How to dress for a staycation | Jess Cartner-Morley

I would be lying if I said this is the kind of dress I like best when I’m on holiday. The kind of dress I like best when I’m on holiday is the one I put on over a bikini while I make a pot of coffee and then take off when I flop on to a sun lounger. My absolute favourite holiday dress isn’t even a dress, really; more a glorified black vest with a draped neckline, so tissue-thin from years of wear that it takes up hankie-sized space in a suitcase and dries in the sun in minutes.

But this year, my go-to holiday dress will look more like this one. What with Norfolk not being the Balearics, I am sanguine about less sunshine, and resigned to the fact that I may not even clap eyes on a sun lounger, so my holiday dress will be a substantial frock rather than a flimsy cover-up. But while a staycation may not have the balmy glamour of going somewhere sunbaked and unfamiliar, the British countryside is gorgeous, and the holiday change of pace has never felt more precious than after a year of such monotony. So there is plenty to be excited about, and therefore to dress up for.

The clothes you pack set the tone for your break. If a trip is not as exotic as you might ideally have liked, then the right dress can help bring some fiesta spirit to your week away. Just think, without the tyranny of those demonic airport weighing machines, this year’s suitcase can be more fun, not less.

There is a certain generic domestic holiday wardrobe look on the British high street. It is big on seahorses and jaunty stripes and bright fisherman’s yellow. I don’t love it: to me it suggests a veneer of jolliness is stretched over a tense, making-the-best-of-it subtext of sandy sandwiches and gritted teeth. My holiday wardrobe has more ambition than that, so I am packing as daywear the kind of dresses I might wear abroad on holiday nights. Bring on the smocking, the romantic rose prints, the ruffle trims. Say yes to swishy fabrics and garden-party flourishes. A dress you might wear to go out for dinner somewhere hot can be surprisingly useful during daylight hours – a long, tiered skirt protects against cool breezes, as well as mosquitoes. The best holiday dress to pack is the one that brings the sunshine with it – whatever the forecast. 

Jess wears dress, £29.99, Shoes, her own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson, assisted by Peter Bevan. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using GHD and Tom Ford.

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