It’s that cruel point in the season when the sun’s barely started shining and yet it’s time to start wrapping up wardrobe posts about Summer drops. Already the new season previews are starting and I find myself peeping reluctantly through my fingers at Autumn clothes. This is the last of my SS21 posts with Boden and I’ve been thinking hard about how to approach it because I’d usually be talking about packing for Summer holidays with wafty beach dresses and swimwear. The trouble is that we still just don’t know what the season ahead holds and yet soon the sales will begin and ‘pre-fall’ will start to arrive. There’s still a chance that overseas holidays may happen but if they do it will probably be later in the season when temperatures everywhere will be cooler – of course by then Summer clothes will be nowhere to be seen in the shops. With that in mind it makes sense to weight this year’s budget towards a staycation mood that would also work for a cooler holiday overseas, so today I’m looking at Summer outfit building blocks perhaps with just a kiss of something more exotic that can be kept ready for holidays to come.

I’ve had a lot of requests recently for everyday outfit ideas. I think style pages everywhere are full of ‘re-entry outfits’ and I understand why it’s tempting for editors and Instagrammers to feature more elaborate looks after a year of leisurewear. However the fact is that for most of us this Summer will be more everyday than ‘out there’ so when I did my edit of the new Boden drop, I put my practical head on and forced myself to stay away from the fabulous dresses that I really wanted to swish around in. Instead I decided to have a really good look at my Summer wardrobe to see where the gaps were and of course the very telling thing was just how beach focused it is. We do live near a beach but not the kind that has many bikini days however when it comes to Summer shopping my budget always goes towards a two week holiday which is ridiculous really when the pieces then spend most of the year packed away, dreaming of the next adventure.

So much of Summer dressing is geared towards the fantasy of being someone else in a different place. Holiday wardrobes are aspirational capsules of pieces that work together perfectly in a climate that won’t let you down. They’re designed for days and nights when there’s time to get dressed at leisure. Suntans and exotic backgrounds work with vibrant colours that are difficult to wear in the UK and when you have more skin on show than clothes, everything looks better – it looks fluid and more natural. However today I’m pushing that aside for next year and thinking about Summer in the UK where we need to be prepared for at least three seasons in a single week. So I spent some time looking over my OOTD photos from the seven Summers that I’ve been blogging and from those pulled together a capsule that’s tried and tested. Of course it may not work for your style but these are the pieces that form the backbone of my UK Summer wardrobe.

My core Summer wardrobe

Summer outfit building blocks – Outerwear

  • 1 black blazer
  • 1 navy blazer
  • 1 rain jacket / Mac

Summer outfit building blocks – Tops

  • 2 plain tees with a good neckline
  • 2 striped tees
  • 2 graphic tees
  • 2 smarter short sleeved tops
  • 1 sleeveless dress up / dress down top
  • 2 long sleeved tees (1 breton, 1 with collar)
  • 2 cotton jumpers
  • 3 blouses / shirts, long sleeves and breathable
  • 2 cardigans

Summer outfit building blocks – Bottoms

  • 1 pair blue jeans
  • 1 pair ecru jeans
  • 2 pairs of trousers (cotton / linen)
  • 1 pair fancy pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 shorts

Summer outfit building blocks – Dresses

  • 2 casual dresses
  • 2 dressier dresses
  • 2 jumpsuits

Summer outfit building blocks – Footwear

  • 3 relaxed, comfortable sandals
  • 1 dressy, comfortable sandals
  • 1 white trainers

Summer outfit building blocks – Beach

  • 1 swimsuit with matching clobber

Summer outfit building blocks – Accessories

  • Assorted bright summer accessories: leather bags, straw bags, jewellery

The thing is that when I look back over my Summer photos, 70% of the time I’m wearing some kind of trousers and a tee outfit – jeans if it’s chilly, tailored linen crops if it isn’t – if we’re talking about everyday dressing that’s what works for me. I’m not really a girly person and I find that as I get older, there’s a fine line between what our next door neighbour used to term ‘filly and frump’ – unacceptable I know but you get the context. So you’ll more often find me in a pair of favourite jeans because they work for the inclement temperatures up here and my lifestyle too – I can’t be clambering over stiles chasing after Ted in a buffet dress, I’d never get anywhere.

The other 30% of the time is when dresses and skirts come out, occasionally shorts if it’s really hot or a jumpsuit if I have a meeting because it always makes me feel more pulled together. At the moment the long range forecast is showing a couple of balmy weeks towards the end of June and that’s when I’ll put my jeans away – but not for long.

So when it came to my Boden edit this month I used my list and the clamour of readers asking for everyday outfits as a guide – and these are the pieces I really loved. The jeans in the outfits are one of the oldest pairs I own, I kept them consistent in the photos to show that it’s easy to change things up just with a top and shoes. And while we’re on the subject of everyday Summer shoes, I’ve been having conversations with some of you about colours and I’ll just say that the ones I wear again and again in the summer months are yellow or orange because they add that touch of citrus zest to outfits in a dose that’s low key enough to work in the UK.

