In honour of Wimbledon, Stephanie Smith has tips on how to wear summer’s white-on-white looks and picks out key pieces.
Wimbledon is leading the way for fashion this summer as all-white style enjoys more than a moment or two in the sun.
Wimbledon’s strict all-white dress code dates back to the 1800s, when the sight of sweat spots through clothing was deemed unseemly and it was decided that white fabrics made stains less obvious while also reflecting warm sun rays away from the body.
The All England rules have always been strict, but have become even more so in recent years, following a clampdown after officials felt that rules were being flouted (Roger Federer’s orange Nike soles in 2013 did not meet with approval).
So these days, whites means whites and the regulations state that: “White does not include off-white or cream; there can be only “a single trim of colour no wider than one centimetre” (which can be only at the neckline or cuff); and “(coloured) undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration)” are not allowed. Large logos are also discouraged, although relaxed while players are practising.
But, actually, in fashion terms, Wimbledon has long been ahead of the game. For several seasons, from catwalk to High Street, all-white has been a seriously cool trend, especially for summer, with head-to-toe white looks dominating the most chic festivals, garden parties and events.
For this summer, there is a variety of ways to wear white, and rules are not quite as strict as Wimbledon, which means that the judiciously edited introduction of at least some colour is allowed.
For smart special occasions, there’s a sleek white theme which features tailored all-in-ones and trouser suits – the double-breasted jacket with cropped wide trousers is a key look. Just add chic sunnies and red lips and you’re good to go pretty much anywhere you want to.
Then there’s the all-white, romantic, layered and tiered trend, epitomised by a floaty white smock top over a floaty white maxi skirt. Now, this is beautiful if you are visiting a clean and manicured festival or garden party, but, like the sleek tailored outfits, just crying out to get mucky. If you have toddlers, but no Mary Poppins to supervise them, I’m afraid it’s probably not the look you should be going for.
Slightly more practical and wearable for everyday all-white wear is the white jeans and white statement top ensemble. Look out for tunic style shirts and tees with notch necklines, side slits to hems and lots of lovely embroidery and embellishment, to elevate this simple pairing out of the ordinary, and also make sure that you are not mistaken for a beauty spa therapist, especially if you team with cropped wide-leg trousers (in fact, this is probably not the best outfit to wear at a beauty spa).
The statement white shirt is simply not going away, with even more sculptural styles coming for autumn, many focusing on the waist to create an hourglass, almost corseted shape. If you spot any now with drawstring waist detail front or back, snap them up, and scour vintage sales for men’s dress shirts, to throw on over jeans and leggings for laid-back summer cool.
White lace continues to be a strong summer performer, especially with off-the-shoulder tops. Try teaming with white jeans and shorts, or with a subtly patterned skirt or trousers in washed out, barely there shades, for a beautifully sophisticated interplay of texture and print.
The white sundress is here to stay, as is the kaftan, but again, with kaftans and kimonos, a little embroidery or embellishment in a low-key pastel bright adds interest and a touch of glamour.
As for white trainers, you still need them, so invest, invest, invest.