Summer clothes are tricky.
Dressing to beat the heat works great for the beach but the colorful, breathable, pared-down looks that work so well on vacation or for casual weekends at home can look out of place — or even sloppy — at work or running errands. Splashy prints and tropical colors are fun, but they don’t integrate into my (mostly black and gray) wardrobe very well.
That’s why Alexa Chung is my new summer style icon. The fashion editor, TV presenter, former model and English street fashion darling is always wearing something interesting.
But best of all, I don’t get the impression that she has an entirely separate summer wardrobe that she packs away at the end of August. Instead, she has a specific look (urban and eclectic and mostly neutral) that she simply adjusts for the season. Her style is functional, versatile and a little funky — which is pretty much everything I want in an outfit.
Her male counterpart — the indie guy — also has a bit of a uniform: slim body-conscious basics in black, white and gray with influences pulled from indie rock, punk, American sportswear and European tailoring.
Here’s how to steal their style.
Alexa Chung’s genius lies in her ability to find interesting combinations and play with pattern, texture and silhouette.
The building blocks of this wardrobe aren’t revolutionary. Look for well made pieces like tailored shorts, the perfect leather jacket, A-line dresses and skirts and gauzy, summer weight button-down shirts in black, white and gray. Focus on quality and fit.
Then mix in pattern and texture, like a classic Breton stripe, delicate dots and florals or a spiderweb of lace. The name of the game is contrast, so ground a filmy white skirt with a bold top or black tights and take the edge off a tailored shirt by undoing the buttons, rolling up the sleeves and pairing it with casual cutoffs.
Graphic designs, whimsical prints and pattern mixing are totally fine. Just keep pattern sizes on the small side and opt for prints that include black, gray and white to tie everything together.
Now choose an unexpected accent that makes you smile — suspenders, a Peter Pan collar, a boho hat. Throw on a pair of functional shoes (stacked heel booties, menswear-inspired oxfords and flat sandals are favorites) and call it good.
For guys, the formula is even simpler. The focus here is on a slim fit and perfectly chosen accessories.
Start with slim jeans in black or dark indigo. (You never really see indie guys in shorts.) These can range from slim, European-style cuts to straight-up, punk-inspired skinnies — whatever you’re comfortable with.
Add a few high quality T-shirts and tanks in black, white or gray. Make sure these are slim fit and lightweight. These don’t have to be expensive — classic Levis and white Hanes Ts can work — as long as the fit is right. Avoid anything with conspicuous text and logos.
Invest in statement pieces like a tough watch and a killer black leather jacket. And you can’t beat the versatility of a patterned button-down. You can dress it up with tailored black pants (slim, of course) or go casual with a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Look for one with short sleeves — it’s a throw-back shape that deserves a comeback.
Speaking of sneakers, get a pair of neutral kicks. You want these to have the clean lines of classic sneakers, not the space-age looking things you wear to play basketball. Low black boots also work well. (If this thought has already occurred to you, you’re more than qualified to pull off this look.)
Now add a few quality accessories like a slim black belt, a great messenger bag or a statement pair of eyeglasses. Invest in pieces you love, even if it means buying quality leather or a more expensive brand. You’ll wear them for years.
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