I think for a lot of midlifers the concept of summer changes, especially when you find yourself no longer bound by school term dates or even edging towards retirement. Time stretches and you can take advantage of booking a holiday earlier or later in the season and actually enjoy summer in the UK. But that of course comes with its own challenges, specifically weather because it’s rarely quite as good as you imagine it’s going to be. And that’s where the problem lies, finding a realistic wardrobe that lies between the dream of months of perpetual picnics and the reality of chillier (or wetter) than expected days. So that’s what I’m using my May Boden edit to illustrate this month, Summer in the UK – what to wear.

Summer in the UK – what to wear

I wonder if you saw this week’s Met Office suggestion that we may be heading towards one of the wettest summers on record. I’m sorry if that had passed you by and I’ve now dampened your dreams of long hot days but at least we can prepare for it, especially in terms of wardrobe and any big events that lie ahead. We don’t have anything formal this year so dealing with a cool summer in terms of occasionwear isn’t particularly on my mind but I know that Wimbledon/Ascot/weddings/graduations etc lie ahead for some of you so I just wanted to point out this very lovely textured jacket. It’s such a great style that would work with all kinds of outfits and I have to say that I particularly like it with these trousers. There’s a blue and white version available here as well.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Textured jacket; cotton sateen trousers

Today though I’m not focusing on special events, it’s about the everyday clothes that we need for summer in the UK and I’m dividing them into two categories – a core casual summer wardrobe with the odd summer pop. Why? Because the last few years have taught me that realistically the season falls broadly into two types of outfits, the predominant ones where you need something light and layered but relatively practical to wear, peppered with days where you long to burst out into a splash of summer style.

So far this year it feels as if my everyday working from home wardrobe has nudged along only notionally from winter – from jeans with winter jumpers to sweatshirts or bretons. My workwear is so much more casual than it was pre-2020 and I guess it’s the same for a lot of people these days. Whereas I used to have a formal work wardrobe for the office, now, unless I have an increasingly rare face to face meeting, I dress for comfort and easy laundry. But it’s different at the weekend and dressing up a bit does make those days feel even more special. So, looking at the last of Boden’s summer collections which dropped at the beginning of this week,  this is how I’m approaching Summer in the UK – what to wear.

Summer in the UK – everyday capsule

At first glance this doesn’t look exciting but as we all try to consume less, it’s the kind of wardrobe base that we need. And actually it works well as a packing capsule for a UK holiday too. It’s utterly simple but it’s the way to take a ‘less is more’ approach. The accessories add pop and it all works together as a mix and match giving you lots of different options. By the way, you may notice that it’s missing jeans and that’s because Boden are reconfiguring their denim collection at the moment so stock is very low.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Style notes
  • Navy and ivory striped cotton jumper: I’ve had this for a while and I wear it a lot (see picture below). It sharpens up whatever you put with it and being cotton, it’s comfortable to wear on cooler summer days.
  • Red and cream breton: bretons can often feel a bit too heavy for the summer months but this one is just the right weight. It’s so popular that it’s completely sold out in most colours but this is still in stock.
  • Jersey blouse: this is a really comfortable way of achieving the effect of a blouse (useful for Zoom calls) but with the comfort of a t-shirt. I have it in both this colour and navy for this exact reason and it works all year round with the addition of a tank top or then a cardigan/jacket for colder weather.
  • Navy racer tee: another of my favourite pieces, these are ribbed cotton in a good weight and a flattering cut on the shoulders. See on me below.
  • White v-neck slub tee: a classic with a wide rather than low v-neck. This makes it flattering on the clavicles and it comes in lots of colours.
  • Striped shorts: made from easy care seersucker these will be a dream to pack. Not too smart, not too casual with a classic 4 inch leg.
  • Gold statement earrings: very handy if your midlife earlobes are drooping!
  • Cropped denim jacket: for anyone trying to make their legs look longer, this is the cut to wear with wide jeans, full dresses and skirts
  • Long denim jacket: for anyone trying to cover their midriff, this will work well with straight or skinny jeans as well as with narrower dresses and skirts
  • Navy chinos: as there are so few jeans options, these chinos are selling out fast but there’s availability in this colourway
  • Navy linen midi-skirt: simple, comfortable everyday skirt, easy to dress up or down
  • Red doublecloth dress: I absolutely love these dresses – I’ll show you how they look further down. All the summer comfort of linen without the upkeep, various colours available.
  • *Leopard ballet flats: pre-order only, year round style for pepping up your outfits
  • Silver Mary-Janes: currently high trend (the sneakerhead eldest was telling me this weekend that all the girls in London are wearing ‘weird doll shoes with a strap across them’ – this is what he meant!). Also available in gold.
  • *Red ballet flats:  a great way of lifting simple outfits

