The New Rules Of Summer Party Style

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The New Rules Of Summer Party Style

Words by Ms Lucy Kingett

24 May 2024

According to the cyclical ebb and flow of fashion, the “eveningwear period” is winter. In the run up to the holidays and New Year, events, galas, parties and fundraisers mean that shop windows and column inches are devoted to sharp suits, shiny shoes and elegant overcoats. The celebration mood is nighttime – sparkles, moonlight and velvet. Deep shadows and tuxedos. We understand the direction, and we likely have a few items in the wardrobe that, in a pinch, we know will fit the bill.

But what about summer? Parties and events are still very much on the cards – depending on your social circle and line of work, perhaps even more so. Should we not still dress up? Sure, style advice such as that propounded even by ourselves might consider the summer wedding (as there’s sure to be many of them). But how about the formal garden parties? Holiday soirées? City nights out? Pool parties! How best to dress for those? Is there a way to suit up without sweating out? How can we embrace this more expressive season while still looking put together – and how can we feel in a celebratory mood if we don’t feel confident baring skin?

If the winter party vibe is nighttime, then let us welcome the dazzling day – let us celebrate silks and linen, soft skin, bright colours and a bit of sartorial joie de vivre. We spoke to a few experts to provide you with the tips to do just that.

01. Tone down your tailoring

Whether it’s due to necessity (stiff wool suits are obviously to be avoided) or desire (that summer of love energy), summer tailoring works best when it’s loosened up a little. Stylist and consultant Mr Benedict Browne suggests mixing and matching.

“Two-piece suits are easy and effective, but there’s more to be said about sporting separates with confidence,” he says. “The easy way to do that before advancing to elite levels is by using a neutral-tone trouser, such as off-white, with a blazer of whatever colour of your choice. It could be a solid brown, or if you're sauntering around the south of France, a vibrant, summery colour like teal.”

Watch out for the brands who are doing it best: “I’m currently digging the soft tailoring vibes coming from Saman Amel and The Row,” Browne says. “They’re easy ways to look the coolest in the room or by the pool with the perception of minimal effort.”

02. Choose the right fabrics (and no, that’s not just linen)

Of course, we all understand that linen is a fine summer choice, but it doesn’t always look the smartest after a few hours of wear. “I love the charming and wrinkly nature of linen in summer,” Browne says. “But I’m currently going through a luxurious blend phase – think cotton and silk. The Italians, from Loro Piana to Caruso, seemingly have understood the merits of such materials and are producing tailoring that is undeniably irresistible.”

Blended fabrics also offer adaptability to cooler weather and layering, which suit the… let’s go with “changeable” weather of the northern hemisphere. British Esquire style director Mr Johnny Davis agrees.

“In the UK, there’s always an extra layer of apprehension,” Davis says. “Will it be a terrifying global warming-style heatwave, buckets of rainfall, or simply really unpleasantly hot and sticky for the entire month of July? Since you can’t plan for this, my advice is to stick with what you normally look good in – men, let’s take a wild guess and assume that’s anything in navy – and change up the material. Brands such as Brunello Cucinelli and Oliver Spencer are experts at doing versions of their men’s classics, soft-shouldered jackets, drawstring trousers, beautifully cut shirts, in lighter summer fabrics.”

03. Don’t forget the practical details

Take a moment to think about the practicalities, too. A pair of beautifully made closed-toe leather sandals might seem perfect for your event, but have you worn them enough to know how they will perform – or will you be caught out with moisture-induced blisters on the dance floor? Equally, will that elegant pair of trousers cling in all the wrong places once you’ve clomped your way across the sand to the venue?

Browne suggests that it’s not just the main fabric of our fit that we need to look at, but the lining and details. “Consider a jacket – be it a suit or blazer – that's not just made from a lightweight and breathable material, but also has a buggy lining to keep you cool,” he says. “The lining, or lack thereof, is key. You can buy a linen blazer, but if there’s a satin lining in the mix, you’re still keeping in all that heat.”

04. Bring sexy back

“Our moods and behaviours change during the seasons,” says fashion psychologist Ms Shakaila Forbes-Bell. “There are studies that show that we become more sexual during the summer – internet searches, social activity and sales of condoms all creep up around summer. If you want to lean into that, you can wear arousing, long wavelength colours like red, orange and yellow and have fun with it. More skin-baring outfits can get you into the theme of summer, too, being more free, fun and flirtatious.”

