Once upon a time I barely packed any clothes to go on holiday because I didn’t have any clothes. I was not brought up in a family that went on a lot of glamorous hot holidays, so I didn’t know what you were supposed to wear. On our holidays to Wales we wore what we normally wore, occasionally with a pac-a-mac over the top.
Then I went on a few holidays with my husband and his super duper glamorous friends who had wives with powerful jobs and the most amazing wardrobes. They brought suitcase upon suitcase of clothes with them and changed about three times a day.
We once stayed in a villa in Greece with such people and I had one dress with me – a white cotton thing from H&M and one morning the villa’s cook, (I told you he had glamorous friends), showed up wearing the same dress. She looked better in it.
Anyway hot on the heels of that came Instagram and the faint feeling that I ought to be dressing for best at all times – which led me swiftly to the Overpacking years.
I would pack all these absurd outfits and then get to my holiday and look at my children, who would be fighting over who got to keep the woodlouse they’d found on the verandah as a pet, and think: “Who the fuck am I kidding?”
Most of the clothes would return to England, unworn.
And now here we are. I know, now, that I will never be one of those Instagram people who poses for a photo in 34C heat wearing a broderie anglais romper and a straw bag with my hair ruffed over my face just so.
And anyway holidays are supposed to be a holiday, hello? They’re supposed to be a break from fretting about what to wear. When we go on our hot holiday this summer I will relish taking only what I can fit in my pockets.
So, in this punchy frame of mind, I’m here to tell you that you probably have everything you need for your summer holiday already.
Some sort of swimsuit, some sort of sleeveless thing to wear to the pool. 1 black dress for the evening, flip flops. Suncream. Done, babes. Don’t sweat it, no-one is watching. At least they shouldn’t be. Bye. Have fun.
BUT if you are in the mood to do a bit of updating – if the elastic has gone in your bathers and you just can’t face that dress for one more summer, here is my guide to what you might consider getting.
First – practicalities.
If you can get your hands on some, get this. A sheer, lightweight, non-sticky swipe-on SPF70 sunscreen stick from Neutrogena, (I found some on Amazon), which makes getting some SPF on small children about 40% less traumatic for everyone. Probably not for all-over body but very good for neurotically topping-up back of neck and also for the face if they object to cream-on-face. (I mean, who doesn’t?)
(UPDATE: following this post a few people have pointed out that this isn’t approved by the USA and contains some weird chemical, so if you are bothered by things like that, approach with caution.)
If it’s really hot, your attitude to your hair changes dramatically.
You won’t be arsed to do it, ever, and it will be covered in sweat and suncream and crap and sort of damp all the time anyway so you will need a lot of colourful stretchy headbands. Unfortunately the high street are only doing those ghastly ones with a knot at the front, but look I found these on Amazon, which look sort of jolly and gap year:
I am tempted by this Missoni one:
But frankly a multipack will do:
I have forgotten my super-absorbent hair-drying turban my last three holidays in a row and literally gone AUGH at the airport every time and smacked my palm on my forehead. I have missed it sorely on each holiday. Get one!
If you are going somewhere with sticky sand, take some talcum powder – it gets sand off feet like a magic trick.
Mrs White’s Unstung Hero is a natural mosquito repellant which, if applied assiduously, really does work.
Clothes and swimsuits:
My quite bold and possibly controversial view is that kaftans are over – and are starting to look quite ageing. I am aware that for some people in certain life stages kaftans are not optional, in which case don’t let me tell you what to do. If kaftans ARE optional don’t buy one now.
Instead, I think sarongs are about to come back. I’ve seen a lot of one-piece-and-sarong combinations recently that look rather terrific.
I, personally, plan to wear my red and white keffiyeh that my Dad brought me back from Saudi in 1984 in a kind of Do Do Bar Or pisstake.
You will probably have an old sarong knocking about in the back of a cupboard – drag it out! Or, Monsoon are doing a terrific line in sarongs at the moment (did they ever stop?).
Kimonos also look very modern and beautiful, but you have to make sure they are made of a soft, washable cotton and not something that stains easily or of some sort of hateful viscose that will be like nails on a chalkboard sliding over sun-hot skin.
I have yet to find a kimono made of such practical material – this might be one, from Anthropologie, but it’s very hard to say, having not seen it in person.
If you want to do a printed trouser, that’s fine – but for modernity, make sure it’s wide-leg.
I am not going to go into too much detail about swimsuits because they are so personal, it’s a bit like talking about bras, there’s sort of no point because everyone is so completely different.
BUT, what I will say is that all the smart ladies this year will be wearing one-pieces in sludgy or unexpected colours, like burgundy or teal. OR in crazy stripes. Also look for scallop detailing – very now.
Something like this from Arket:
Or from Other Stories:
Here’s one with some scalloping:
And here’s another one from Mango, not in stock yet, which I think is going to be very popular this summer. I can’t see the point in a one-shoulder swimsuit myself, but this IS very smart, and worn with the navy sarong from Monsoon (above) I think you would cut quite a dash, if that’s something you’re into.
And stripes here from Hush:
(Personally I wear mini-micro slag bandeau bikinis from Mara Hoffman or Heidi Klein, but that’s no use to anyone.)
