’s no such thing as a lousy weekend in the country, just bad packing. Ergo, plan. This doesn’t mean clicking on the section on net-a-porter.com or some other wildly aspirational website. Well it does. But not for literal purposes. A proper, serious campaign is required.
That’s one that begins with footwear. Arguably if you get the shoes right, you can wear whatever clothes you want. In fact you shouldn’t compromise your style too much or you might end up looking like an oligarch who’s taken wholesale sartorial advice from PG Wodehouse. Contrary to popular belief, they do partake in fashion in rural parts. Maybe not head-to-toe Gucci. But they’ll appreciate the entertainment.
So, back to footwear. However many pairs you pack, ensure you have some closed-toes. Even during the so-called summer season, there’s generally a teensy little boggy bit waiting to humiliate you and always thistles, burrs and other deadly-to-pedicure natural disasters. Proper country folk have proper walking boots. Failing that, trainers will do, but only on country lanes, not through fields. And don’t expect to be able to wear your diamante ones on to dinner. They’ll be caked in mud.
Those Chung/Moss Hunter wellies? Fine for a short amble but hopeless for longer walks.
Conclusion: the bulk of your luggage will be for your feet: good, non-slip socks (mountainwarehouse.com currently has packs of two reduced from £14.99 to £3.99), a recreational pair of shoes (Adidas Gazelle look good with everything), sandals in summer (flatforms or solid, rugged soles - the countryside has many virtues; pavements are not among them), slippers (that floor will be chilly: Penelope Chilvers’ are chic enough to wear to supper), plus something for striking though fields, meadows and the occasional unforeseen stream. You just have to accept the latter will be hideous, so at least make sure they’re fully functioning. Muck Boots Arctic Apres Lace boots are cosy, rain proof, padded and crucially, you can walk the dog in them back in the city.
Cirrus jacket, £149, Barbour
The other essential: a lightweight, waterproof jacket that covers your bottom. Many are unforgivably hideous and should not be given houseroom. Barbour’s Cirrus, £149 is a miracle – does all of the above and is so well cut that honestly, you could wear it London Fashion Week. Much nicer than Balenciaga’s.
Once the foundations are right, stay true-ish to your native style. Good jeans will take you almost anywhere. Some folk like to dress up for country house dinner parties, but even then, a patterned silk pyjama style shirt will take you and your denim far. This year’s trend for ethnic embroideries is very handy for the bucolic scene: countrysiders love a smattering of ethnicity, probably because it’s timeless and striking (you’ve made an effort) yet somehow understated (it’s peasant inspired or vintage). A dress (try Fanm Mon at Avenue32.com) is multi-purpose, suits all shapes and will look just as good five years down the line.
Warmth wise, pashminas are obviously beyond the pale, even in the country. An indoor-outdoor unlined cashmere coat might look a bit pointed (rural folk are very sensitive to townie jibes about their drafty houses). A good tailored blazer usually does the trick, and is excellent for elevating jeans and casual smocks for dinner. Single-breasted seems less formal than double. Jigsaw is extremely good at these for the money. Oh and pack a thermal vest. Even in August.