Why has the fashion world got so excited about Stella McCartney's "Seventies mum look", complete with denim skirt and sensible cork sandals? Because it's easy. It's the cheat's way to do summer. Such a demure ensemble offers a lifeline for anyone who considers the flesh exposure of plunging maxis and playsuits about as dignified as streaking at the World Cup.

It's not the only easy option, though. Behind the kaleidoscopic digital prints and ruffles that struck fear into our hearts at the start of the season, there are plenty of pieces that will fool people into mistaking a vampiric sunlight-phobe for a sunny-spirited life and soul of the barbecue.

A bleedingly obvious but effective ruse suggested by the Man From Del Monte and Elle Macpherson, is to wear white. Topshop's white Baxters are a cool skinny take on the white jean, as are J Brand's 7/8th crops from my-wardrobe.com's new denim bar. I'm ignoring my colleague who doesn't believe me that they've been rehabilitated beyond their association with Italian Lotharios. Less of a summer cliché are blush and putty shades – a pale, dirty pink blazer is instantly more summery than a dark version, as are peg trousers in the same palette. A dark blazer, especially with exaggerated shoulders, is too tailored for hot weather. The unstructured version by Acne in crumpled stone linen is much cooler.

That's not to say that black doesn't work for summer. It can do if it's not too tailored or heavy. Try a black jersey maxi skirt with a lighter, loose vest and a pale denim jacket: summer's answer to the boyfriend blazer. Just as Jane Birkin's trademark basket made a white T-shirt and pale jeans look summery (right), a woven leather bag and tan sandals will lighten an overall look. Radley (radley.co.uk) has come up with a really sweet range of sandals in brown, light turquoise and primrose yellow.

A last word. When it comes to sensible sandals – an essential part of the "mum look" – espadrilles are the thinking woman's clogs. They're cheap, they don't slip off and they won't make you look like you work for the Dutch tourist board.