Living in London, nay, England, we are used to unsettled weather and no more than a week of summer (at the absolute most) at any one time. For us, summer doesn’t necessarily mean sunshine, but it usually means heat and humidity even as the sky remains overcast. On the streets, you will see some people wearing vests and shorts to keep cool, while others wear coats and long-sleeved garments for shelter from a random cloud burst or unpredicted cold front.
Last week, I was bouncing around London for work on an unseasonably hot day. The tube that I caught from Notting Hill to Finchley Road had absolutely no ventilation whatsoever, and so although I had a shirt and vest on, I was still pretty hot. Walking up a hill and then doing a campus tour had me dripping with sweat and swelteringly uncomfortable – so much so, that I actually had to change clothes. So here are my first couple of tips:
1) Always, always, always have a change of clothes.
Be prepared for anything, especially with the temperamental English weather. Having a spare long-sleeved top and a vest means that you can add extra layers if you need to cover something up, or if you get cold and find yourself underdressed. It also allows you to mix things up at a moment’s notice.
2) Grey shirts are not good if there’s a chance of sweating. Patterns are best – I have a black and white checked shirt which never shows anything. White can be ok if you don’t have tattoos – as I do, I can’t wear white shirts to work anyway because everything shows through. I am slowly learning that better quality shirts, with thicker material or a glossier sheen, can also be your friend – though I am also quite understanding of those who don’t want to spend much on their work wardrobe, when it’s so restrictive and you can’t wait to get changed as soon as you’re out of the office. When we’re clocking off, the first thing we want to do is express ourselves fashionably and get out of “work mode” in the process.
3) At work, always wear an undershirt – and sometimes a vest will not be enough.
So that’s the practicalities out of the way with. But linked to the ever-changeable weather will be one’s ever-changeable mood. Some mornings you will wake up, the sun will be shining and you’ll feel inspired and ready to get up and go. Other mornings, the sky will be dismally grey and you won’t know the difference between June and February. The weather may also deceive us, with the sunshine trying to lure us into gale-force winds, or an overcast sky hiding a sweltering atmosphere. Not knowing what to expect can make one unsure of what exactly counts as “summer fashion”.
4) Bright colours, pastels and floral prints are not mandatory.
Walk into a high-street store and this is what they’re likely to be hawking at you. Or alternatively, they may go with a nautical theme (because sailors = jaunty!). Beyond the cardinal rule of “don’t wear what you don’t like”, one should not be made to feel that choosing to wear black is against the law of summer. It’s not just about colours or prints – light fabrics, short sleeves, simple jewellery on fine threads of gold or silver can be equally carefree and summery.
5) Sunglasses are your friend, even if it’s not really sunny.
Sunglasses are another easy, simple way to accessorise any outfit – they can make smart dress look sharper, or add a sense of attitude to casual wear. Just make sure that a) the frames don’t look cheap and plasticky (unless you’re dressed in fun, spunky neon-kitsch, in which case it might just be perfect!), and b) it’s not night-time. I am however a proponent of wearing sunglasses even when it’s overcast, because this can help you avoid the gaze of chuggers, and more importantly, can cover a multitude of sins for those of us who suffer from hay fever and/or puffy eyes. Plus: you can’t rub your eyes with sunglasses on. Practical and stylish – that’s me!
6) Take care of your skin.
This is probably the most important tip I can give you. I’m not really talking about sunburn, although using a good moisturiser can serve as after-sun (I use the plain blue tubs of Nivea for this, as well as my every-morning-and-every-night facial moisturiser; the body butters from the Body Shop also work well for one’s limbs). Rather, I mean that radiating a healthy and happy glow is probably the summeriest thing one can do; beyond clothing and accessories. Especially when summer is the most likely time for skin to be exposed (although this is not my style, I don’t begrudge others the chance to wear shorts and vests about town), you need to keep it nourished and moistened. The sun can dry out the skin, and abrupt changes in our British weather can confuse skin and cause dry patches and rashes to appear. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and lots of fruit juice because it’s yummy and rejuvenating; my current addiction is coconut water. Yes, that is the sound of me jumping on the bandwagon, but I genuinely feel healthier and happier after a bottle.
My point is, do what you like, but enjoy doing what you like. Summer is a time to be out and about, feeling carefree – having clothing options available therefore eliminates one’s worry if the weather changes or intensifies. How one chooses to express their carefree spirit through fashion is really up to them, but details like sunglasses and jewellery always add a little sparkle and magic. And most of all, we need to be happy and healthy! If we feel it, we’re more likely to show it, and if we show it, we’ll be more confident and alluring – which is the order of the day, whatever the season.