Summer outfit building blocks

Striped tees

I’ve put two striped tees on my core list as a baseline but I confess I have a couple more. I’m always on the lookout for a good cut because that’s what makes them look more ‘picked up at a French market’ than ‘chucked in a supermarket trolley’. This one has a lovely boatneck, the cotton is smooth with a slight sheen and the chartreuse stripes with their acid tinge are just a little more grown up than egg yolk yellow. Of course these tees are Boden staples so there are loads of other colourways available but this is my favourite for SS21. Made from sustainable cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative, I’m wearing a 12 and it’s true to size.

Midlifechic Boden breton tee

T-shirt, shoes Boden 2018 (this year’s versions)

So often Summer days are cooler than you’d hoped and disappointingly wet like this one so it’s good to have long sleeved tees as well. We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of narrow stripes recently and the fact that they don’t add visual width to your body in the same way as wider ones do. This is easy to wear and the collar elevates it from the standard breton look, giving it a low key 70s vibe.

Striped cotton long sleeved tee

Graphic tees

This isn’t a classic graphic tee with a slogan or an illustration but I’m including it in the category because it does the same job. A plain t-shirt worn with a blazer and jeans does nothing – add a little detail and the whole look has more chutzpah. The stripes on the neckline of this one do just that. I love it and I’m classing it as a ‘Boden best buy’ for SS21 but you’re going to have to be quick because other people have spotted it too and it’s selling fast.

The stripes at the collar add interest and they frame the very flattering wide but not too deep V neckline. As soon as you throw a blazer over the outfit, they peep out adding extra panache. The sleeves are slightly longer than Boden’s usual cut but they don’t have that frumpy half sleeve look. It’s made from sustainable cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative and it’s also available in white (which I’ve just bought) along with grey and bright green, I’m wearing a 12 and it felt right to me but I could have gone down a size for a neater fit.

Midlifechic Boden striped tee

Navy t-shirt

I’m elevating the jeans look one step further now with a jazzy shirt. Boden have done a few different pieces in this bold print this season so that you can mix and match them – you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve ordered the wide leg crops so that I can wear them together for a jumpsuit effect. They’re available here on pre-order to arrive in two weeks but even so they’ve sold out in a quite a few sizes already.

Anyway for now the silk shirt was perfect for wearing on my birthday as we sat outside for lunch in dazzling sunshine – mind you it’s going to take some practice before I’m adept at walking on cobbles in kitten heels again. I’m wearing a size 12 and it’s true to size.

Midlifechic Boden silk paisley shirt

Shirt; Ombre lens sunglasses; Shoes – Boden 2005

Summer outfit building blocks

Wide leg crops

There was one other top I wanted to show you with jeans but it didn’t arrive in time. This time it’s in light merino so perfect for the cooler days we’re having, it’s such a chic French look and it would work really well with a pleated skirt too. Also available in baby blue, ivory and navy.

Summer outfit building blocks

Merino collared jumper

Summer outfit building blocks – easy dresses

The other thing missing from my wardrobe is casual Summer dresses for wearing in the garden or for fish and chips on the beach. There were no fish and chips here because the wind was blowing a hoolie so I hope you get an idea of the shape of the dress even though it’s pressed against my thighs here. The lovely detail of course is the neckline which site on the shoulder – just enough to frame the clavicles perfectly. Boden have designed the sleeves to be quite tight which is good because it means the neckline stays put but if you have very muscular upper arms you may find it’s a bit tight.

Midlifechic Boden beach dress

Jersey dress with smocked bodice

My other choice was in jersey again – I never wear jersey on holiday because in a warm climate it can make you look limp and overheated. In the cooler climate we have here though it’s fine and this is perfect for throwing on after work or for a Saturday morning. I should have changed the necklace because a pendant would have looked better with the V neckline but I was rushing to catch the last bit of sunshine after a day at my desk.

It’s such an easy dress, narrow stripes agin so not widening, nice splits up the side so that you can stride out and a good midi length. I’m wearing a 12 and it’s true to size. Also available in a multi-coloured stripe or black.

Midlifechic Boden striped jersey summer dress

Striped dress; Boden espadrilles 2019 but available in chartreuse here

Summer outfit building blocks – staycation capsule

So those were the pieces that filled specific gaps in my wardrobe but I’ve had so many emails asking about capsules for UK beach holidays that I thought I’d put a quick one together here. Boden have some really fresh colour combinations this year that are vibrant but feel more suited for a UK staycation capsule than a classic tropical mix.

