A trenchcoat with a floaty dress is a cool way to keep the summer vibe alive

Jess Cartner-Morley Photography: Tom J Johnson. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson






Irefuse to believe that summer is over. I mean, it rained all through July, as far as I remember, and summer didn’t really get going until the middle of August. So I’m not ready for it to be autumn. This year, let’s make September a postscript to summer, rather than the opening bars of autumn. A final hurrah, one last glorious encore. There will be plenty of time for opaque tights and stripy scarves. There will be comfort and even joy to be found in bowls of soup and nights in front of Strictly, if you are pining for all that already. No need to rush into it just yet. The best way to keep the holiday spirit alive is by wearing clothes that feel like summer. Like having holiday photos on your homescreen, it makes you smile. Not all of them, obviously: you won’t be needing shorts or bikinis. The itsy bitsy stuff can go back under the bed or whatever. But floaty summer dresses? There’s plenty of life in those yet, even now that we are anchored back in the real world. However. No wafting through the office in the gingham sundress and flip-flops you wore to the beach, please. That vibe is a bit Miss Havisham in her wedding dress. Being still-in-holiday-mode is a nice place to be in your head, but at work you need to look like you are back in the room. The trick to repurposing a holiday dress as a back-to-school look is to rethink what you layer with it. In summer, the warm layer to go over a dress is an afterthought, something you stash in your bag just in case the walk home gets chilly. That won’t cut it in September, when you may need to face four seasons of weather before lunch. So instead of reaching for a cardigan, a roomy lightweight coat – a trench is perfect, if you have one – is your friend here. A trench worn over a dress has a pleasing symmetry to it, because the two elements are in balance. The dress is floaty and roomy, and so is the coat. The coat is in a thin, breezy fabric, and so is the dress. This makes the pairing look intentional, like an outfit that you have put together, rather than like a dress plus something you grabbed from the back of a chair on your way out. Which is good, because it makes you look switched on and purposeful, even if the reality is that you are dream-scrolling next year’s holiday on your phone. Think of this post-holiday dressing season like mixing a cocktail. You want a shot of holiday spirit to put a spring in your step (the dress), but you also need to tone things down with a sensible mixer (the coat). It is not just summer dresses that can outlast summer. Lots of your holiday wardrobe can have an afterlife. I have a floaty blouse that, with its billowy sleeves and trailing ribbon-ties at the collar, feels very off-duty when worn with denim cutoffs. But this year, instead of swapping the blouse and shorts for tailored trousers and a smart shirt on getting home from hols, I kept wearing the blouse and just swapped the bottom half. A floaty blouse worn over loose wide-legged trousers with a chunky sandal or platform makes my holiday favourite work with oversize tailoring and minimal accessories, which is a very new-season vibe. Those chunky sandals, by the way, could end up being one of the most enduring elements of your summer wardrobe. A flash of bare foot completely changes the vibe of an outfit, which is why a strappy heel says party while a court shoe says office. For as long as we’re not actually splashing through puddles, and so long as they are structured and smart (no beach-stall sliders please), a chunky pair of sandals with tailored trousers can be the perfect bridge between seasons. Having your toes out never fails to make you feel summery. And you won’t feel the cold, because you’ll be warm inside.