(*see notes on ballet flats below)

The striped cotton jumper in action on a sunny March day in Spain.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Navy and ivory striped cotton jumper

The cut of the racer tee – the curve at the shoulder distracts from any chunkiness at the top of the arm whereas a straight-cut vest emphasises it. I have them in this black version, the navy, white and red for exactly this reason.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Racer tee; Boden jeans past season

The doublecloth dress last weekend on a bank holiday stroll in the park. Note that the blue isn’t as deep as it appears on the website but it’s still a lovely shade.

Summer dresses for women over 50, Nikki Garnett

Doublecloth dress (gifted); Striped raffia bag (gifted)

At the last Boden press day I went to, because so many of you had asked, I questioned why they make most of their dresses high waisted. They explained that most people only judge a dress in the mirror when they’re standing up without considering whether it will still fit comfortably and be flattering when they sit down. For a lot of women, the midriff area from waist to bum bulges when we sit. Cutting higher on the waist gives shape but allows for more volume beneath which helps to skim over it – as you can see on me here, if it were cut lower it would need to be significantly wider!

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Doublecloth dress (gifted); Striped raffia bag (gifted)

Summer in the UK – statement pops of colour

Now I’m not suggesting that you wear any of these new-in pieces together, although of course you could if you like pattern clashing. However a few pops of colour in your wardrobe come to the rescue on days when you’re feeling disappointed with a wet summer. You’ll notice that I’ve stuck to cool, breathable fabrics such as linen, cotton and viscose but with long sleeves to keep off any chill.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

  • Yellow embroidered blouse – such a sunny colour and it would work well with ivory/white jeans as well as blue.
  • Tiered maxi-skirt – as easy to wear as trousers but a bit more interesting when you’re in the mood to change things up.
  • Midi-dress – the latest prints in the beloved Flo range have arrived – there’s a stunning turquoise but this darker blue would work well across all seasons.
  • Silver shoes – silver continues to be the most popular metallic, as you know I’ve had a very similar pair of silver slingbacks in my wardrobe for years and they work to add a boost to both casual and smart outfits
  • Straight skirt – with its front split this is a great new take on the very popular denim midi
  • Linen crops – you’ll see me wearing these in a minute but this is the new colourway, get them quick because they sold straight out in just about every other colour

Pop of colour try-on

If you prefer to stick with plains rather than patterns there are always options at Boden and that’s the way I usually go. I wore the linen crops last weekend and I’m so happy that ballet flats are back giving me the option of cropped trousers again. You see if I pair them with trainers, the fact that my legs are disproportionately short for my long body means that I just look dumpy.

*A note on ballet flats

Ankles and feet are a key part of your body’s architecture so they’re a great thing to have on show. Because they expose the ankle and foot without the visual interruption of laces or straps, ballet flats probably have the most leg-lengthening effect of any unheeled shoe – and yet whenever I feature them, I have people saying they wish they could wear them but they’re too flat. And I understand if you have specific podiatry problems or you have a job like teaching where you’re on your feet all day. Otherwise I do think it’s worth asking yourself when you’d wear them and if you’d really be walking/standing that much.

