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Summer wardrobe essentials: Everything you need for the new season

As temperatures rise, make sure you're kitted out in these warm-weather must-haves 

Louise Whitbread
Monday 22 June 2020 12:47
Update your closet with these summer staples, from linen dresses to strappy sandals
Update your closet with these summer staples, from linen dresses to strappy sandals

The summer solstice has just passed, which means summer has officially started. But after having spent most of the year so far indoors, your wardrobe has probably seen better days.

With months spent in loungewear and pyjamas, the easing of lockdown restrictions combined with the sunny weather means now is the perfect time to get your closet in order.

Rather than splash the money you may have saved during lockdown on pieces that look great now, but will date or not match the other clothes you own, shop smart this season and look for versatile pieces.

Look for lightweight fabrics like linen that will keep you cool amid rising temperatures and timeless designs that you’ll be able to wear for future summers too.

It’s also an opportunity to play with colour, experiment with accessories and revamp your attire with a few simple changes.

We’ve picked the pieces that will stand the test of time and keep you looking stylish and comfortable at all times.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Shirts, skirts, shorts and dresses

Linen is a smart choice for summer, as it’s a breathable, lightweight material that’s quick-wicking. This linen-cotton tunic shirt (Cos, £59) caught our eye for its versatility.

A crisp white shirt in a relaxed fit is a versatile piece for any wardrobe

Every wardrobe will benefit with a white shirt, however you like to style it. A collar adds a touch of formality, whereas one without is more minimalistic.

This one is ideal for wearing on zoom calls with your boss (paired with sweatpants of course), and out and about tucked loosely into jeans with brightly coloured sandals.

While white jeans and trousers are often shunned for being hard to keep stain-free, this knotted wrap skirt (Zara, £29.99) is a modern take on a midi length that’s easy to style with a fitted body underneath or a t-shirt to keep it casual.

This wrap skirt is a flattering midi length that you can easily dress up or down

When autumn rolls around, you can also pair it with leather jackets and chunky knits.

A plain white T-shirt is a no-brainer, and a wardrobe staple worth buying. It needn’t be expensive either. This crew neck short-sleeved t-shirt (Uniqlo, £9.90) is an affordable, good quality tee that’s available in a multitude of neutral and earthy shades.

You can't go wrong with a simple white T-shirt

Find a size that fits you and then add whichever colour takes your fancy. We're pretty sure you're likely to end up having at least a few colours of this staple.

For sunny days, wear with silk slip skirts, jeans or these relaxed linen-blend shorts (& Other Stories, £55).

As the weather gets warmer, ditch the jeans in favour of these linen shorts (& Other Stories)

Available in beige or black, they are cut in a relaxed fit with an elasticated waistband, great news if you’ve spent lockdown in stretchy pjs and are dreading wearing your usual clothes soon.

High waisted in style, they’re easy to dress up with a white shirt and blazer or down with a T-shirt tucked in with a pair of gold earrings.

British summers are notoriously temperamental and often when the sun goes down, we’re reaching for a cosy jumper to keep us warm.

This jumper with dolman sleeves (H&M, £19.99) is a simple v-neck design, making it a flattering fit across all body shapes, particularly if you have a bigger bust.

Once the sun sets, stay warm with a lightweight jumper (H&M)

Swimwear is, of course, a summer must-have, even if you’re only wearing it to catch some rays on your patio.

For an eco-friendly, sustainable find, take a look at Stay Wild, a British brand that makes bold and bright pieces such as the wanderlust one piece in coral (Stay Wild, £140).

Made from regenerated ocean plastic, this swimsuit is stylish and supportive

Made from Econyl, a fabric from regenerated ocean plastic, it has a double lining, thick straps and panels for support so you’re comfortable whether you’re dozing off sunbathing or splashing about.

Shoes, headwear and accessories

Keep the sun rays out your eyes with these trek rounded sunglasses (Weekday, £12) designed with a rounded lens and a tortoiseshell frame.

Keep the sun out of your eyes with a pair of sunglasses

With so many high street brands offering a myriad of sunglasses designs, you don’t need to spend a fortune to find a pair to suit you and if looked after, i.e. not accidentally sat on, can last years.

A stylish straw hat is also a handy purchase such as this ribbon brim woven hat (& Other Stories, £27).

For naps in the sunshine, use a hat to keep sunburn at bay (& Other Stories)

The wide, structured brim will ensure it keeps its shape and protects your scalp and face and neck from getting burnt too.

When it comes to a bag, it might have been a while since you wore one that wasn’t a supermarket bag for life, so take the opportunity to be more playful and bold in your choices.

This rantan bag in ice croc (JW Pei, £79) by the vegan accessories brand is fun, eye-catching and a nod to summery pastel shades.

Introduce summery hues of pastel blue into your accessories collection

It’s made with a faux-suede lining and microfiber vegan lining, a detachable strap if you want to be hands-free and has interior pockets to fit your valuables.

It’s perfect for holding all your essentials, which are now include a mask and hand sanitiser, along with a pair of sunnies.

