And after two years of going mostly nowhere, we’re itching to take off for Lisbon, Seville, Florence — anywhere, really, that has a room with a view, steep medieval streets with markets, restaurants under fairy-lit vines — and this time we’re going to be far better at packing.
If Covid restrictions have taught us anything, it’s that we can be adaptable, we need less and we make the most of what we’ve got — which just happens to be the perfect recipe for mini-break dressing. Gone are the days when you would bung anything vaguely summery into a suitcase.
Now it’s second nature to run through the UVF list: is this Useful, Versatile, Flattering? And then the critical question: do I feel like wearing it?
You can dig out the cropped white jeans, but if they’re slightly too starchy, pinch at the waist and make you feel like you’ve borrowed a stranger’s wardrobe, you’ll wear the other thing every time. So, while mini-breaks haven’t changed much since 2019, what we’re packing is…
GET INTO CHEESECLOTH
Cotton and linen crease, silk and manmade fabrics don’t breathe, denim may be too heavy and hot – but cheesecloth is the fabric that might have been made for minibreaks. It’s soft, forgiving, drapes well, never needs ironing and rolls up easy peasy in a suitcase.
And, best of all, it’s currently enjoying a revival, along with towelling (also fun, but more of a staycation beach staple).
The label that’s getting right behind cheesecloth, turning out some super versatile pieces is Me+Em. Take your pick from a pull-on, flared, short sleeve maxi dress in navy or coral, a shorter midi version in parakeet green, and a matching frill sleeve top and wide leg trousers (£150, £150, £65, £95, meandem.com).
Dress, £150, and sandals, £250, meandem. com
The label’s black jumpsuit was my go-to evening wear on a recent lightening visit to Spain (soft, flattering, just smart enough). It looks great dressed up with bangles and fat leather flip flops or a sliver of a sandal.
Note: a jumpsuit or matching tops and bottoms are the no-brainer minibreak evening wear. So long as they are belted and not too oversize, they look positively runway chic and are so easy to glam up with earrings and a wrap.
KHAKI OR NAVY TROUSERS, NOT JEANS
For khaki, try Iris’s Rocky trousers, £115, irisfashion.co.uk
Always leave your jeans behind when heading off on a minibreak. We’re having a holiday here, stepping outside our everyday grey lives and also in spring/summer, a good quality pair of khaki trousers looks far more stylish and cool.
The exception to the rule would be some cropped, fray-hemmed, wonderously figure enhancing jeans – try Zara’s dreed style (£32.99 zara.com). For khaki trousers try Iris’s own brand relaxed chino style with a cotton belt (£115, irisfashion.co.uk) or Zara’s belted cargo pant, if you’re not allergic to cargo pants (£45.99, zara.com) and for wide-leg fans Raey’s washed lyocell trousers are a good bet (£225, matchesfashion.com).
All you need then is a couple of white T shirts or a crisp WNU shirt (£95, withnothingunderneath.com) and a jacket, which we’re coming to. Some people will tell you to pack some white jeans, but I’d say don’t bother. They’ll get grubby if you wear them in the day and for evening there are so many better and comfier options.
SKIP THE WHITE IN GENERAL
Lovely in the blazing sun near a beach – and, by the way, for drifting around in a beach cover up you can’t do much better than NRBY’s semi-gauze linen maxi dress (£150, nrbyclothing.com) – but the first rule of mini-break packing, after step away from your normal weekend clothes, is take what will work hardest and give you the most options.
Oddly white doesn’t score high on the UVF scale, you’re better off with pale pink or a light multi-coloured (that goes with khaki and navy) print.
TWO SUMMER KNITS
That’s one knit top to wear like a jacket on cooler nights, maybe Massimo Dutti’s striped, cotton knit, boxy cardigan with brass buttons (£119, massimodutti.com) which looks more original in khaki and off-white and will smarten up your khaki trousers or black cheesecloth pants.
Then it’s worth taking a colour pop cardigan or thin sweater which can add colour worn over a T shirt or draped around your shoulders in the evening. Marks and Spencer does a graded colour cashmere cardigan (£99, marksandspencer.com) that looks like a designer piece or Nrby has a selection of sherbet coloured Sloppy Joe batwing sweaters (£99, nrbyclothing.com).
Marks & Spencer does a graded colour cashmere cardigan (£99, marks andspencer.com)
I’m always banging on about a shawl or wrap, but that’s what I’m packing first in my backpack/handbag – for colour, for warmth, for a pillow, for a sweep of softness over something plain (the black cheesecloth jumpsuit for example). It’s always colder than you think at some point on a minibreak.
I like Aspiga’s wool, stone and teal pashmina (£85, aspiga.com); crucially it’s got a fine stripe of neon pink, tangerine and lime green which gives it instant holiday glamour.
