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PRINTS AND FLORALS

GIRLY, feminine and mostly floral, this season one particular item of clothing will have tomboys quaking in their boots: the dress.

From Laura Bailey to Beyonc Knowles, Sienna Miller and Kelly Brook, it has been popping up everywhere, and in so many interpretations that there's a choice to suit all tastes. "It has been huge, with everything from floral silk chiffon for a special occasion to stretch cotton for every day," says Sarah Davidson, of the Edinburgh boutique Jane Davidson.

"It is the season of the dress," agrees Richard Gray, of Harvey Nichols. "But because there are so many plays on it - sleeveless, sleeved, halterneck and different lengths, there's something for everyone. There really are tons of florals - Paul Smith and Dries Van Noten, in particular, are pushing this motif along."

Jill Gate, of Topshop, recommends choosing a fit that will complement your shape. "Wrap dresses are flattering for fuller figures, and cap sleeves are great if you're concerned about your arms. Smocking around the bust area should be avoided, though, if you've got a large chest."

Florals are just as adaptable, ranging from retro-flavoured patterns - think chintzy 1940s tearooms - to bold blooms and dainty petals. Diane Von Furstenberg's dresses are reliably flattering; while other hot designers this summer include Tashia, Juliette Dunn and Missoni.

If you are new to the idea, though, it is better to go for tiny repeat prints or tougher, abstract designs - leave the outsized flowers to those happy to make a bold statement.

Either way, it's possible to give a dress an individual twist. Pair it with a clashing cardigan for an eclectic style, or for a more androgynous look wear it over trousers. Whatever you do, there's no denying that dresses are great to take on holiday - a light, flimsy slip can be easily scrunched into the corner of your case, making it a sloppy packer's dream.

Kirsty Knust, of John Lewis, advises packing three. "One to throw over your swimwear, one for evenings and a third, multi-purpose, wear-with-anything frock that flatters your figure."

Do Buy a bold, floral-print bag, such as this hold-all from Miss Selfridge, 22.

Don't Go crazy. If you're opting for separates, limit the detail/print to one half of the outfit.

Try Topshop's tear drop dress, 35.

THE NAUTICAL LOOK

This makes an excellent antidote to the gypsy look and, what's more, it promises to stick around for autumn too. So a sailor-striped top is definitely worth the investment. Kate Moss has been spotted in one, which makes it officially on-trend - though, as ever, beware the horizontal stripe. Beware, too, the shorts. What looks fabulous on a catwalk model (as spotted at Herms, Helmut Lang and Dries Van Noten) may not have the same effect on legs that aren't quite as ship-shape.

However, if you imagine that navalwear is more practical than pretty, think again. Hannah Betts, columnist for Elle magazine, begs to differ. "Mariner chic has never been more feminine than it is this summer," she says. "Frilly and fluid, it favours a muted blue, white and grey over Union Jack hues."

There's room for other colours - Marc Jacobs, who does excellent summerwear, has produced the perfect candy-stripe shirt, while Ralph Lauren has produced a polo shirt in navy blue, white, bright blue and pink, designed to flatter the female shape. Waistcoats, being piratical, also fall into the nautical category. Wear these loose or fitted, but preferably not on their own.

If you are (sensibly) avoiding shorts, try combining a cropped jacket (a good, long-term investment - Gap does a great range; alternatively, stick with a smart blazer) with culottes or this season's jeans, which are getting tighter ... and tighter. "Move away from the boot-cut and into a more tailored pair - drainpipes, if you can get away with it," advises Gray. "Wear them longer, with a cute pair of shoes, and ruche them at the bottom - don't cut them off."

Within the nautical look, you'll also find an old classic: linen. Don't let its tendency to crease put you off. "Do Italian or Spanish women mind that linen creases? No, they don't," says Knust. "Linen is easy chic. You're more likely to get an upgrade on a plane in a pair of creased linen trousers than in a pair of jeans."

Top the look off with a pair of sunglasses, the bigger the better. Think Jackie O chic, and avoid mirror lenses at all costs.

Do Go for tailored classics.

Don't Even think about wearing shorts, unless you're under 25, slim and long-legged.

Try Next's blue sequined halterneck top, 16.99, pedal pushers, 24.99, and wedge sandals, 24.99. Investigate what you have at home, too - hunt out your old school plimsolls and striped T-shirts?

GYPSY CHIC

Ever since the high street jumped on this trend, vulture-like, this summer's most ubiquitous look has become something of a clich. Sadly, the ruffled, multi-tiered skirts, beaded tops and jangly bracelets that Sienna Miller introduced just a few months ago are now in danger of looking tired and overdone. However, with some careful editing, elements of it can be fun and easy to carry off. "Adapt the boho look to suit your body shape, age, colouring and lifestyle - don't let the trend tell you how to wear it," advises Knust.

"A gypsy skirt is wearable with a simple top or cross-over cardigan. Don't wear a white peasant skirt though. It screams summer, but it doesn't scream getting the number 25 up Leith Walk, which is mostly where you see them. They're hard to carry off, and can look very cheap."

Grown-up gypsy chic can be found in spades at Planet, where chiffon skirts offer a dressier alternative to cotton, alongside good-quality crochet shrugs in turquoise and raspberry.

