Ok London, this Summer is turning out to be beyond disappointing, in many more ways than I've become used to, so I'm packing my bags (and those of the little people in my life, obviously...) and upping sticks to milder climes, where I'll not only find sunshine but also a little peace. Before I go though, it's time to open the big beachwear drawer and take stock...
I grew up going to the beach at least twice a year, and for me a Summer holiday is the synonym of long lazy days on a beach (although it's fair to say that they have become slightly less lazy with the arrival of the two little treasures of my life, ha ha). I won't say that I am an expert on beachwear but I have found that, when one lacks the body of a Victoria's Secret model, one needs to come up with a few tricks to still look smashing on the sand. And this girl, my friends, might have brains, she definitely doesn't have the plastic of an Angel (see pictures below for evidence)... So here I am, trying to let you in on a few of my beachwear rules.
1) Judging by the size of bikini bottoms, I have come to the conclusion that most European brands of swimwear must be designed by sadistic people: how will covering my bottom with a huge nappy-looking thing (hello... Princesse TamTam, I'm pointing at you) make it look smaller or more attractive? I tend to gravitate more towards Brazilian brands which in recent years have adapted their cuts to the shier European clientele (think nice flattering hip cutout, not dental floss, which). The idea is to avoid too much fabric (meaning, shorties bikini bottoms are out as well unless you have the legs of a giraffe, and even then thread carefully) in order to show a little more flesh. I know it's counter-intuitive but give it a try, you'll see it works.
2) Most well-meaning fashion editors will tell you every year "If you're a shorter frame, go for a higher cut on the hip". Ahem... Not so fast, I say. You want to have a nice cut on the hip but a high-rise 80s style bikini cut is still pretty tart-like (even in 2016, when we've seen the revival of pretty much every single 1980s trend). I steer well away and find that, so long as the cut is good, I can even dab in hipster territory. And I'm not 6' (ok, sometimes I am, namely when standing on a chair?)...
3) Fabric quality is of upmost importance! Where to begin? A good swimwear fabric is always one that is thicker than you think, that keeps you in, that survives sea and pool water, and that doesn't lose shape over time. What does that mean? That your flimsy swimwear fabric, dear Mr Eres, is not for me, merci beaucoup! Whilst you're at it, if you're buying a light-coloured bikini, triple-check the lining: it needs to be sturdy, and either nude or white (my white bikinis have never let me down, if you know what I mean). Bear in mind no lining, even on dark colours, sometimes means odd fabric placement, need I say more? Get a lined bikini! Recently there have been a lot of brands tuning to neoprene for their swimwear:great about keeping everything tucked in but a bit thick so pick those in sporty shapes for your paddle-board outings.
4) Regardless of your size and shape, it's always good to have a nice beach cover-up. It's better to slip something on for a lunch at the local beach cafe (and men should pull a t-shirt or a polo over as well, I don't know too many people who like staring at hairy chests whilst munching on a lobster salad...). In my experience it's a bit easier to go for a proper caftan or summer dress than attempt to tie a sarong nicely (this never ends up as stylish as I wanted and usually it falls out half-way between the beach lounger and the table).
5) Please, whatever you do, avoid high heels on the sand ... I know, sounds obvious, and yet when you see pictures of some celebrities you wonder. Of course to each their own but to me it looks ridiculous, unpractical and quite dangerous (even poolside, where you're walking around dripping swimmers)... Plus, I don't think I'm being too old-school by associating the high heels plus bikini look with adult movies am I?
6) It is true that summer jewellery can look really nice on the beach, but I usually try to limit it to one or two pieces to avoid looking like I've just come out from shooting Pirates of the Caribbean, or maybe a little collection of friendship bracelets, and similarly I prefer that hubby dearest sticks to just his watch and wedding band on the beach (thankfully I didn't marry the big gold chain macho type...)
7) Keeping the accessories light and summery has always proved to be a winning strategy for me. I love my Birkins... but I would never consider following in Marc Jacobs footsteps and taking them to the beach. For me, it's tortoise-shell coloured eye-shades, huge straw hat and massive canvas tote or basket all the way.
8) If I want to feel confident on the beach, I find that being perfectly groomed helps a tremendous amount: smoothly waxed, freshly manicured and pedicured, with glossy hair, this is when I feel the happiest if I must be displaying more than my usual amount of flesh. Not only that but I believe it is a mark of respect to others (I will never forget the queasy feeling at the bottom of my tummy years ago when I spotted a topless sunbather who didn't seem to have heard of hair removal, anywhere!) Just before stepping out to walk to the beach I slather myself in sunscreen-filled cream, maybe one with a little shimmer if I really want to push the boat out...
9) The way you sit matters... Whenever I can, I try to find beaches with sun loungers (and umbrellas since I don't really go to the beach to roast) so that I can put the back at about a 60 degree angle and sit with my legs slightly bent and my feet flat. This is apparently the most flattering way to sit on a beach. When there are no sun loungers around, I dig a little dip to sit in, it is a perfect alternative!
10) With years, I have learned what works for me and what doesn't, and have some spots that I always turn to for beachwear and accessories, here they are, enjoy!
My favourites currently are: Mara Hoffman, Melissa Odabash, Heidi Klein (a bit bigger bottoms), Vix, Lenny... and if you are looking for bikini tops for DD cups and up my favourites are Blush by Profile, Pilyq and L*Space...
If you ask Hubby Dearest, he will tell you that I have already quite an extensive collection of bikinis, however every year I try to add one piece to increase my options (also this means I can chuck out some of the older pieces which are begging to be retired). The idea is never to leave with less than 2 bikinis for each day we're staying at the beach.
My current favourites are by Vita Kin and March11, but you can never go wrong with Heidi Klein, Antik Batik, and usually random market finds in Greece and Thailand...I rarely go for vibrant colours in my day-to-day outfits, so for beachwear I tend to be a little more daring, especially when we're headed to the tropics. This year I'm going crazy about folk inspired embroidered blouses and dresses, perfect for the Med.
For bags I love a Goyard Saint-Louis, the Woodstock in raffia by Gerard Darel, Hervé Chapelier's classic square bottom tote, and of course you can't go wrong with an LLBean. Recently though I discovered an Australian brand called State of Escape, it makes the most gorgeous neoprene bags, and I'm a bit obsessed. You want to fit in all your kit (sun protectors, water spray, books, ipod, sarongs, and possibly a house-full of beach toys, baby wipes, water bottles if you have children...) and still look stylish.
For sunglasses, the choices are limitless, but I usually like a good pair by Celine, Coach or Tom Ford. Basically I'd advise against metal frames in favour of plastic ones, as the metal heats in the sun, which can be a bit ouch...
Sarongs are best picked up during your travels, a Kikoy or a Batik is far better than some acrylic monstrosity picked up at the airport, and do get on the round beach towel bandwagon, it's all the rage this year!
Links to some of my top names for a perfect day at the beach:
- Heidi Klein
- Hervé Chapelier
- L.L. Bean
- Mara Hoffman
- State Of Escape
- The Beach People (for the aforementioned round beach towels)
- Vita Kin