Giant swans, bare shoulders and sad chic – 10 looks define summer 2016

The sun might not come out – but that doesn’t mean you can’t dress for it. Guardian writers reveal their top tips for the season, from Chloë Sevigny’s silly handbag to the return of Adidas Gazelles

If you show one thing, show your shoulders

Man Repeller has known this for about three summers and the Topshop faithful knew it last July, but in 2016 the style floodgates are wide open on the off-the-shoulder top. The evidence is all over the high street (even an unloved mannequin in the side window of John Lewis is showing off her plastic deltoids). It’s a look that has found its way into the theatre-land too – check out Lily James as Juliet at the Garrick. In a few days I’ll bet that the Worthy Farm crowd will find shoulder dancing even more uncomfortable than usual. When a look starts to pervade the high street, and high and low culture, it becomes an unstoppable force. Which is no bad thing in the case of the off-the-shoulder top. Get the right bra and welcome one into your wardrobe because – hand on heart – it really does suit grown-ups who can afford a white wine from lower down the menu just as much as it suits festival-going Hadid wannabees.

Imogen Fox

Hot item ... the Sunnylife inflatable-flamingo pool toy
Hot item ... the Sunnylife inflatable flamingo pool toy Photograph: PR Company Handout

Adopt a giant flamingo

To have any shot at winning summer 2016, the first thing you need to get your head round is this: it’s not about your outfit any more, it’s about your visual brand. Your clothes are only part of the picture. Literally. Your handbag and your shoes still matter, but the most important accessories are the props you use to raise your image-making game. At Selfridges’ new Body Studio, the hottest sell-out item isn’t a cut-out one piece athleisure-themed professional-butterfly-stroke standard swimsuit or a pair of limited-edition acupressure-enabled intelligent yoga shoes, but a Sunnylife inflatable flamingo (£55). A cartoon-sized, Instagram-friendly pool toy is an essential for this summer’s photo album. The reference to Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris’s first loved-up social media appearance – the modern equivalent of the engagement-announcement column – adds layers of social-media in-joking on which you can riff via hashtags. You will need to move quickly to secure the last remaining stock of black and gold swans. And no, the lilo from the beach shop that also sells Magnums and Piz Buin will not cut it.

Jess Cartner-Morley

Kanye West’s sky blue look.
Kanye West’s sky blue look. Photograph: George Pimentel/WireImage Photograph: George Pimentel/WireImage

Dress like a cloud

For men, summer ’16 has never been easier to knock out of the park. Essentially, if you want some style inspiration, just look up. With a colour scheme of blues and whites, tonal intermingling and changeable patterns, dressing like the sky on a sunny day should be your go-to look. Try Fear of God’s Selvedge indigo blue jeans with their stonewashed tone and judicious rips that make the wearer look like they have been involved in a barrel fight in a western. Paired with a white T-shirt (this season, fashion is loving pockets – see Levi’s 1950s Sportwear one) and some Adidas trainers, and you’ve got the look that Kanye West and both Justins (Timberlake and Bieber) have given their seal of approval to.

Priya Elan

So organised, so confident ... Chloë Sevigny and bag at Cannes.
So organised, so confident ... Chloë Sevigny and bag at Cannes. Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA Photograph: Ian Langsdon/EPA

Carry a pointless handbag

Rather than the status stiletto, the real mark of a woman in control is the silly little bag. I long to be one of them – to walk through life like Chloë Sevigny did on the red carpet at Cannes, like you don’t need keys, panic tights, a bronzer compact and very big phone. To be so organised, so confident, so relaxed that either you have no need for top-up makeup and a disparate wodge of Leon receipts, or that you had enough time before this fabulous summer party to go home first, where you took a leisurely shower and dropped off your day tote before making your way into town with nothing but a bag the size of a kitten to weigh you down. Imagine. Imagine feeling that free.

Eva Wiseman

Effortless cool ... the Aladdin slipper
Effortless cool ... the Aladdin slipper Photograph: PR IMAGE

Get a pair of Aladdin slippers

I’m running (well, shuffling) with the flat mules trend for summer. You know, the kind that are one part Aladdin, one part Hugh Hefner. In fact I am wearing some right now – black satin and leather from Topshop. What’s more, these have already sold out – proof, if proof were needed, that this trend has legs (feet). I can’t pretend to be an early adopter – obviously that was Alexa back in the first round of the Gucci backless loafer last year – but the drip drip fashion effect is slow and it’s clear we needed time to compute how a (let’s face it) ugly shoe is this season’s must-have .

Why should you buy a pair? For starters, they look good with frayed jeans, or silky pyjama style-trousers (which figures, given they’re sort of bedroom shoes). Plus doing away with heels at posh events is a major liberating bonus: it makes you feel all Sofia Coppola, ie: ridiculously cool. Asos and All Saints have excellent styles in black, white and chambray. Topshop have their own take on the Gucci loafer and Zara have a hybrid slipper/mule version to be worn with the back trodden down. The only drawback is that you can’t run for a bus in them ... which, I guess is why Aladdin had the carpet.

