How to master the art of competitive summer dressing

Slim Aarons pool scene
Pre-instagram holiday goals by photographer Slim Aarons Credit: Hulton Archive

In winter, the daily commute is a drab affair. Black coats, black boots, ashen, vitamin D-deprived skin. But oh, what a difference a little sunshine makes. Suddenly, the train carriage is awash with florals, stripes, leopard print. There are wedge espadrilles and embroidered blouses at the school gates, and jewelled sunglasses at the golf club. The ladies loos at my office could be the oyster tent at the polo, for the amount of tea-dresses in view.

But if you think this is bad, best brace yourself - it’s about to get worse. Once the summer holidays begin, there’s really no living with your fellow woman. Who could possibly need a monogrammed straw bag, I wonder, but also - why don’t I have one?  Instagram, usually my favourite tool for finding new brands, researching street style trends, and, erm, watching videos of puppies eat strawberries, becomes simply unbearable in the summer months, as images of Campari spritzes (the new Aperol, folks), designer beach towels and niche swimwear brands reach me at my desk.

Credit: Marks and Spencer by Julian Andrews

This attention-seeking need for likes is completely transparent, of course - nobody really wears jewellery on the beach, or drives a convertible with their hair wrapped in an Hermes scarf. And sure, it’s all a bit naff, and we should all just go out and actually enjoy ourselves, without putting it on social media. But there’s no reason why one shouldn’t look chic, even when one is off grid, is there? And if you were going shopping anyway...

So here are the pieces to buy - the niche swimwear, the wedge espadrilles, even some fashionable fans - just in case. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat them, then you’re not shopping in the right place.

Brigitte Bardot Credit: Hulton Archive

 The easy espadrilles

French it girl Jeanne Damas' label, Rouje, specialises in pared-back french style, with Damas on hand to show you how to style her wares via the medium on holiday instagrams. Extra points for the not-too-high wedge you can walk all day in.

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 Espadrilles, £85, Rouje

The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink beach bag

You know, with space for your towel, factor 50, and Jilly Cooper paperback - Wood/Grey do a similar style to Kat Farmer's leather handled one. Since I've yet to book a beach escape, I've been wearing a straw bag in the city, with a zip-up clutch inside to stop anything important falling out. 

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Straw bag, £28, Wood/Grey

The boyish beach hat

Floppy brims can look a little too 'Marbella beach club' for my liking, but a boyish straw boater is just the thing with floaty summer dresses. Lucy Williams' one is particularly good - though if anybody asks, you bought yours off a family of artisan hatmakers while on hols.  

Janessa Leone hat, £141.18, Forward

The stylish swimmers

I could easily fall down an instagram rabbit hole here, as Morgane Sezalory is one stylish woman. She's also the founder of French online-only label Sezane, which has just debuted swimwear. I've got my eye on the teal one-piece...

 Swimsuit, £80, Sezane

The fashionable fan

Yes, really - sweating never looked so good. This trend comes courtesy of one trick pony (in a good way) brand Fern Fans - Susie Lau is wafting one of their designs here. Fern's designs sold out faster than you can say 'hot flush', but fear not:label Khu Khu has some great options.

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Khu Khu fan, £35, Wolf & Badger