Browne is on the same wavelength. “I find dressing for parties in summer easier and more pleasurable than in winter,” he says. “Fewer layers, less formality and you can be a bit sexier with it all – ie, wear a shirt loosely unbuttoned and then some cool shades.”

05. Match your colours with your state of mind

Colour psychology can play the other way, too, however. “There is also the idea of the long, hot summer and people becoming more aggressive during this period,” Forbes-Bell says. “People are outside, more likely to get into arguments and be more hot-headed because of the the rise in temperature. If you’re experiencing that, then it might be better to embrace the colours on the opposite side of the spectrum, so the blues, indigos, greens. These short wavelength colours have been found to make people feel calmer, more creative and more docile. It depends how you want to experience things. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the summer heat, then go for the short wavelength colours, if you want to get more rowdy and flirtatious, go for the long wavelength colours.”

06. Now is the time to try new things

With all this open and expressive energy pinging all over the place, summer is the perfect time to try a new look or give that trend you’ve been eyeing up a go. Should it go wrong, you can blame it on the madness of the summer solstice.

Adding a hint of print can be a good first step. “People are trying to make animal prints happen, and at least one of my colleagues in menswear has made it his ‘thing’, and looks great,” Davis says. “The key, as to everything in life, is confidence – so adding in a leopard print shirt under a navy jacket for evening outdoors drinks somewhere appropriate would be a good shout.”

A bit of texture, whether that’s an embroidered shirt, hand-printed detailing or interesting fabric will also add a little interest. This is especially true if you’re just looking for a single item to jazz up your current wardrobe.

“The ‘electric grandpa’ look has been touted, which seems to boil down to cardigans made from interesting fabrics like mohair – think Kurt Cobain on MTV Unplugged – in unusual colours, thrown on with a heap of insouciance,” Davis says. “Massimo Alba is the Italian don of this.”

Perhaps not ideal for a summer party, but don’t fear: “Electric grandpa also enjoys crochet (and possibly croquet), which is great worn under a light jacket,” Davis says. “Again, Oliver Spencer has a great crocheted summer short sleeve shirt that looks like a riff on something men would have worn in the 1950s, when guys always looked cool in the heat.”

07. Who wears short shorts?

The question has been posed as to whether shorts are ever appropriate on a grown man. But if your party is by the beach or pool, they may be unavoidable.

“The brave will always consider shorts when it comes to the summer months,” Davis says. “And this year, there is no consensus of opinion on length. Everything from long, billowy Bermuda shorts – on the designer catwalks at ZEGNA, Dries Van Noten, Dior – to ‘the return’ of budgie smugglers from luxury swimwear start-up Abtany has been touted.”

Our advice? If your party has a very casual dress code, then go for it, but stick to a tailored pair, perhaps with a crochet polo shirt. Save the briefs for your own time.

08. Play to your strengths

While all the above might be great advice, there’s one obstacle we’re yet to address. Hot weather invariably means baring a little more skin than usual – does this concept chill you to the core? “When it comes to body image and clothing, I use the ‘don’t not can’t principle’,” Forbes-Bell says. “You might tell yourself you can’t wear something because it reveals a part of yourself you don’t like, but this gets you into a spiral of negative self-talk, which only increases your feeling of self-consciousness. Instead, replace it with ‘don’t’ – I don’t choose to showcase this part of my body today, but I will showcase another part of my body.

“Healthy body image is about recognising that there will be parts you like and parts you dislike, and those feelings will be ever-changing. You might be uncomfortable with your mid-section but have a great chest, or you might like your arms and not be a big fan of your legs. Focus on the parts that you’re inspired by. It’s about celebrating your body in a way that’s right for you.”

09. Top it all off with aplomb

As ever, the finishing touches are what will take your party get-up from good to great. “A parfum fragrance rather than an eau de cologne or toilette is much stronger and longer-lasting,” Browne says. “As for scent, something citrus-based and perky will linger in just the right way.”

Don’t forget the shades, either. “Invest in a pair of heavy-set acetate sunglasses with blue gradient lenses, which can take you from day through to the next morning,” Browne says.

One final word of advice: “Good luck out there,” Davis says. “And remember the sunscreen – sunburn is the least attractive accessory of all.”