Want to compete with the world’s glamour set on the beaches? Stephanie Smith has advice on how to get the look right.
The British abroad. You can’t miss us. We’ll be the ones on the sun-loungers nearest to the pool bar, wearing an eclectic, not to say riotous, ensemble of ill-fitting, colourfully mis-matching holiday attire over our red-raw sunburn, accessorised by a tall glass of whatever today’s cocktail special might be.
Unfair? Well, perhaps Benidorm (as in the British TV drama-com) has a lot to answer for, not least for helping put Brits at the top of the world’s “worst-dressed on holiday” list, but there is no denying that the show’s wardrobe department has captured some recognisable aspects of the “British on Holiday” look. Bikinis too tight, swimsuits too baggy, loud tropical-print shirts, rude slogan T-shirts, crumpled gigantic cotton shorts teamed with strappy tie-dye tent tops, plunge-neck sundresses and maxi-dresses in the most hideous floral prints ever known to humankind – and all bottomed off with hopelessly horrible old sandals or cheap plastic toe-post flip-flops. Ye gods, as they say.
While there is no doubting that we British have a style of our own – one much admired throughout the world both for its quality and heritage and for its genius quirkiness and innovation – it is fair to say that we don’t do holiday wear quite as well as other Europeans.
The beaches of the South of France may be stony, but those lying in the patches of imported sand are dressed impeccably (except for those who aren’t dressed at all) in sleek, super-stylish swimwear that fits well and stays on when they swim. Away from the beach, they are even more stylishly dressed. Catch a packed bus or train along the coastline, or stroll along the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, and there they are – impeccably dressed men and women of all ages in light tailoring, crisp shirts, fitted chic dresses, capri trousers with neat tops and cotton cropped jackets, jeans or shorts worn with tees and scarves that look well-thought-out, not just thrown on. And all always accessorised with perfect footwear and fabulous bags.
There are some frights. On a bus to Nice, I once saw a woman wearing very tight-fitting, neon green, blue and pink animal-print Lycra trousers and matching fitted top, with pointy silver high-heel boots, absolutely massive designer shades and of course the obligatory high-end designer bag, with gigantic gold insignia, chains and buckles. Mesmerising, but not in a good way.
Anyway, back to what to take for a glamorous beach holiday in hot exotic and chic destinations. First, choose your colour palette - for example, black, white and fuchsia pink, with accents of gold. Then seek out your swimwear and make sure it fits from all angles.
Kaftans and kimonos must be able to double as day and evening wear, as must playsuits and all-in-ones. Smart white jeans or trousers always work well in the Med, but also consider wide-legged, high-waist trousers (wear either on the plane) which will look good with a neat, cotton, fitted jacket in navy or nude, and with your swimsuit or bikini at the pool bar.
Don’t forget a loose white shirt, hats (a trilby and a floppy), scarves and pashminas, cool tote bag, sunglasses and footwear that looks good and feels better.
You’re good to go.