Take an autumn/winter break in great British style. Stephanie Smith seeks out the finest country wear.
The new season brings with it the pressing need for a wardrobe rethink, especially for those about to embark on a break (I use the term loosely) anywhere in the UK.
As a frequent visitor to the north of Scotland – Morayshire, near Inverness – I have long been used to keeping outfits that I simply don’t wear anywhere else, including bulky knits, thermal long johns and woolly socks (our house has neither central heating nor double glazing). But this year, I have decided that I am fed up of looking like an over-stuffed scarecrow every time I head north of the border. It’s not a good look and I feel hopelessly inadequate in the local pub when holidaying Londoners gather at the bar in their smart waxed jackets and perfect cashmere knits, ordering drams of Laphroaig. The time has come to invest in properly functioning countrywear that looks cool and feels fabulous.
First stop has to be Barbour, which has been in the business of making beautifully British, top quality countrywear for more than 120 years. This season the company has great collaborations with designer Christopher Raeburn and Land Rover, as well as a second season collaboration with Yorkshire-based designer Julie Dodsworth, who has created new floral patterns celebrating the beauty of Britain’s canals and rivers, as linings for Barbour’s best-loved women’s waxed, waterproof and quilted jackets and gilets, plus some lovely knits and other pieces. For the Barbour Gold collection, Amanda Harlech acts as creative director this season, taking inspiration from the equestrian world.
A word of warning on choosing your waxed jacket – buy a size that allows you to wear a thickish jumper and a long-sleeve top and thermal under it, or you might well find that you simply don’t get the wear out of it on UK winter walks and breaks. It would be such a shame for it merely to live on a hook in the hall all its life.
In terms of countrywear fashion for this winter, the key look is slightly mannish or tomboyish, in chunky jumpers, oversize coats and lots of mildly chaotic layering (which is actually a trend I can do quite well with my existing wardrobe).
A knit dress this season is an excellent buy, handy for going out to dinner or for wearing with thick tights, boots and more layers for daytime walks. The caramel colour cable knit dress featured here from Barbour is just perfect and an absolute classic.
When it comes to coats, check out East (the wool draped coat here is lovely) and also Celtic and Co, formerly Celtic Sheepskin, the experts on shearling, which is such a key trend for this winter. Look out for the boots, especially. Beaumont Organic is a British company offering fantastic cosy knits for winter, and also has some lovely pieces in cotton and denim.
Finally, don’t take hats that are just after-thoughts. Try them on with your outdoor wear and make sure they suit both you and the rest of your ensemble. It’s time to stop channelling the scarecrow look.