How to dress for summer when you are a minimalist

Photo: Getty

It looks good in the office, in the pub and on holiday. When it comes to no-frills, hot-weather dressing, there’s something to be said for a summer spent in monochrome, says Frankie Graddon

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By Frankie Graddon on

Sometimes, you find style inspiration between the pages of a magazine. Sometimes, you find it on an Instagram feed. Sometimes, you might even find it on the street. And, sometimes, you find it sat behind you in the office in the form of Jade, The Pool’s head of AV (that’s audio visual, FYI).

Jade is what we’d call a minimalist. Her desk is spotless, her make-up barely there and her home “Scandi chic”. Describing her style as “Japanese housewife meets east London media type” (read, wide-legged trousers and anything black), Jade is a lesson in no-frills dressing. Quite literally, she hates them. With 50% of her wardrobe dedicated to all things black, another 30% made up of white and with just a smattering of pale grey, she is nothing if not dedicated to a life in monochrome: “I even wear black to weddings, F. I look like I’m going to an Italian funeral.”

I have always admired Jade’s style – it’s simple, straightforward and chic. It reminds me of the French woman we used to rent our villa off when I was a kid. She was called Dannie and she was utterly divine. With grey/blonde hair piled on top of her head and wearing piles of silver jewellery, Dannie also dressed exclusively in black and white. “It eez easy theese way,” she’d explain. “Everything goes weez everything.”

Perhaps it’s a reaction to this summer’s preoccupation with all things colour clashing – and the incessant pushing of lilac and lemon – or perhaps it’s because I’m just after the simple life, but the appeal of classic black and white has never been so strong.

“What do you call it when you only want to wear black and white stuff?” I asked my WhatsApp group.

“Boring!” came the first reply. Let’s ignore that.

“Looking like a pint of Guinness,” came another. Dear Lord.

“Something to do with chessboards? Oreos? Penguins? Mint Humbugs????”

OK, so there might not be a catchy fashion name for it, but there’s certainly something to be said for a summer spent in monochrome.

Firstly, there’s no room for error. Do you know what goes with black? White. And do you know what goes with white? Black. There’s no umming and aahing over whether that shade of pink works with this shade of green. Or whether that hue of yellow makes you look a bit pukey. Everyone looks good in black and white, and they look good together. They look good in the office, they look good in the pub, they look good on holiday. In fact, a stylist once told me that when she packs for a trip away, she only takes monochrome pieces (she swaps black for navy – another great option) to ensure that everything in her suitcase goes together. Colour pops come by way of accessories and some lippy. Done and done.

Secondly, it’s democratic. The beauty of a black dress is that no one can tell if it’s £300 from Net-A-Porter or £30 from Topshop. Black is black and, no matter how expensive it is or not, it looks the same. Black also has the added bonus of making white infinitely more wearable. Not a white frock sort of person? Me neither. Try one with black stripes or spots on it – far less bridal and far less likely to immediately tip red wine all over it.

Thirdly, it’s sweat-proof. OK, not exactly sweat-proof, but neither black nor white show “I’ve been sitting on the Central line for 40 minutes” sweat patches – and that is a key consideration when getting dressed during the summer.

And, finally, it looks wonderfully chic. It has a European vibe – a bit Barcelona rooftop and expensive glass of wine. It also has an “I’m too busy to be naffed with the latest Insta fashion fad” feel to it. I think that’s called “sophisticated”. It is both timeless and modern, stylish yet understated. And if you don't believe me, the proof is below.

Of course, dressing à la monoblock can also make you look a little bit like you’re putting in a shift at the local pizza restaurant. To keep it firmly away from waiter mode, stick to summery shapes like shift dresses, cropped palazzo trousers, swooshy midi skirts and jumpsuits. Polka dots, spots, stripes and floral prints are also helpful, as are tie details, bows and frills (sorry, Jade). In fact, if you struggle to do summer frouff, then monochrome makes frilly bits feel far more comfort-zone.

As for where to find these things, we’ll need to take a leaf out of Jade’s book and head to Arket, Monki, Weekday and COS. These Scandi brands nail summer minimalism. Also, have a look at Karen Millen, for the striped cropped trousers and matching halterneck top (a great co-ord if you struggle with finding jumpsuits that fit). Kitri’s polka-dot blouse is currently almost half-price in the sale and would look great with these cropped COS trousers, as would Cecilie Copenhagen’s white ruffled top, which also happens to be on sale. Looking for a new swimsuit? Check out Whistles’ black and white dotty number, which is – you guessed it – on sale.

Click here for the minamalist's summer edit


Photos: Getty Images
Photo: Getty
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