City heat? No sweat!
Panic not, city dwellers. Beating the heatwave in a stylish manner is challenging, but we have a few tricks up our (futed) sleeve…
in a case of be careful what you wish for, the scorching weather of late has caused all manner of wardrobe mishaps. Summer dressing sounds so straightforward: foaty, wafting dresses, barely-there shorts, backless vests… oh wait, that’s a packing list for Ibiza and not exactly appropriate for that 9am performance review with your boss. Dressing stylishly for real life in the city heat is no mean feat. Linen = hideously crumpled by lunchtime. Silk = unsightly sweat patches in places you didn’t even realise perspired. New sandals = a pattern of heel and toe scabs that make you yearn for year-round boots.
So where do you start? Firstly, it’s worth forgetting a lot of the fashion advice you may have heard. Natural fibres like cotton are indeed great summer options, but only if they are crease-proof and don’t mark with moisture. While a satin dress might be gorgeous for a day at the races, it will not cope well with a 45-degree commute. You need absorbent, wrinkle-free fabrics and, contrary to popular opinion, that might mean a natural fibre blended with the tiniest percentage of man-made threads. Cropped trousers made with 95% cotton with 5% elastane ( great for wrinkle recovery) will often look less lived-in by the end of the day than their 100% cotton counterparts and it’s why denim is such a summer staple.
One problem we Brits have is that summer in the city isn’t dependably warm, so we lack a go-to uniform. It’s a bit like leaves on the line: we’re just not equipped. Cast your sights across the other side of the Atlantic, however, and our New York sisters
in style are far better versed at urban swelter. There you will find several blueprints for fuss-free city chic. Take Olivia Palermo, whose cropped tailoring balances the cool with the breezy. Elsewhere, Jessica Chastain makes a great case for the sleeveless shift. Even UK exports Sienna Miller and Victoria Beckham seem to hit their summer city best in the Big Apple – VB has made an art of the do-everything dress and also just proved once again how timeless the right pair of jeans and white T-shirt will always be come summer. It’s a valuable lesson: simplicity is your friend. On a practical note, during a roasting Fashion Week, one New York editor told me all the women in her office brought spare underwear to change into. Not entirely glamorous, perhaps, but needs must.
Stilettos are clearly a no-go, it’s all about the flat or mid-heel sandal. As Ditte Reffstrup, creative director of Ganni, says, ‘In Copenhagen we bike everywhere, so I’m always wearing flats or trainers and like combining more sporty elements with feminine dresses and vintage T-shirts.’ Sleeve-length is also tricky territory. A spaghetti strap can be too casual for more formal offices and, if you don’t love the tops of your arms, an elbow-skimming option or fluted angel sleeves are your best bet.
While this all might sound a bit strict, don’t forget that summer style is meant to be more light-hearted than the layers of winter. ‘ You can play with colour, print and lighter fabrics, so you can have fun and take some risks,’ says co-founder and creative director of Borgo De Nor, Carmen Borgonovo. ‘A bit of sunshine elevates the mood, so why not celebrate it with bold choices?’
As for the absolute no-nos, Serafina Sama, the designer behind Isa Arfen, says, ‘Stay away from anything too clingy, synthetic and with tight armholes.’ Katie Sturino, founder of the12ishstyle.com blog and Megababe, a range of women’s personal care products including Thigh Rescue and Bust Dust, also counsels, ‘No leather, no boots, no suede. And no fedoras ever, which has nothing to do with heat, I just hate them.’ Or listen to Lauren Santo Domingo, the co-founder of luxury e-tail site Moda Operandi, ‘Actually, my best advice is to leave town immediately. But if that’s not an option, make the best of it. Think of that glistening skin as an accessory.’
heatwave heroes, from left: olivia Palermo, Jessica Chastain, Victoria Beckham, alessandra ambrosio, tracee ellis ross and Priyanka Chopra