The key to making your old faithful summer dress work in 2024? It’s all about accessories

Accessories is a silly word. It looks like the kind of fripperies you might find in a dress-up box. Bells and whistles from excess to necessities, such as hair ornaments and ribbons and floral corsages. But the best accessories are, in fact, essential.

This is more true than ever in the summer. It’s no exaggeration to say that the right accessories are essential for good times in the sunny months. You need shoes that you can walk on grass without sinking. A basket big enough to sling in a water bottle and your sunscreen. Sunglasses so you can take your lunch hour outside without squinting.

The best summer accessories are necessary, but that doesn’t mean boring. The joy of summer dressing is that it’s good mood dressing. Cold weather accessories are all about battling the elements: sturdy boots to keep your feet warm, sensible and versatile work bags that you can buckle shut for a rainy commute. Summer accessories are the opposite: they’re going to squeeze the most juice every day, as long as it’s not raining. You want sandals that you can stay out late in, jewelry that keeps the holiday mood alive when your two weeks are over, hats that add instant glamour.

With the right accessories, you can update your summer look without changing anything

Accessories can also be a very helpful style hack for people who are fashion-savvy but too busy to do much about it. With the right accessories, you can update your summer look without changing anything. Some of my favorite summer dresses are now about to fall apart, as I have worn them for years. They’re haphazardly faded from the sun, the seams coming loose from being pulled forward and out over a bikini. I would still rather wear those dresses than replace them. I love the softness of the fabric and the allure of the memories. And I’m too impatient to waste a summer afternoon queuing for a sticky dressing room to try on a dress that’s going to be a bit too short or too hot or have an annoying tie.

But if I’m honest, I also know that my favorite old frocks could do without too much scrutiny these days, what with the fraying and frayed seams. That’s where a new eyelash accessory comes in.

The new buzzword in fashion is “extraction” – accessories with a little extra. Select a focal point of choice, and it will update your entire search. Your bag, for example. The bag you carry says a lot about you – not just your taste, but your lifestyle. The best summer bags are in mind that this is the best part of the year, and we should make the most of it. Basically, this means that even if you’re going to work, you want a bag that doesn’t look like a work bag. Instead of something lame in dark leather, go for citrus colors or bleached pale neutrals. Straws always work, or towels – anything that makes it look like you’re carrying fresh fruit from the market, even when you’re carrying a laptop and a packed lunch.

Next, shoes. The most common mistake when shopping for summer shoes is blowing the budget on expensive, uncomfortable heels that you rarely wear, and then spending every day in a boring pair of serviceable flats that you hate, but don’t love either . We all do it, and it’s madness. Invest in a pair of gorgeous flats that are walkable but special – think raffia slides with shells or ankle ties to add a different note – and then wear them for everything.

The trick of not having excess accessories will lift your outfit and mood from day to day, and it comes into its own when it’s time to pack a holiday wardrobe. If you choose summer accessories to feel special, you don’t need to pack an extra pair of “smart” sandals to go out for dinner. Just sling in one pair of well-made snazzy sandals, and wear them day and night.

Sunglasses? Make them pearlescent, or neon, or cat eye. Or all three. Hats? Why not go for a bucket hat with a stripe, or a baseball cap with a monogram. Or a cowboy hat, for maximum 2024 energy.

Make summer jewelery bright and bold. Instead of stacking delicate necklaces – which will drag if you can’t swim in them, and packing too many delicate necklaces for travel is a recipe for a tangled mess – choose one cheerful piece. Bubblegum corals, delicate shells, souvenir shop trinkets are all you need.

Put last year’s dress into this year’s happy place.

Miniature: Amelia Swaby at Milk. Hair and makeup: Sam Cooper at Carol Hayes Management using Living Proof and Lancôme. Hat, £57, Mother Denim. Dress, £35, Rokit. Rings, €100, Crystal Haze. Pink bead necklace, £128, Monica Vinader. Evil eye torque, €150, and purple bear necklace, €250, both Crystal Haze. Fish necklace, £17.99, Zara. Coral bangle, £22.99, Zara. Green bracelet, £178, Monica Vinader. Star bag, £49.99, Zara. Sandals, £159, Penelope Chilvers. Woven bag, £190, Essentiel Antwerp. Yellow glasses, £120, Bonnie Clyde.

All prices correct as you go to press

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