Beach holidays are the only time you will ever appear almost naked in public. Which, for most of us, unless you happen to be in possession of a goddess-like body, (think Elle MacPherson, Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Aniston and the whole supermodel contingent), is a terrifying experience. The horror and panic sets in the minute the holiday is booked. Holidays provide a double-edged sword – the much-needed opportunity to recharge our batteries but overshadowed always by the dreaded anticipation of “that walk” onto the beach with our luminous flesh exposed for all to see.
Out of our comfort zone, it’s not surprising that most women recoil in horror at the thought of even buying a swimsuit and beach cover-ups.
Those of us who need some serious help to flatter the body God gave us, and pregnancy or old age have altered, should stick to swimsuits. I promise you these are no longer the fuddy-duddy styles our mothers were forced to wear and should be looked on as lifesavers not spoilers. There are now swimsuits for those with enviable embonpoint, swimsuits for those with longer bodies, those that need support, or those that require padding and those that are neat and petite. The only ones always to avoid are those with cutout panels – a tanning disaster waiting to happen. So, swimsuit chosen, the next step is the cover-up.
We are notoriously bad in this country at beach cover-ups. On almost every holiday I go on I end up enviously eyeing the chic French or American woman who has just a slipped a little slip of a jersey dress over her swimsuit rather than the predictable shapeless kaftan or square of fabric that goes by the name of sarong. Having said that I have managed to find a few beautiful kaftan/shirt/dresses, which are featured here. But sometimes it is just as good if not better to throw a classic white linen shirt or maxi skirt, (see the ones by L’Agence and Alice & Olivia), over the top. At least when you come home to our dismal climate you can still wear them.
Bikini’s, for those whom age and life have not withered, (to paraphrase Shakespeare), are so plentiful, that the only thing to work out what shape and colours colour flatter you. And price, of course.
I believe in buying one or two expensive swimsuits that are beautifully cut and tailored with high-tech fabrics that will nurture and transform your body and then buying a few really inexpensive ones, or sale bargains, for the serious job of acquiring a light, golden tan, water-skiing or swimming. The designer labels I love – Eres, Melissa Odabash and Karla Colletto. And the less expensive – Seafolly, Seaspray, Jets by Jessika Allen and Ted Baker.
There are two ways to attack shopping for swimwear. The old-fashioned one is to take-over a changing room, preferably in a destination resort-wear shop or department store, and gather armfuls of options and then spend the next hour or two trying them all on.
The easiest way, in the online e-tail world, is to order dozens and dozens of swimsuits, bikini’s and cover-ups and then try them on in the comfort of your own where you can play at pairing them with your sandals, cover-up, kaftans etc. Don’t be afraid of buying one swimsuit in two different sizes, it’s the only way to do it.
Obviously, I prefer the second option. It’s calmer, there are no harried sales assistants and you can ask the opinion of your dearly beloved and your children before you commit to keeping them.
I hope this may have removed some of the terror, so that you can enjoy your holiday and return refreshed and rejuvenated.
How to Pack:
* Choose from a limited colour theme.
* Lay everything out on your bed at least a week in advance.
* Style into outfits and make sure that everything has at least one partner, if not two or
three. There is no point adding in a top or skirt just because you think you might wear it if
there is nothing to go with it.
* Be ruthless and pare back to the minimum and resist that last-minute temptation
to “throw” in an extra jumper, pair of shoes etc.
* By planning this early you still have time to shop for that missing t-shirt, scarf, pair of
sandals or swimsuit.
* Place a layer of plastic in the bottom of your case and on top of the final layer. I use old
dry-cleaning protective covers. That way if your case does get wet your clothes will be
* Separate layers with white tissue paper, (never use coloured tissue paper in case your
case gets wet and the colour runs). Collect tissue paper all year from every time you shop.
* Roll your swimsuits and underwear and tuck them into all available spaces.
* Take a plastic bag for wet swimsuits for the homeward bound journey.
All clothes featured were available at the time of going to press, but during sale times
obviously things sell out faster, so apologies if they have gone.
P.S. Part 2 of the hot weather beach holiday wardrobe will follow in a fortnight.