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Too Fat For Fashion: The Perfect Summer Ten
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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Perfect Summer Ten

I'm not a girl known for her minimalist, classic style. Much as I adore a chic, classic dresser - Audrey Hepburn, Jackie O, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Princess Diana...erm, other dead broads who had a knack for dressing - my own magpie instincts make me alight on the nearest cheap bauble. In my somewhat eclectic wardrobe, you can find: a blue polka dot see-through chiffon sun-dress; pink neon footless tights; a 10" silver belt buckle adorned with "The State of Texas"; a classy t-shirt reading Jack Bauer Fucks Like an Animal (£18 from Shot Dead in the Head); a green-sequined minidress... etc.

This Rainbow Brite enthusiasm for colour and glitter makes getting dressed in the morning supremely difficult. Oft are the times I bemoan my lack of a classic white tank, since it'd be the only thing I could team with my orange-and-white print ribbon-tie bubble skirt (yes, I own such an item).

The sparse state of the 'classics' section of my wardrobe was spotlighted this weekend when I cleared out my winter clothes and shoes into storage (shoved ‘em under the bed), and cleared out a further 8 bags of clothes, shoes and accessories to charity. Most of my 'classic' clothes are winter-only: structured LBDs, knee-high black leather riding boots, black court features a lot, but hey, it's a classic!

My initial list of 'basics' had 12 items under jeans alone. So I set myself a challenge. Ten classic items. My ten, can't live without, wear 'em every summer, classic pieces. I could conceivably only have 20 items in my wardrobe - 10 for spring/summer, 10 for autumn/winter - and yet get dressed stylishly each day.

When you're shopping for capsule pieces rather than short-lived trends, the trick is to buy quality, not quantity - think classic, i.e. expensive! An expensive piece might make you think twice, but if you can wear it for years - both because of the quality and the fact classic pieces liven longer than trend pieces - it's worth the investment. Neon earrings: don’t spend more than a fiver. Classic = the sky's the limit.

What would your Perfect Summer 10 be? Here's mine:

A Classic Summer Wardrobe in 10 Easy Pieces

L-R: 1. The Shoe; 2. The Jeans; 3. The Dress.

1. The Shoe

Your toes are tanned and your nails painted; you skip through meadows hand-in-hand with your sweetheart, or stroll along hot city streets. To do that, you need a flat shoe. Ballet flats may be the flat shoe du jour, but a sandal will never go out of style - and will show off those painted nails. For me, a leather sandal is absolutely it. If you prefer something more eco-friendly, Terra Plana, Beyond Skin and Traidcraft all do great flats. Gap also do a great spring sandal in white, black or brown leather. Birkenstocks are always a good choice if your tastes run to the crunchy.

Flat sandal £95 by Yin from Viva La Diva

2. The Jean

I truly think the skinny jean is a modern classic, set to last us a lifetime. But it's not a summer classic. Skintight denim when the sun's melting the asphalt? Diaper rash, anyone? A winter classic should keep you warm and a summer classic should keep you cool. Which is like, physics, or something. When I think of a classic jean, only one name springs to mind: Levi 501. Yes, they're a guy jean. But also, yes - they are totally hot and available in 8 colours and about a billion waist/leg ratios.

Jeans, £60 from Levi

3. The Dress

The LBD is an autumn/winter classic, but black in summer is an evening-only thing, I think. White doesn't work, either: a white frock is a little too Nancy Drew Goes to Cotillion. My classic summer dress should be in glorious technicolour. This dress (excuse the crappy picture!) is a classic and flattering shape, with sleeves and a neckline to suit everyone; it works equally well for day or night, as all classics should. Also try Diane von Furstenberg and See by Chloe for great day-to-night dresses.

Dress, £100 by Kind at Liberty

L-R: 4. The Tank; 5. The Blouse; 6. The Jewellery.

4. The Tank

What goes better with your jean and sandal combo than a white tank? Just avoid accessorising it with a leather cuff and choker...unless you like that Ryan Atwood look. Tyra Banks would tell you that you look "very model" in this timeless tank.

