As our much-anticipated wanderlust becomes a reality, the act of packing a suitcase becomes a thrilling rather than laborious task. This year, we’re approaching our castaway closets with the same fervor and attention to detail we apply to our new-season wardrobes. We’re seeking the dream sundress, swimwear we’ll never want to take off, and easy separates to style out with sandy hair and sun-kissed skin. When carefully chosen and well-cared for, these pieces become a capsule collection in your closet, for which you’ll need only a few seasonal flourishes to refresh. After all, great vacation staples are always a wise investment.
The hit of nostalgia
Begin with the foundations: bikinis you’ll feel phenomenal in. Rio-based Haight harnesses a minimalist ’90s mood that will appeal to those who appreciate clean lines and sophisticated shades. In a pretty lemon hue – one the label evocatively calls ‘Moon Light’ – its ‘Ligia’ bikini comes with a flattering balconette-style top that features underwired cups and fully adjustable straps for support. While the label takes a mix-and-match approach, we suggest pairing it with the high-rise briefs in the matching shade. This medium-coverage design has a retro feel, so offset its vintage vibe with Batsheva’s puff-sleeved blouse, decorated with a romantic floral print from the archives of iconic British textile designer Laura Ashley. “It’s such an easy piece to throw on over a pair of cut-off shorts, or a skirt for evening,” says founder Batsheva Hay. “I love it for a beach vacation, but it’s also ideal to wear running around the city.” Channel Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr. Ripley and simply knot at the waist for a laid-back look.
Bikinis embody the free-spirited verve of summer vacations and, whether you’re a minimalist or maximalist, offer an opportunity to try the things you usually rule out. “Bikinis are the perfect way to experiment with the prints and colors that you might not want to commit to in a head-to-toe look,” say NET-A-PORTER’s fashion director Kay Barron. “I like to mix and match, too; I wear printed bikini bottoms and a block color that complements on top – that way, you can make swimwear work with your personal style.”
The slip-on-slip-off sundresses
There is a spontaneity to summer dressing that requires you to be ready for a day at the beach followed by sundowners. We’re calling this prized closet-unicorn piece the ‘18-hour dress’. You want something that will easily layer over your swimwear, slip off when you want to take a swim, and be easily dressed up with jewelry or a pop of red lipstick.
We’re seeking the DREAM sundress, swimwear we’ll never want to take off, and EASY separates to STYLE out with sandy hair and sun-kissed skin
When flouncing around the cobbled streets of a dream destination, we need wafty dresses in lightweight materials. Enter former model and fashion editor Yvonne Sporre, whose eponymous label Yvonne S is inspired by her bohemian Ibizan lifestyle and specializes in dresses with striking hand-drawn prints that traverse beach and city dress codes. This billowy trapeze style goes beautifully with Saint Laurent’s suede leather sandals by day and can be dressed up for after dark with strappy sandals and stacks of gold bangles.
A white, floaty dress, meanwhile, is to summer vacations what the LBD is to party season – find your perfect fit and it will serve you well for years to come. Dôen’s version comes in a flattering, waist-defining silhouette with pretty broderie-anglaise trims, and telegraphs an easy elegance when styled with a basket bag and gold hoops.
The hardworking one-piece
Find the right swimsuit and it will not only become your beach go-to, but it will also double up as a sleek bodysuit once your vacation is over. Hunza G is a fashion-editor favorite for its sexy shapes in signature crinkle-stretch seersucker and rainbow of colors. “For me, a vibrant one-piece is a great way to introduce color into your wardrobe if it isn’t something you’re usually drawn to,” says Libby Page, NET-A-PORTER’s senior market editor. “If you want something versatile and fashion-forward, a yellow one-piece paired with neutrals, like chocolate brown, is a great way to show off your styling ability on the beach.” Case in point: this pastel-yellow Hunza G style pairs just as well with loose-fit, light-wash denim on off-duty days.
Find the right SWIMSUIT and it will not only become your BEACH go-to, but also double up as a sleek bodysuit once your VACATION is over
For swimwear with a dressed-up feel, consider Agua by Agua Bendita’s painterly gardenia-print one-piece. “Prints are key in bringing each piece to life,” say co-founders Mariana Hinestroza and Catalina Álvarez. “All of ours are hand-painted by our in-house designers, who then digitize the illustrations to create the pattern. Bright colors and floral motifs represent the brand’s identity, which is full of joy and uniqueness.” Styled with a pareo in a complementary color and barely-there leather sandals, this pretty yet impactful one-piece ensures you’ll be the best-dressed guest at any pool party.
The beach-to-brunch-and-beyond staples
Pack smart and you will never need to worry about excess baggage – the trick is to choose versatile, mix-and-match pieces. Barron’s go-tos are “oversized shirts and lightweight cotton shorts that are easy to pull on over sandy, sea-soaked skin” – this cornflower blue, cotton-blend Dôen blouse and Joslin’s crisp cotton shorts are key examples. Her easy styling trick for going from beach to brunch? “Swap the cotton shorts for denim, knot a cover-up shirt at my waist, layer on a couple of fine-gold chains, and pull a much-needed comb through my bucket-hat hair!”
Meanwhile, Stella McCartney’s asymmetric floral-print skirt will instantly elevate beachwear. The designer’s pre-fall ’22 notes describe the collection as being “emboldened with an escapist energy” and, paired with Zimmermann’s vibrant mustard-yellow bikini and a string of Mateo’s beachy malachite beads, it looks decidedly dreamy. For a low-key evening look, try Faithfull The Brand’s playful yellow crop top with denim cut-offs. “Our summer collection has been designed with the colorful coastline of Careyes, Mexico, in mind, influencing the array of brightly toned shades and retro-inspired prints throughout,” says Joyah Takefala, the brand’s junior creative director. “Versatile pieces like the ‘Harlow’ crop top take you from day to night with ease” – ideal for that magical last night of vacation as you watch the sun dip.