Summer outfit building blocks - staycation

Loose cotton top : cool and easy to wear with jeans, a skirt or shorts

Leather sandals : simple tan sandals with ankle ties for extra detail

Pink long sleeved polo top : this is the same as the striped one you saw me in earlier, a lovely bubblegum pink for a cool Summer’s day

Pea green shirt dress : you saw me wearing this shirtdress in turquoise a couple of weeks ago, this pea green and pink print is the latest release

Chartreuse breton tee : the same one that I’m wearing in the photos above

Pea green smart shorts : such a fabulous colour in linen with a tailored longer leg for a smarter look

Trainers : pulling the colours through to your toes for a breezy Summer attitude

White trousers : these keep coming in and out of stock but seem to be an easy wear and the belt would be useful as an on trend addition to other outfits in your wardrobe too

White linen skirt : an easy midi skirt to throw on, you can dress it up or down and it will work with all of the colours in your wardrobe

Palm leaf jumper : for days when it’s chilly but you still want to feel dressed for Summer

Pompom earrings : these will lighten up any outfit and make it feel seasonally adjusted

Summer outfit building blocks – chic beach layers

Boden have also extended their swimwear designs into their clothing ranges so that you can layer up in a very chic way if you’re on the beach in Suffolk or Cornwall. Because it’s a new approach you may not have noticed it on the website so I’ve collated pieces from one of the prints to show you what I mean. You’ll find other similar capsules if you look through the site – one good way to start is to find a particular swimwear print that you like and then put its name in the search bar so that all the other pieces pop up.  Thinking back to some of the varying weather that we’ve seen in the space of one day on British beaches with the boys, it would have been great to have a bag of tricks like this to play with.

Summer outfit building blocks - chic beach layers

I was feeling a bit fed up with all of the endings that we have in our house this week so I ordered the bikini and dress to try. They’re lovely and I will feature them here when I have a chance, the dress is particularly versatile and you could certainly wear it beyond the beach on holiday.

Pink t-shirt : a neck that is wide but not too low for a flattering dip on the decolletage

Paisley bikini top : an inverted halter top that will help to break up the expanse of chest, particularly good for small busts

Paisley bikini bottoms : the roll over top means that you can adjust these to cut at the most flattering point on your midriff

Paisley tankini / strappy top : tankinis are brilliant for anybody with a long body who struggles to handle a one piece and this could be worn with the matching skirt or trousers for an easy outfit as you leave the beach

Pink cardigan : for chilly British beaches as the sun starts to go down

Paisley cotton dress : a great solution for beach to bar – or just when you’re sunbathing in the back garden. Also available in navy and white

Paisley pull on trousers : selling fast but super comfortable trousers and great with a white tee on a Summer night

Paisley skirt : the mini is back with a vengeance and this could take the place of shorts if you prefer something a little less fitted

Raffia slides : the finishing touch to lots of Summer outfits and lovely to keep by the back door when you’re in and out of the garden

Midlife lately

So sadly that’s it for my Summer Boden posts, before we know it we’ll be looking at jumpers and boots again… let’s just hope we have a chance to take them off for a while first! Actually we had four warm sunny days at the start of this week and I was particularly blessed on my birthday when it shone down on us all day. I had a lovely time starting with a lazy breakfast and then the middle one came up with the idea of a shopping trip as a treat – to put together his Commander’s outfit for his new job at the Zombie apocalypse. So we spent a couple of hours going round charity shops in town – not my usual first choice for a spot of shopping after lockdown but at least he showed my purse how to open and close again!

We had lunch on a sunny terrace and got back home in time for a glass of fizz in the garden with my sister and brother-in-law. Even though they just live a few villages away it was so long since we’d seen them that it was lovely to catch up. And then we went out for dinner in a local pub as planned so it was a simple but perfect day. Thank you for all of the thoughtful birthday wishes, I want to spend some time reading them again properly and then replying so there won’t be a post next Tuesday.

Midlifechic 54th birthday


It’s been such a funny week – both Mr MC and I felt unsettled today as the boy went in for his last day at school. School itself finished with exams yesterday but today they had a final leavers’ service followed by a smorgasbord of boy food in the dining hall. He was running late so we offered to drive him in and it’s unusual for his dad to show emotion but I think it hit us both at the same time as we left him to meet up with his friends. As he was no longer officially a member of school he wasn’t allowed to wear his school tie any more, instead they’d all been given their Old Lancastrian alumni ties…

AG last day at school 1

… and I managed to get a quick snap of him through the car window as we drove away. It’s the last time he’ll walk up the hill that’s been such a huge part of his daily life – and mine too because my brother, my nephews, the eldest and all of my school boyfriends went there – it will be the first time in decades that we won’t have any of our family members in attendance.

AG last day at school 2

Mr MC had his last board meeting as President yesterday too so that was another last. Suddenly it feels as though the ties that bind us here are all unravelling but rather than feeling released, we just both feel adrift. However endings always herald new beginnings and they will come – we just can’t quite see what they’re going to be yet.

We have a quiet weekend planned – Mr MC has his second jab so it gives us an excuse to settle in and watch a movie or two as the rain is forecast to keep on falling. Have a lovely Friday evening and I’ll be back at the end of next week when surely we’ll all have a blazing hot Bank Holiday weekend rolling out before us and we’ll be able to wear our Summer clothes at last.

Disclosure: ‘Summer outfit building blocks’ was commissioned by Boden but as always I had full control over the choice of pieces featured and the editorial approach. Thank you to Boden for helping me to keep on publishing Midlifechic.

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