This is the one instance I'd advise you to buy cheap & in quantity: I cannot conceivably get through a summer in a white (or any other colour...) tank without getting grass, mud, beer, ice-cream and um, other, stains on it. Inevitably, Topshop has a fabulous selection of tanks, camisoles and vests in billions of colours. Buy a bunch in white, black, grey and navy.

Tank, £12 from Gap

5. The Blouse

Taking you from day to date: swap your tank for a sweet summer blouse and you're ready for evening. A blouse is a better option than the white shirt that often turns up on classic lists, not least because a loose blouse is, in addition to being more comfortable, easier to keep looking good all day. (Hands up who can keep a white shirt crisp and clean all day? I salute you.) This Marc by Marc blouse in teal suits all skin tones and is a little more interesting than monochrome. Toast is a good option for slightly cheaper, quirky blouses.

Blouse, £120 by Marc by Marc Jacobs from Net a Porter

6. The Jewellery

Nothing makes an outfit like accessories. I have more boxes than I care to admit to of cheap plastic tchotchkes. The absolute must for a Perfect 10 wardrobe is something that goes with everything and dresses everything up: small silver earrings. These hoops are available from Wright and Teague (who are offering a 20% discount for online sales throughout April), and are available in silver, platinum, rose gold and yellow gold - rose gold looks great with summer skin. If hoops aren’t your thing, Tiffany have a great pair of simple silver ball earrings, but then Tiffany have great everything:

Hoops, £80 from Wright and Teague
Studs, £60 from Tiffany

L-R: 7. The Sunglasses; 8. The Cardigan; 9. The Watch; 10. The Jacket.

7. The Sunglasses

For some, the thought of the words "Wayfarer by Ray-Ban" give such unpleasant flashbacks to toothy, diminutive homosexual Scientologists prancing about in their underpants, that smelling salts have to be administered. Tough. Wayfarer have lasted since the 1950s: surely the sign of a classic. If you really can't bear them, check out Cutler and Gross or Linda Farrow Vintage for some great oversized sunglasses.

Sunglasses, £120 from Ray-Ban

8. The Cardigan

Those long summer evenings often necessitate an extra layer. Pashminas and wraps go in and out of style, and there's something ageing to me about a wrap. A thin-knit cardigan is perfect for keeping warm after the sun goes down, or for covering up a little at the office. Agnes b always has perfect cardigans that fit really well, in neutral shades of cream, taupe, black, white and navy. I love this silk/cashmere mix. Kew have a great selection if you prefer to throw a little colour into your classics.

Cardigan, approx. £100, from Agnes b

9. The Watch

Every girl needs a good watch. A classic watch should definitely not be digital, and never ever battery operated. Quartz only, please, with a plain leather strap. (Hi! My name's baggy and I have appointed myself the Chief of Wristwatches!) Mine is an ancient number that in fact was my dad's 21st birthday present handed down to me - it's quartz, it has a large face and a black leather strap. My preference is for a man’s watch - I think the designs tend to be more simple, more classic, less fussy, where women's watches are often diamonds! Snakeskin! Stuff!

This Rolex is the baby bear's: not too big, not too small, but just right. Timex and Swatch have some equally good classic leather-strap watches starting from a less-budget breaking £25.

Watch, from a selection from Rolex

10. The Jacket

Even in spring/summer you need a coat. Spring jackets are one of my favourite things, taking you in and out of the season when it's too warm for your winter coat, but too chilly to go bare. Plus let's not forget summer's irritating habit of providing us with random downpours of rain when we least want them. This cute mac has a tie waist for cinching in but would look equally good hanging open and loose. Burberry is always good for a mac as well.

(Totally a trend item not a classic but I love this cropped jacket from French Connection too!)

Jacket, £130 from French Connection

There you have my Perfect Summer Ten. 10 pieces that all work together. That dress works great with the sandals; the jeans go equally well with the tank or the blouse - add the cardigan for a cover up. The accessories set off everything to perfection - there's nothing that doesn't go with a chic little earring. The beauty of a classic wardrobe is once you have these basics, you can go hog-wild buying all sorts of on-trend stuff, knowing you have the underlying architecture to make it work. Buy as many trendy bikinis, bags, tops, cheap bangles and fun hair scarves as you like!


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