I have midlife arches that ache after a while just like everyone else’s and yet I find ballet flats comfortable unless I’m walking or standing for a long time. I agree that you wouldn’t want to wear them if you were trekking round the shops for six hours but for coffee out with friends, a family barbecue or a half hour dog walk they’re no trouble. My phone app told me I’d done 9,132 steps in them here last weekend without any problems. A ballet flat will really extend your wardrobe this season, just treat them as a more comfortable version of heels and think about what you’ll be doing before you wear them.

I have quite a few pairs of Boden ballet flats now because I love the soft flexi-sole and this Hubba Bubba pink is the latest addition.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Pink linen blouse (gifted); orange linen cropped trousers (gifted); pink ballet flats (gifted); striped raffia bag (gifted)

Actually this picture looks as if it should be in a caption competition – I’ve no idea what Mal had just said behind the camera but at least it’s one for the people who say I smile too much in my photos! I’ve been waiting for this pink version of my favourite linen blouse to come in for ages. It’s very low in stock now but there’s a new colourway here. And the cropped trousers are shorter versions of my favourite Boden cut, they fit perfectly and in a regular are cropped at just the right point – an inch above my ankle bone when I’m standing up.

Summer in the UK - what to wear

Pink linen blouse (gifted); orange linen cropped trousers (gifted); pink ballet flats (gifted); striped raffia bag (gifted)

And here’s my very last pop of colour for this month from my birthday weekend. I wore this dress when we headed out to eat and after a hot sunny day, it was just starting to cloud over. The pictures in this post illustrate the complete contrast between our two lives, the first two on an urban weekend in Newcastle and then this one in the country lanes of Cumbria.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic, 57 birthday

Pink linen dress (gifted); raffia clutch (gifted, sold out); platform sandals (gifted)

Although I did wear the dress again last weekend and this shows how well it fits on the body with design thought put into the ‘sitdownability’ again. The bust is darted so it will be a good fit on much bigger chests than mine and the skirt is gently pleated at the waist – it’s beautifully made.

Nikki Garnett, Midlifechic

Pink linen dress (gifted)

It’s sad to think that we’re approaching the end of the summer collections – the Ibiza inspired one that has just gone live is the last true summer drop from Boden. I’m hoping not to go to the A/W press shows this year because I should be burying myself in the book project and so for the first time in years it might feel as if the season turns when it should.

Midlife lately

Before I go, there are two things to mention. Firstly there will be two posts a week for the next couple of weeks as I try to work out a new schedule for the summer so look out for one on Tuesday and then Friday again as usual. I also said I’d tell you what actress Vicky McClure’s Dayfever event was like last weekend. I hadn’t realised that there were so many people who hadn’t heard of it so here’s a bit of background first (and I should add that this isn’t sponsored or gifted, we bought tickets and went along just like everyone else).

Vicky and her friends and family (including her husband Jonny Owen and Jon McClure from Reverend and The Makers) have created what they call “a wedding disco without the wedding.” It’s a daytime disco held from 3pm until 8pm with the idea that you can be back in bed with a cup of tea at your usual time.

They’ve launched it for two particular reasons. The first is to help the many venues who are struggling in the current climate – by bringing daytime events to them they can double their revenue on a Saturday. The other is to give midlifers an opportunity to let their hair down and have a boogie – under 30s are not allowed. And they’re deliberately keeping the ticket price at £10 everywhere except London so that it’s affordable for as many people as possible. They do ask though that you bear the price of the ticket in mind when you go along and keep your expectations low.

I have to say that along with a lot of other people I have a bottomless amount of respect for Vicky McClure. I love her because she’s a talented actress without any whiff of celebrity attitude. She believes that ‘music is medicine’ and we saw her proving it with the Dementia Choir she formed in her home town of Nottingham to show how music could make a difference to the lives of dementia sufferers. With Dayfever she’s doing something similarly open-hearted for midlifers across the UK and last weekend they got over 6,000 people dancing across five UK cities.