Helen Seamons

Dress like a clown ... Alexa Chung.
Dress like a clown ... Alexa Chung. Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/Rex/ Shutterstock Photograph: Jonathan Hordle/REX Shutterstock/Jonathan Hordle/REX_Shutterstock

Embrace sad chic

The key to nailing this look is to focus less on “circus clown” and more on Pierrot – because who says sad can’t be chic? Swap last season’s polo necks for high neck ruffles (plenty of those over at Archive by Alexa), with hems hung loose over wide-leg, cropped summer trousers. Additional frills should be big and unapologetic – think Jane Fonda at this year’s Golden Globes, or Madonna at her Tears of a Clown concert, minus the rag doll stripes – and never mistaken for peplum (still awful). That pom-pom from last year’s beanie hat? Now it’s on your bag – see Bella Hadid. Last summer’s dungarees are also making a return, but slouchier, more relaxed – perfect for clowning around. Needless to say, everything’s monochrome, apart from your makeup, and even that’s not far off. Accessorise with the moon.

Leah Harper

Mass appeal ... the Gigi and Bella Hadid look.
Mass appeal ... the Gigi and Bella Hadid look. Photograph: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic Photograph: Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

Pretend you’re a Kardashian

We haven’t had a super-stylist since Rachel Zoe, she of the problematic mid-00s Skinny Chic, which was part Halston, part boho, all waif. This summer’s style svengali is arguably Monica Rose, an LA-based stylist you probably haven’t heard of, but who is responsible for that Kardashian/Hadid sisters look – tight dresses, criss-cross tie tops and tenty-jackets paired with over-the-knee boots, all in muted tones – which has gone palpably mass. It sounds cheap, young and dated, but in fact strikes a delicate balance between bodycon and fetishwear, all with a knowing nod to the 1990s. It’s sexy but PG, and celebrates the “female form” in a way Zoe didn’t (some shape is required to pull off this look). What’s more, such is the power of Rose that, despite resistance, that look has shifted from Balmain to current season Topshop, H&M and Zara. Did you think about buying a choker yet? Well then, there you go.

Morwenna Ferrier

The year of the Gazelle? Photograph: Alamy
The year of the Gazelle? Photograph: Alamy Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Men, women, wear Gazelles

If the summer of 2014 was peak Stan Smith, and the summer of 2015 was post-peak Stan Smith (Adidas tried to make Superstars a thing again last year but failed because no one has pulled off plastic-toecaps since Kareem-Abdul Jabbar and Reverend Run), then this year, the German sportswear giant hopes will be the year of the Gazelle. Adidas are re-releasing the 90s version of their half-century-old classic – just in time for the perfect trainers’n’haircuts storm of English, Welsh and Irish football fans decamping en-masse to France for this summer’s Euros and the Stone Roses returning with a run of stadium shows and – probably – their third coming on record. The joy of the Gazelle – like the Stan Smith – is that they are the perfect slimline shape, go with absolutely anything, and yet have been on the periphery long enough for them to look fresh. I’ll be wearing them with slim-fit jeans with roll-ups, or, if it’s sunny, a pair of tailored shorts. For women, embrace your inner The Girlie Show and wear them with this season’s 1990s slip dress.

Will Dean

Hot pink lips ...
Hot pink lips ... Photograph: George Caswell/Getty Images Photograph: George Caswell/Getty Images

Go back to the fuchsia

This isn’t a look for wallflowers, but then summer isn’t the season to be wilting in a corner hoping to go unnoticed. And so, to hot pink lips. The easiest way to embrace the sun without the horror of actually taking your tights off? Accept that fuchsia is the future. Broadcast it, quite literally, on your mouth. It’s a statement that isn’t just for the evening or to be made in a mimsy coral – you want a bright, lurid, slash of daytime candypop. Think RuPaul, a deep matte disco, rather than anything frosted, sheer or super glossy. You want high colour pigment and low maintenance, in which case Mac’s popstar colour palette seems an easy choice. This is a look better done in luxe, as shown on the Topshop Unique catwalk. Think Charlotte Tilbury (Lost Cherry) and Tom Ford (Justin). But for the ultimate perfect pink lips? Nars. It’s a killer choice between Funny Face and Fanny, both bringing milkshake to the yard.

Nosheen Iqbal

Relaxed Reni ... and his bucket hat.
Relaxed Reni ... and his bucket hat. Photograph: Brian Rasic/Rex Features Photograph: Brian Rasic/Brian Rasic/Getty Images

Get a charming bucket hat

Since its revival a few years back (thanks to the likes of Rihanna and Earl Sweatshirt), the bucket hat has proved that it’s not just a whimsical throwback but a wardrobe staple that has the ability to be reinvented for all weather conditions. At the menswear shows, Tourne de Transmission paired it with an oversize sweater and minimal Converse while Nasir Mazhar featured a bright blue bucket hat at his show, worn with matching shorts (and no top). The bucket still does what it’s always done: Reni-like carefree charm, but its practical ability to be worn as both an accessory and a signature means it’s slightly edging the dad-cap out of the summer hat supremacy.

Priya Elan


Jess Cartner-Morley, Priya Elan, Eva Wiseman, Helen Seamons, Leah Harper, Morwenna Ferrier, Imogen Fox, Will Dean, Nosheen Iqbal

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