It is very hard to get yourself in the “hot” mindset when you are packing in England, but when you are really hot to want to wear NOTHING, certainly nothing even vaguely, remotely tight. If it’s got sleeves, they need to be mega wafty, like on this really dreamy dress from Maison Maillot
I had a feel of this in store yesterday and the fabric was really beautiful, very light and soft. Generally H&M are having a pretty knockout SS18:
Ugh, bugger… sorry about crap screenshot.
I am heartened to see a lot of tank maxi dresses around like this one
or this one from Stories:
Or this from Hush:
For breakfast in the village on my holiday I will be wearing my Rouje Gloria skirt with a printed t-shirt like this
with the sleeves cut off, some round sunglasses and a battered old leather bag from Marks and Spencer.
Une cafe creme and give it wings, garçon.
Then you need 1 black dress for the evening and possibly 1 smart day dress, just in case you meet the British Ambassador to Portugal playing frisbee on the beach and he invites you to the High Commission for tea. It’s not impossible!
I’m sure you’ve got one somewhere, but if not there are smart day dresses a go-go on the High Street right now – I’m suddenly really in love with this one from Anthropologie, but I may possibly just have been looking at too many dresses now and have gone fully mad.
You’re now going to ask me to do a stay cation round-up but I’m afraid that just consists of telling you to get a raincoat from Rains or Stutterheim. Maybe this hat.
Sarah Denham says
We’ve just had a week in Corsica, a beautiful island but it rained solidly for 4 days! It was lovely to come home to the sunshine yesterday. All my holiday dresses were unworn, jeans and trainers were the order of the day! I shall now save nothing for best and wear it whenever the sun shines ☀️Enjoy the rest of your weekend! X
O Sarah what a catastrophe! I have had such holidays, it’s such a blow
Yours is my very favourite blog Esther, so much sense about everything and no poncing about. That said, my hot holiday this year is a posh cruise (not Royal Caribbean or the like) so I’m going to need a tiny bit more than this. I will try to follow the capsule rules as much as I can and add a posh frock or two, I’m going to brave the far reaches of my wardrobe I think, to see what’s there. X
Oh christ you will need to take ALL your clothes
I guarantee EVERY time I’ve halved what’s laid out on the bed, I leave out something I regret once I’m there!
maybe don’t halve it. maybe third it x
I am getting the serious rage about price of bikinis in Hush etc. I totally get Eres as it’s the Chanel of bathers, I even get Heidi Klein prices as they were the original ‘bikinis as a thing’ back in noughties but £70 for Hush and Gap is making me v cross. Thank God for H& M this year I say …
Mmmm yessss… but Hush and Gap will last more than one summer as they invest in good quality material, hence the price. But if you’re only after something for a summer H&M will see you right
“….my children, who would be fighting over who got to keep the woodlouse they’d found on the verandah as a pet, ”
At our very instagrammable Devon cottage last year my darling daughters were playing with the Farm cat in bucolic surrounds, following the cat down to where she’d disembowelled a bird some days before and was a maggot infested mess. Don’t think that made the Boden catalogue final edit :-/
Thank you Esther wonderfully insightful and helpful as always. I grew up having very unfancy, unglamorous beach holidays in Aus so your posts on holiday wear are part of my ongoing education of ‘how to be English’
Those hair bands are a great idea – my hair goes full Janis Joplin near moisture (which I loved at 15, not so much now) and I needed something other than a straw hat at all times, especially as my carefully hidden silver streak precludes a ponytail these days.
I’ve been really lucky with the weather the last few Devon and Cornwall holidays but I pretty much live in bikinis, board shorts and plaid shirts, couple of dresses for the pub, and like that I don’t have to think about it too deeply.
not having to think *IS* the holiday xx
Great shout on the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer. I discovered the range a few years ago and it’s great if, like me, you are v fair skinned (they have some good high factor options) and have spent your whole teenage and early adult life struggling with acne-prone skin (lots of lovely sheer/matte options which really live up to their description). I spent years feeling anxious about slathering myself in the usual greasy/sticky suncreams and feeling like a basted oven-ready turkey for the holiday so was grateful to discover this range. It’s not so readily available here, annoyingly, but you can get most options on Amazon and I’ve replenished supplies when I’ve come across it in the States.
All that said, at the tender age of 34 (ffs) I am currently on a course of roaccutane so my skin has gone from one extreme to the other. Given that my current moisturising regime means I leave the house most days feeling a little like I imagine David Walliams felt before he swam the Channel, I imagine I will either be channeling my inner reclusive vampire by avoiding the sun completely or digging the roast chicken look after all! (Incidentally, roaccutane hasn’t been anywhere like as bad as the horror stories led me to believe – wish I’d tried it about a decade ago…!)
Great post as always Esther – snorked at the woodlouse bit 😂
bought the orange cozzie from &otherstories last week; really beautiful colour, extremely booby (have 34c boobs & bought a size 12)
I just got this maxi dress from The White Company and it is fab! http://www.thewhitecompany.com/uk/Knot-Front-Split-Maxi-Dress/p/KFCSM?swatch=Navy
Easy to dress up with gold sandals and jewellery or dress down with trainers & a denim jacket.
Jenny D says
Christa Davis does amazing patterned headbands. And super affordable. http://www.christadavis.com
My holiday challenge is a wardrobe that spans June in Provence and June in Pembrokeshire with a smartish event in the middle – help!
man alive. just take all your clothes
Yes packing from sturdy anorak and cashmere hoodie to linen shift and bathers….. Praying for sunshine 🌞🌞