So what was it like to go along? And what did I wear? And was Vicky there?

Well here’s a photo before I went in – I wasn’t sure what to wear but decided to keep it low key and it was the right thing to do.

What to wear to Dayfever, Nikki Garnett

Satin halter top; Jeans

It was held at The Boilershop in Newcastle which is a fantastic venue – the place where the Stephensons developed the first ever steam locomotive in 1825. Father and son went on to build a further 3000 steam engines there until technology progressed and the works closed. So it was a great space, filled with 600 joyful midlife Geordies. I’m annoyed with myself for only really capturing it on video (some of you saw the Instagram Stories). These pictures aren’t very good because they’re stills taken from that but it gives you an idea of the variety of outfits (they were doing the usual Line Dance to Uptown Girl)…

Dayfever review

… there were mad moments like this when the crowd put their umbrellas up to ‘It’s Raining Men’… (and as you can see there was lots of on-stage participation)

Dayfever review

… there was a free Greggs van outside (only in Newcastle!)

Summer in the UK - what to wear

… and I think most people who went had a ball. The only tricky thing was that apart from a small disabled space there was absolutely nowhere to sit and so quite a few people left before the end, probably because they were in dire need of a chair.

There was such a broad mix of people there, from the uber cool, grey haired Isabel Marant university crowd to the Me+Em clothed Jesmond brigade to the M&S wearing crew. However everybody was a midlifer and all of the people I chatted to said that they’d come along for that specific reason. They felt they’d be able to enjoy a nostalgia filled afternoon of dancing and singing without being judged.

The more I asked (with the book/blog in mind), the more interesting the conversations became. The overall conclusion was that to be seen to ‘age gracefully’ you’re not supposed to be seen dancing and singing any more unless you’re an auntie at a wedding. Instead you’re supposed to be a passive consumer of Strictly Come Dancing on TV… or opera… or at a push maybe you can dust yourself off at Abba Voyage for one night only. And yet dancing and singing is such a universal, cross-cultural expression of human joy. It’s proven to be good for mind and body so why are we made to feel that it’s childish I wonder… Thank goodness these opportunities are starting to open up.

To answer the last question – was Vicky there? She was! And you know I’m not a lover of Instagram but I had such a dizzy high on Sunday when I even popped up in her Story. You see I went over to chat to her and didn’t notice that there was a step so I lurched forward and spilled Pepsi over her – but you can tell that as I was apologising profusely, she was very sweet about it!

Nikki Garnett, Instagram, Vicky McClure

Would I recommend Dayfever? If you love a good wedding disco then absolutely. Of course not everyone does and so it isn’t for everyone. There were even a few people on Instagram who were snooty about it but I think that says more about them than anything else. Is it cool? No – but I’ve never felt that cool things are very much fun, I’d far rather be surrounded by warmth. I hugely admire the amount of energy that the team at Dayfever are putting into travelling around the country and giving midlifers the opportunity to have a bit of a boogie. It clearly isn’t about profit, it’s about spreading happiness and that kind of sincerity is so very rare.

If you’d like to go then my tip is to sign up on the Dayfever website for notifications because the tickets generally sell out to the waiting list before they go public. And put whichever big city that you’d like to go to into the appropriate field, don’t leave it blank and don’t suggest your local small town – it just won’t happen.

Nikki Garnett & Vicky McClure

So here’s to Vicky McClure – warm, approachable, down to earth, national treasure in the making. And here’s to the wider Dayfever team (made up from her family and close friends)…. and to midlife joy initiatives in whatever form they take. May there be many more of them – including that extra Midlifechic post next Tuesday!

Disclosure: ‘Summer in the UK – what to wear’ was commissioned by Boden – thank you for supporting the brands who help me to keep this blog going. We bought our tickets to Dayfever independently and had no prior relationship with Vicky or the Dayfever team.

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