Fashion: Because some pieces are not just for holidays

Rocky vintage tunic, �150, by Rails at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.
Rocky vintage tunic, �150, by Rails at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.
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Simplicity is key to this summer’s looks. Stephanie Smith has advice on how to create a capsule wardrobe that will last long after the sun has gone.

Oh, to be in Santorini, now that summer’s here. Or Florence, or Lisbon, or Havana or Zanzibar, or any of this year’s hottest (and coolest) hotspots.

Cream tunic dress, �95, BoCarter.co.uk.

Cream tunic dress, �95, BoCarter.co.uk.

Most of us have yet to take our main summer holiday, two weeks away (or perhaps a more realistic 10 days), and yet the High Street sales racks are already filling up with clothing and accessories definitely aimed at those intending to take a long break somewhere hot and sunny.

On the plus side, this means there is more than a slight chance of picking up bargains for your suitcase, and if you have to throw them away when summer has ended, it barely matters because they cost so little.

But it is interesting to note the types of pieces in the sales. For example, slip dresses, the underwear-as-outerwear trend that we were all predicting would be beyond huge before the start of spring. Now they hang limply on the reduced racks, suggesting that what works on the catwalks of Paris, Milan and London might not always be what most UK fashion shoppers think will work for them. It’s the same with matching exotic leaf and floral patterned shorts and bra-let sets. It seems that not everyone looks like Taylor Swift in them. Who knew?

Once upon a time, we used to see the remaining bits and pieces of popular holiday trend fashions thrown into the bargain bin after the main summer period had passed. Now it’s before the height of summer, in the same way that glittery dresses always seem to hit the sales racks now in early to mid December. Perhaps it’s to do with unpredictable weather, or political and economic uncertainty, or maybe changing modern lifestyles, as work, play and leisure time all become blurred and we need more flexible wardrobes.

Brigitte Bardot blouse, �39, and shorts, �39, from LaRedoute.co.uk.

Brigitte Bardot blouse, �39, and shorts, �39, from LaRedoute.co.uk.

But whatever it is, High Street buyers are not always making the right predictions, and far too much stock is ending up unwanted and unworn. Now, more than ever, it is time to invest in quality clothing and accessories, pieces that will last long after this summer has gone.

Step forward the shirt. Simple, elegant, useful – the shirt has been the surprise hit of this summer and will continue into the autumn. Many are long enough to be worn as dresses, which makes them ideal beach and holiday throw-ons and cover-ups.

Super-cool Californian shirting label Rails has attracted a celebrity following with Beyonce, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba and Cara Delevingne among the many A-listers snapped wearing its covetable blue and white button-down plaid shirts. Founder Jeff Abrams draws inspiration from travel and city living to create soft and perfectly fitted designs which transcend the seasons. This summer, it has come up with easy, simple dresses – its lace-neck Rocky throw-on is already a classic.

Look out for pieces with classic lines in linen and pure cotton, with a simple twist to the design which makes them stand out. Leeds-based designer Bo Carter offers beautiful, wearable shapes, such as A-line tunics, wide-leg trousers and loose-fitting tops with fluted sleeves. Online, French company La Redoute, whose UK HQ is in Bradford, offers classic but distinctive pieces that work well together to form the sort of summer wardrobe that you can layer up to wear all year round, whatever the weather or the season, and whatever you are doing.

Rails Jules tunic, �140, at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.

Rails Jules tunic, �140, at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.

This, after all, is the way we live now – and we need simple, classic, all-occasion fashion to reflect it.

Perforated box tee, �65; trousers, from a selection at BoCarter.co.uk.

Perforated box tee, �65; trousers, from a selection at BoCarter.co.uk.

Rails James shirt, �150,  at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.

Rails James shirt, �150, at www.harveynichols.com and www.selfridges.com.

White wide neck lace sleeve top, �85, at www.BoCarter.co.uk.

White wide neck lace sleeve top, �85, at www.BoCarter.co.uk.

Tokyo geometric printed dress, �895, from Amanda Wakeley at Harvey Nichols.

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