An assault to the sartorial senses, that’s us Brits apparently. We recently topped a TripAdvisor poll that sees us crowned the worst dressed holidaymakers in Europe. Seemingly the sock and sandal brigade are alive and well.
There’s an element of the truth hurting, but it’s also easily believed, not least because the poll also reveals that 36% of Brits, and I quote, ‘dress more adventurously on holiday.’
Arrrrgggggghhhh! You fools. Dressing in a way that you wouldn’t usually, because you don’t think anyone knows you and as such, won’t care what you look like… is, quite frankly, just not true.
I am assuming here, that in ‘dressing more adventurously’ people mean, wearing bright (read: garish) colours, brash prints, daft hats, silly shoes and with particular regard to the ladies; having an overriding penchant for anything metallic… ‘cos it’s glamorous innit?’
I’d like to say that these fashion faux pas are the reserve of a certain age group, but that’s just not true either. Holiday makers in their twenties are just as likely to make these mistakes as those in their forties or fifties.
The crux of the problem lies with our great British weather. Our wardrobes are full of sensible clothes, in sensible colours and in sensible fabrics, all perfect for the grey, chilly days we know so well. So it’s little surprise that when the sun shines, we are clueless as to how to dress.
But we can’t let this be an excuse for losing all sense of style – and dignity to boot. Not least when high street stalwarts, M&S, Debenhams and the like, have really rather exceptional, and highly affordable, summer fashion collections. You only need to look at Twiggy swinging gaily round a palm tree in the latest round of TV ads to know this.
So why, when the high street are coming up with the goods, do we fail so miserably in assembling a stylish holiday wardrobe? How can we train ourselves, not to go potty; let-off-the-leash insane when purchasing and packing for our hols?
First off, and it’s a simple one, don’t simply dig out what you’ve been wearing for the past fours summers. OK, so you may not have worn them to death but they are old. It’s likely they no longer fit, and I’m pretty certain, they’ll no longer be in style.
Which brings me nicely to my next point. If you are only going to wear these things for a few weeks of the year, why embrace a seasonal trend? Buying a few well-chosen classic separates to form the base of your holiday wardrobe, is the way forward here. No spangles, no sequins, no gawdy prints. I’m talking casual, lightweight clothing in neutral colours; a simple safari style dress, linen trousers or shirt. Dull I hear you say? Not so. I challenge you to step inside a Banana Republic, COS or Zara store and not be floored by the wall-to-wall, super-stylish offerings that ooze elegance and sophistication. Tres chic, ce non?
That said, I’m not suggesting you become a piece of walking, talking wallpaper. There are those of us that do like to inject a little seasonal style into our look. For example, the current trend for pretty florals is perfect vacation wear.
Unless this is a look you go for in your everyday life then it’s probably not worth spending too much here. Topshop and New Look have some very pretty separates or if you’re looking for a more grown-up interpretation of the trend then look to French Connection or Whistles.
At the risk of contradicting myself completely, there is one store that I feel really does deliver on ‘holiday fashion.’ While I cannot emphasise enough the rule, that, if you wouldn’t wear it at home around you’re friends and family, then don’t inflict it on strangers abroad, Monsoon is a brand that really comes into its own with their Spring/Summer collections.
Picking up on trends left, right and centre, and delivering these in a friendly and amenable way is what they do best. Brights, embellishment, prints… you name it, they’ve done it, and they’ve done it well. So if really you must do faux-Souk chic or channel the Masai Mara, then do so here, but proceed with caution. There is real danger of overstepping the mark and venturing way, way too deep into trend territory, to the point of overkill.
I should make a special and very specific rule for hats. It’s unlikely you will incorporate one into your everyday wardrobe here in Blighty but fair play to you; you want to protect yourself from the sun and avoid the risk of over heating on your hols. Fine. But ask yourself this… is a straw Stetson really for you? Looking good in a hat is difficult for most of us, to say the least. In that respect you should consider a chic headscarf… very Cotes d’Azur don’t you know. Hit up John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and Accessorize for the biggest and best selection of holiday headgear.
And finally to the root of this problem. Footwear. That anyone in this day age might be wearing socks and sandals sends a shudder down my spine, but clearly, this heinous practice is still commonplace amongst a certain fraternity of us holiday-going Brits. I do understand that in teaming together these items, you do so in the pursuit of comfort. However, it is 2010 and footwear technology has come a long way. Comfy sandals are out there, waiting for you to lavish your hard-earned cash on them. Waiting and wishing that you would leave your socks back home where they belong.
Ladies, style and substance can be found in shops such as Shoon and in brands such as Gabor. Guys… same. The classic Birkenstocks and wooden soled Schol sandals are also good alternatives to the badly made and oh-so retro (dare I call them so…) Jesus Creepers.
For the younger, less comfort-concerned traveller, I feel there is nothing to say here. There are thousands upon thousands of chic and affordable pairs of sandals and flip flops up for grabs. But be warned, sandals and plasters are almost a worse look than sandals and socks.
So there you have it, holiday style rules designed to make us apparently caustic Brits a little easier on the eye when we’re taking our annual vacation. Think more Euro-chic and less Euro-trash, so when in Rome…
By Clare Taylor
Monsoon Bea Dress £95
French Connection Floral Dress £95
Banana Republic Chino boyfriend blazer £98, Heritage mesh tank top £17.50, Silk skirt £49.50, Straw fedora £35, Shoes £79.50, Necklace £25
[other picture credits: therealmalingering.com]