“SALE – up to 50 per cent off” reads the banner running across the top of the Net-a-Porter homepage. There’s a similar one at the top of the Liberty website and the Browns app, as well as the brands Aspinal, Maje, Claudie Pierlot, Sandro, Monsoon and La Redoute.
There’s a big sale button on the Matches landing page, too. Karen Millen is offering 30 per cent off dresses, and White Stuff currently has 20 per cent off everything.
What’s going on? It’s only just become warm enough for open-toed shoes and already a lot of the summer collections are heavily discounted. I’m not complaining, everyone loves to feel like they’re getting a bargain, but this is a period during which retailers could probably get away with charging full price.
After all, many of us are still looking for the perfect wedding-guest look; Royal Ascot and Wimbledon are yet to take place; and the school holidays won’t kick off for another few weeks. We’re prepared to spend, too: according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), retail sales were up by 1.2 per cent in February, a return to pre-pandemic levels despite the cost of living crisis. On Thursday, Zara announced better than expected profits, despite increased prices – the UK is expected to have one of the highest inflation rates among the G20 countries in 2023.
The caveat here is that we want value for money – the ONS says that the strongest sales right now are at discount stores and secondhand shops. As the cost of everything is rising sharply, including clothes, perhaps this is the mainstream retailers’ solution to holding onto their market share.
No, shops may not make a profit when you buy a sundress that has 40 per cent off, but it’s the lesser of two evils. They need to offload summer stock before the autumn/winter collections start to drop (inexplicably, in July and August). If they don’t sell that dress at a discount to you, they’ll have to store it, which can be expensive, or sell it on even more cheaply to an outlet chain.
Either way, the high street’s loss is our gain. Whether you’re looking for one perfect straw hat to complete your Riviera-chic holiday wardrobe or an entire suitcase full of new summer garb in which to pose poolside, you can get it for less than the full retail price, all without sacrificing on the appeal and cool-factor front that comes with in-season fashion.
So, where to begin? You can trawl the high street on foot, but there’s far more choice and sizes online, so once you know which styles and sizes suit you best – as well as the gaps in your holiday wardrobe – you can resume the search on your laptop.
There can be thousands of products to sift through, especially on multi-brand sites such as Net-a-Porter, Matches or La Redoute, so use search filters to narrow down what’s available in your size and budget; in a lot of cases, items are marked down because there’s just one left in an awkward size.
Choose carefully and conservatively if you don’t have much patience for returns. Be realistic about what else the piece will go with in your wardrobe, and think about how much wear you’ll get out of each purchase. And beware of e-comm fever: websites are designed to entice you to panic-buy – I like to leave a product in my online shopping basket overnight. If I’m still keen on it by the morning, I’ll go for it. Most of the time, I’m not.
As for the best buys available right now, I’ve taken the liberty of doing a holiday-wardrobe edit so you don’t have to…
For sightseeing, long, lazy lunches and sundown cocktails, a good sundress is unbeatable. It should be comfortable to wear in the heat and segue easily from daytime to evening. It should be an outfit in itself, too, so all you have to do is sling on some sandals and get on with the business of being on holiday.
From left: Lace midi dress, £329 (from £549), Maje; Kitri knitted dress, £95 (from £165), Liberty; Angelina embroidered dress, £245 (from £350), Monsoon; ‘Untitled Stripe’ dress, £310 (from £620) Paul Smith
A wardrobe classic that’s just the thing for channeling your inner Frenchwoman, whether you’ll be strolling along the Croisette in Cannes or a blustery beach in Cornwall. Team with white linen shorts or faded blue jeans for a fresh, minimalist look.
Everyone has different demands of their swimwear, whether it’s an underwired top, a high-waisted bikini bottom or a one-piece with a midriff-smoother – and you’ll find them all in the sales, from It brands such as Cossie+Co, Melissa Odabash and Ganni.
They need to be comfortable, versatile and stylish, too, of course. Whatever your style, there is something out there for everyone.
This should be “ludicrously capacious” – Succession’s fashion faux pas is a beach-holiday hero, with room for sunscreen, sunglasses, a book, a water flask, a hat and perhaps even a towel, too. A strap long enough to go over the shoulder is key.
Striped raffia basket, £271 (from £339), Maje
A pair of shorts is a holiday must-have. The right tailored and well-fitting pair can be a swift way to look polished, and make a nice change from endless dresses. Try pairing yours with a blouse or shirt to give them a more elevated feel.
Neither sunburn nor sunstroke will ever be a good look on holiday. A broad brim is always going to look glamorous, but there is also a lot to be said for the cotton bucket hat, which packs easily in your hand luggage and your beach bag, and is very Y2K-chic in a not too try-hard way.
A great cover-up is poolside armour for those lacking in confidence when wearing very little. It should be easy to throw on, loose and drapey, and inject a little glamour to your sun-lounger look.
Nothing conveys instant cool like a new pair of sunglasses. Put them on the second you get off the plane.