A folklore blouse or tunic can look great with jeans, but if you're worried about overdoing it then ethnic accessories are the best way to compromise. Moroccan-style woven belts, chunky bangles and a string or two of big beads ("long or short, not mid-length," says Gray) give a nod to the trend without overkill, as do big boho bags and straw hats. For a quick fix, head to Principles, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge, which all have a wide selection.

It's also worth considering the kaftan, one of the most flattering looks to emerge from gypsy chic. "It hits all the right notes," explains Davidson. "You've got the colour thing coming through, a bit of embellishment and a slightly hippy vibe, and there's arm-coverage, which, let's face it, most women want. Pairing a kaftan with a pair of slim linen trousers is a really great look."

Ideal to slip on after a hard day's sunbathing, kaftans come in bright shades and printed, embroidered or sequined chiffon styles (try Paul Smith, Lipsy, Fenwick Manson, the Per Una collection at Marks & Spencer, or the John Lewis own-label), which beat that other holiday standby, the sarong, any day.

Do Get a kaftan - such as this one from Clements Ribeiro.

Don't Pile on the gypsy gear. Why would you want to look like every shop dummy in the UK?

Try Karen Millen for a selection.

COLOUR

Yellow, white, blue, burnt orange: women who are used to their fashion staple, black, will be sorely disappointed this summer - or surprised, if they're willing to experiment. "For years, women have really underestimated how flattering it is to wear colour," says Davidson. "But when you find a shade that suits you, it's really amazing. This season I've been wearing a yellow cashmere jumper, and it has been great."

Blue in all its shades - aqua, royal and sapphire - is now ubiquitous. The Grecian-style blue dress by Chlo has been a particularly popular design - its Tesco version sold out in days.

White is another favourite this summer. Elle magazine suggests wearing it from head to foot, topping the outfit off with a pair of gold heels. But those who don't fall into the 'extrovert' category may prefer a more romantic interpretation, worn in the form of loose chiffon dresses and tops, and comfortable flowing fabrics - although preferably not all at once.

"There's always the risk that you can look too baggy in summer," warns Davidson. "It's about keeping one half of your proportions narrow and playing on the other half. So, if you're doing a wide, long skirt, wear a skinny T-shirt or fitted cardigan on top."

Choosing bold blocks of colour is one option, but stripes and prints - the brighter the better - are worth a foray, which explains why colourful, vibrant designers such as Missoni are doing especially well out of this trend. All colours translate well to the beach - John Lewis stocks Pucci-inspired swirl-print bikinis (from 20), which are worth investigating - and colour-clashing is encouraged, but only if you feel confident.

If, however, you're convinced that fluorescent blue, yellow, red and pink have no place in your wardrobe, make a concession by investing in some colourful plastic bangles, a neckscarf or a bright top under a dark suit. Alternatively, add colour and a floral note - two trends in one - with a corsage. And make the most of it, because the rainbow effect won't stick around for long. "This winter the collections all have a very dark colour palette," says Gate. "So embrace it while you can."

Do Take the plunge and experiment. Try this rainbow dress, from Debenhams, 70.

Don't Match shoes to bags: very naff.

Try Pairing Topshop's black cotton vest, 6, with a yellow crochet skirt, 25.

FOOTWEAR

Heels or flats? Sandals are everywhere, and they're far prettier than you might expect. Forget your Birkenstocks this season, the sparkly jewellery that traditionally would adorn the neck, ears and wrists has made its way south, to our feet. This makes flats a dressier option and workable in the evening with a long gown or party dress, while thongs are now beaded, metallic, diamant or - in a nod to the Grecian look - a simple gladiator style.

Antik Batik does pretty jewelled tulle and suede thongs, while Topshop's natural leather strappy sandals have tiny diamant stones, and Gap has jewelled metallic thongs with pretty printed insoles. You'll quickly get used to wearing blissfully comfortable footwear - the only problem will be reverting back to heels come autumn. Suede flats, metallic slip-ons, moccasins and crocheted pumps are other practical options that go with most outfits (except maybe pencil skirts and jeans, if you're very short). There's no shortage of flats on the high street - LK Bennett, Office and Zara have a wide selection at great prices.

For height, wedges are the summer's must-have (and great for cobbled streets) - though, admittedly, they're not to everyone's taste. "I'd say try them on. You never know," says Gray. "They can actually look quite flattering, and great with jeans partly covering the shoe. They just move things up a gear - but don't spend a fortune, as they won't be in fashion long."

Petite women will enjoy the opportunity to gain some extra height with a reassuringly solid heel. The pint-sized Geri Halliwell was recently snapped in killer Yves Saint Laurent wedges - they're much easier to walk in than you might think. Some, however, look clunkier than others, so choose a style relevant for the occasion; espadrilles are great for the beach, but they're not necessarily suitable for the office.

Footwear in general is going a bit 'gauche' - think the wedge, or the round toe, or the weirdly shaped heel - so if you've yet to branch beyond a kitten heel or pair of slingbacks, now may be the time to take the plunge. A note of caution, though, a pedicure may be in order if you're preparing to expose your toes. But keep it classic - steer well clear of a naff French one with inch-long white tips, or even worse, fake toenails.

Do Invest in three or four pairs of cheap sandals - they go with anything and your feet will love you for it.

Don't Keep wearing last year's Ugg boots.

Try A pair of gold plaited Florence + Fred strappy sandals, from Tesco, 15.

 
 
 

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