Nothing in our wardrobe has seen less of the outdoors like footwear. Having spent the past three months in slippers and socks, get your toes out in the fresh air with this pair of flat leather sandal with quilted criss-cross straps (Zara, £29.99).

Continue the pastel theme with your sandals too

The slider style isn’t too much of a stretch from what you’ve probably been used to wearing, but the leather sole lining and lilac hue make it the perfect summer shoe for a socially distance picnic in the sunshine.

If you prefer a strappy style, this ankle strap platform sandal (Charles & Keith, £49) will give those of a shorter stature a bit of a lift with its platform sole.

For added height, try these platform strappy sandals (Charles and Keith )

Available in black or white, they’re a minimalistic design that will wear well with trousers, shorts, skirts and dresses all summer long.

However, if trainers are more up your street, upgrade from a pair of Stan Smith’s to these dunk V2 (Axel Arigato, £160).

If you're a trainer obsessive, this pair is perfect for the summertime (Axel Arigato )

They’re still neutral enough to wear with every outfit but have added pops of colour in the leopard print heel tab and pastel pink panels.

Beauty

It goes without saying that you should wear sunscreen, not just on sunny days either, but rather all year round to protect skin from overexposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays from the sun.

Our review of the best facial sunscreens found the SkinCeuticals advanced brightening UV defense sunscreen SPF50 (SkinCeuticals, £45) to be one of the best.

It not only protects against sun damage – it will also help to reverse it. Pigmentation goes far further than freckles: the discolouration caused by sun damage makes the skin tone and texture uneven, and ages the appearance; with regular use this removes dark spots and brightens the skin.

Wearing SPF is vital in protecting your skin from the harmful sun's rays and preventing hyperpigmentation

It goes on evenly with a flattering tint and is what we use if we have been using retinols and want particularly thorough protection.

If you want to wear makeup under your mask, look for products that provide long-wearing coverage and won't end up rubbing off on your mask. In our face mask make-up guide, Rachel Hardie, senior artist at NARS, advises opting for a long-wearing foundation to give your make-up a fighting chance of lasting under a face covering.

Try the brand’s natural radiant longwear foundation (£35, Look Fantastic) as it has a whopping 16-hour wear. The formula is much loved by make-up lovers across all skin types, including us, as it strikes the balance between a natural-looking, luminous glow and buildable, fade-resistant wear. It’s also available in 34 shades.

A long-wearing foundation is key to keeping makeup in place all day when wearing a mask

As bold lipstick takes a back seat, experiment with your eye make-up instead and play with bold, metallic or matte eyeliners like the Fenty Beauty’s flypencil (£18, Boots) which was the best buy in our review of the best eyeliners.

This liner will freshen up your look and won't budge all day

It's easy-to-use has a long-lasting formula and fun shade range. Available in 20 shades, including matte, metallic, glitter and shimmer finishes, our reviewer “loved it for its easy-to-use practicality combined with the intense colours and finishes that give you the confidence to experiment with bolder looks”.

As your feet will most likely be in sandals, paint your toenails in bold and bright colours as this fluoro pink 705 (My Beauty Brand, £15). Created by renowned nail artist Marian Newman, it goes on glossy and dries matte.

Paint your toes in fluorescent shades for a pop of colour

With a wide brush, it applies easily and one coat has a brilliant colour payoff.

Other essentials

As our new normal involves mandatory mask-wearing and using hand sanitiser when you can't wash your hands is still strongly encouraged by both the government and the World Health Organisation, don't leave home without either to protect yourself and other from the transmission of the coronavirus.

In our face mask buying guide, you'll find a selection of big brands such as Mango, Asos and Aldi that are now selling them, but there's also plenty of small businesses that deserve your support such as luxury womenswear label Plumo which has linen face coverings which are naturally anti-bacterial. (Plumo, £10).

Germs find it harder to breed in linen, making it a good fabric for a face covering

They're made with four layers of organic linen, which the brand uses for its naturally antibacterial properties, as it's not an easy environment for germs to breed in.

Keep in mind that wearing a cloth face mask that covers your mouth can cause problems for deaf people and those who have hearing problems and communicate through lip-reading. Consider buying a transparent mask to make it easier to communicate – many people have taken to Etsy to sell their handmade designs such as this lip-reading clear smile mask (Etsy, 20.95) allows you to choose from vibrant, playful patterns such as little foxes or bouquets of flowers.

There's a growing selection of clear masks with bold and bright colours or patterns to choose from

It has a soft vinyl window and double-layered 100 per cent cotton lining.

The World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised that regularly washing hands for 20 seconds at a time can prevent the spread of germs. However, if washing your hands with soap and water isn't accessible when you're out and about, then hand sanitiser is the next best thing, as long as it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol, which will kill microorganisms on the skin.

Keep hands as germ-free as possible with regular use of hand sanitiser when you're not near a sink

We love the Earl of East rinse-free hand cleanser (Earl of East, £6.50) which contains 70 per cent alcohol, blended together with essential oils including peppermint and lavender to keep hands from becoming dry.

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