Pimm’s, panamas and parties

O Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! ‘Tis the season for good, old-fashioned British summer lawns parties. Barbeques. Croquet. Pimm’s. What could be better? In an ideal world, our sartorial choices would be simple: an elegant sundress or a light shirt. Unfortunately, the key word here is ‘British’, and the weather can be pernicious, ready to foil our best-made plans of lounging in the sunshine until it goes dark.

Let’s be positive and hope for sunshine. In which case, sun-cream is essential. As a red head, I know more than anyone how important this is. It is a pain but the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. Hats can be tricky to pull off but definitely worth the risk. A large-brimmed, straw hat instantly makes your outfit more summery and is so sophisticated.

Let’s be realistic and embrace the clouds. A simple shawl will help the party to last longer, throw it over your shoulders so that you can finish that glass of Pimm’s in peace without running indoors as soon as clouds appear. It’s funny how at festivals, we’ll happily wander round in the rain all day but in any other situation we run for cover. If you have got a marquee, try and embrace the weather but if a downpour comes, don’t despair. Get everyone in the front room, like the wedding party scene in ‘About Time’.

To the host(ess) with the mostess, parties are always stressful, no matter what the season. Yet a summer party can be much more relaxed. Get all hands on deck by inviting a few friends over a bit early. It is tonnes of fun to all get involved putting up bunting and sharing out barbequing duties. Solar powered fairy lights are a perfect way to take your party from day to night. As your guests don shawls and jackets, the little glimmers of light will create the cosy, romantic atmosphere we all want for those beautiful, hazy summer nights.

Everyone looks forward to summer parties, but it is a big responsibility and pressure to actually host one. We all have fairy-tale images that the host will no doubt strive to recreate. Guests can make sure that they show their appreciation with a small gift. This need not be extravagant or expensive, just a token. There are the traditional gifts of flowers or a bottle of wine but this summer, try to think outside of the box. Homemade cakes and bakes are always a winner and, though relatively inexpensive, show that time and effort has gone into it. Try looking on pinterest for creative cake recipes. Another lovely present is a ‘coffee-table book’. Look in second hand bookstores for old gardening or cookery books: pretty, interesting and cheap. I recommend the Oxfam bookstore on St. Giles or Helen & Douglas House in Summertown.

St. Hugh’s famous Summer Lawns Party went down a treat. Have a look at some of their ensembles for inspiration of how to refine your summer style.


Claudia has perfected the summer look. This gorgeous Zara dress is eye-catching and beautifully structured, showing off her fabulous figure. Her make-shift daisy chain headdress and daisy face paint add fun, individual touches.


Burger in hand and Jordan manages to retain an air of pure refinement. The mix of blue and orange looks effortlessly cool and, hats off to you, Jordan, the panama looks fantastic. This ensemble shows how simplicity, with a hint of originality in choice of colours, lends itself to a perfect summer look.


Orange was definitely a theme amongst the Hughsies. Lizzie’s beautifully bright skirt from Whistles strikes the elusive “smart casual” balance perfectly.


If brights aren’t your thing, take a leaf out of Farhana’s book. Farhana shows how you can make black and khaki work in summer, especially by incorporating the traditional nautical look. It is her gorgeous white-rimmed sunglasses that really caught my eye.


Emilie looks amazing in this tie-dye top.  (Bonus points if you do it yourself like she did) This is one of my favourite looks, it is so casual but so striking. Making your own t-shirt is a great use of an afternoon, and you’ll never experience that awkward “she’s-wearing-my-top” moment.