The weather continues to keep us on our toes (and I feel like I say this a lot), but one thing is certain: It's definitely summer dress weather. It's maybe not quite short-shorts weather, but we're making progress, and all of the best pieces you see in stores and online right now won’t hang around for the heatwave days we're so longing for.
Like every season, as we inch closer to high summer, I'm desperate to wear all the looks I've been planning in my head. But this summer feels different. Of course, each season, there are always underlying trends paving the way for designer brands and the great British high street alike, but there's definitely an "anything goes" feeling at the moment, and if you are working an outfit, this season is all about committing and going all out no matter how understated or maximalist your style may be.
This week, I headed out to scour the shop floors of our favourite affordable stores and tried on some of the best buys. From Zara's new limited-edition pieces to Mango's new-season prints, there were so many highlights. Most interesting was COS, which has elevated its offering since the launch of the Atelier collection, but there's also a lot to be said about Mango's current colour palette and Zara's sleek separates. So, which high-street summer pieces were my favourites? Read on to find out.
1. COS'S MODERN CLASSICS
Style Notes: You may not believe me, but as a co-ord lover, I do my best to avoid anything matchy-matchy when I’m out shopping for research purposes in order to maintain some sort of balance for everyone else. But somehow, I always gravitate towards matching sets.
This strapless linen top looks way beyond its high-street price tag, and when paired with the matching trousers, it gives By Malene Birger vibes without the three-figure cost.
The top is understandably low in stock, but these trousers are also exceptional. The perfect loose cut and fit.
Style Notes: This is definitely one of my favourite dresses right now, and the perfect of example of why I need to diversify my neutral colour palette. Pastels for summer are groundbreaking for me.
I have a lot of shirred dresses right now (more on that later), but this midi adds polish and a romantic vibe to what would otherwise be a more casual outfit.
Style Notes: A sleeveless jersey dress is fast becoming a standard summer basic, and when paired with chunky leather sandals, it creates an effortless contemporary outfit that I'd wear to the office or out for dinner. As soon as I left the store I bumped into someone wearing this on the street, and I can confirm, this colour is great on everyone.
Style Notes: Last summer, it was nearly impossible to miss COS accessories as you scrolled through your Instagram feed. But a moment, please, for its exceptional dresses. There are even more styles to obsess over in this latest drop—this Cecilie Bahnsen-esque dress included.
Imagine my delight when I spotted this full skirted midi dress on the rails. A designer silhouette for half the price? Sign me up.
2. ZARA'S ELEGANT SEPARATES
Style Notes: I was super impressed by the quality of the fabric and the structure of this waistcoat and skirt. I've already got an extensive collection of waistcoats that I wear with jeans for a smart-casual feel, but this A-line skirt is the star of the show and would be amazing with a belted blazer.
Style Notes: The design of this long denim skirt is so simple, yet just what I'm looking for right now. The slight flare is perfect for those who would prefer a balancing shape over a straight-up-and-down column, and I'm inclined to believe that it makes the denim feel dressier. Add a shirt in the same wash, and you can wear it to work and on the weekends as part of your errand-running uniform.
This feels more like a shacket than a rigid denim jacket, so it's soft enough to tuck in and wear as a shirt.
Style Notes: If linen isn't the first thing you reach for in muggy weather, let these pyjama-style trousers be the first pair you try. Light and easy with a loungewear feel, it feels almost criminal to be this comfortable in an outfit that doesn't include jogging bottoms. Add a top in the same fabric and you've got a recipe for success. (Just be careful with your morning coffee).
I sized up for an ultra baggy fit that I could wear all day, every day.
Style Notes: Just when you thought you'd seen the last of the linen, I'm back with another laid-back option. In situ, this does look like PJs, but I'm using creative license here to image this co-ord worn over a black bikini.
On the days you don't wear the matching shirt, just swap it out for a tank top or a white tee.
3. MANGO'S HOLIDAY WARDROBE
Style Notes: I nearly walked past this dress as it didn't have much hanger appeal, but once I had it on, I didn't want to take it off. I have found the cut of most pieces in Mango lately to be exceptional, and this dress hugged my torso in all the right places. It's basically a must-buy if you're a wedding guest or are going on holiday this summer. It works for larger busts too and can be dressed up or down. A sunshine dream.
Style Notes: You can't go wrong with an LBD (in this case, a long black dress), and it's the tie-detailing and shirred bodice that take this simple black maxi into special territory. An easy, instant outfit guaranteed to rise to any occasion.
The black is excellent, but this also comes in a cute candy pink, too.
Style Notes: There are so many brilliant summer dresses on the high street this season and in pretty much any print you can think of—many of which are from Mango—but these bold, retro stripes really stood out.
Stock seems to land in the Oxford Street store before it's even online, as I couldn't find the dress I tried on on the site quite yet, but until it drops, this is a very close second for me.
Style Notes: I love everything about these linen trousers. The fit, the feel—you name it. When I try something on and know I can instantly walk out of the store wearing it, I know I'm on to a winner. I rest my case.
Of course, these will go beautifully with just about any top in your wardrobe.
Remy Farrell is a London-based shopping editor with nearly 10 years of editorial experience covering fashion, beauty and lifestyle. After graduating with a journalism degree and working on the editorial and fashion teams for titles such as Grazia, Elle, Cosmopolitan and British Vogue, she moved into the luxury e-commerce sector, working as fashion assistant at TheOutnet.com styling for the social media channels and helping to develop the collections for the in-house brand Iris & Ink. After expanding an assisting and styling portfolio that includes shooting talent such as Gigi Hadid, Victoria Beckham and Miquita Oliver, she also branched out into beauty, creating tried-and-tested reviews and diverse beauty content.
In her role as shopping editor at Who What Wear, Remy is interested in discovering new and exciting brands to share with the Who What Wear readership and particularly loves uncovering hidden gems at affordable prices to make shopping accessible to everyone.
Born and raised in Sheffield, Yorkshire, Remy moved to London in 2014 and lives in the Docklands with her partner and pug Billie.
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