THE LONG DRAWSTRING SKIRT & TOP
The only thing that’s sometimes better than a dress for one-step feminine dressing is a dress you can turn into separates.
Matching tops and bottoms (trying hard to avoid that grim fashion term co-ords) sound like something your headmistress permitted on Fridays, but you’re hitting the midibreak bullseye: three for the price of one. The top you can wear with your khaki trousers. The bottom you can wear with a T shirt in a print-picking-out colour (try Nrby for cotton £39, or linen £49, nrbyclothing.com).
And then, of course, you can wear them both together. Me+Em seem to have beaten the competition to the top co-ords slot, not least because its elastic-waisted skirts with pockets are so easy, and flattering, and it mixes up prints and stripe trims so the look is not too dressy and works as well with trainers or strappy sandals.
My favourite of the moment is the peony print track skirt and top (£175 and £125, meandem.com).
Nrby’s semi-gauze linen maxi dress (£150, nrbyclothing.com)
If you like to keep the sun off your arms (I do) when you could be dipping in and out of churches and you prefer a covered-up dress with the option for unbuttoning so you can get your legs out a bit after dark (why not), then you’ll want a shirtdress.
Zara does a midi long-sleeved button-through print dress every year; this season it comes in either a dark blue or light blue and white paisley-ish print (£49.99, zara.com). Can’t go wrong.
A WATERPROOF & SHOES
Maybe you won’t need it – here’s hoping- but if it starts tipping down, you’re really going to thank yourself for tucking a waterproof in between your suede Fitflops – essential for bearable sightseeing (£65, fitflop.com) and your padded leather flipflops for the evening (£59, jonesbootmaker.com) or deep sole strappy sandals (£250, meandem.com).
Rains is the current smart and simple rainwear brand and its lightweight hooded coat – it calls it a long jacket (£95, uk.rains.com) is just the ticket. You’re travelling in white trainers, by the way, which you can wear in the day or with a dress in the evening.
I tend to throw in a pair of cuban-heeled ankle boots because they (still) look good with bare legs and a midi dress and they provide coverage if the weather turns ugly.
What you absolutely do not want to be bothering with on a minibreak are those fancy, open-toed, ankle strap slightly uncomfy shoes you are always thinking you might wear on holiday.
Get some trainer liner sports socks if you don’t have them already (£18 for a three pack, sweatybetty.com). They are cushioned, comfy, and allow you to show off your bare ankles in trainers which is a fashion statement in itself.
Won’t insult your intelligence by telling you to take a decent pair of sunglasses for the sake of your eyes, but might just remind you that an excellent pair of shades will class up your look faster than a pair of Manolo Blahniks, and don’t leave it until the airport to get this sorted.
Pop on a jacket: Other Stories’ denim jacket (£85, stories.com)
A case and strap for your phone, which otherwise will be in your hand all the time, is a good new idea. You can spend £460 on Prada’s (prada.com) if you’ve just won the lottery or go for a brand like Dune (£45, johnlewis.com) which also has a purse so you can be totes handsfree. With a smartphone carrier you want a strap long enough to wear on your hip in my opinion.
You’ll definitely need a hat and, as you know, the baseball cap is practically compulsory in fashion circles this summer and since it’s 100 times more portable than the various straw styles, and keeps the sun off your face while suggesting you got the memo from Celine, why look elsewhere. Stick with a pale colour and you don’t need to spend much: try accessorize (£10, accessorize.com) or John Lewis(£15, johnlewis.com).
Dress, £79, shoes, £69, and sunglasses, £15, all marksandspencer.com
There are those that will tell you a bucket hat is a viable alternative, but who except Liam Gallagher looks good in a bucket hat? We say don’t risk it. They don’t really keep off the sun anyway.
You don’t want to take your best tailored blazer (too smart and easily crushed), but a jacket is essential both as a cover up and a look polisher-off. I think you can’t beat a cotton four pocket jacket for all-round, go-with-everything ease, especially in khaki (£39.50, marksandspencer.com).
This M&S version has a slightly gathered waist, and a bit of waist is all to the good, though personally I prefer a belted style like & Other Stories’ denim jacket (£85, stories.com). Otherwise there’s NRBY’s neat four-pocket cotton utility jacket (£79, nrbyclothing.com), which you can get in hot pink, and why not? Pink is the new navy after all.
A minibreak demands a splash of unexpected XXL glamour besides your sunnies. I always pack some OTT earrings (if not now then when?). Zara does some colourful chandelier styles (£14.99, zara.com) or if you are still looking for the right pair of pearl and gold plated drop earrings then Monica Vinader x Mother of Pearl (£140, monicavinader.com) could be the ones.
MINI BREAK BEAUTY BUYS
By Hannah Betts
I keep three transparent holdalls ready to hop off at any moment: one for bathroom stuff, one for bedside beauty, and another for extra slap. Then, if it’s merely an over-nighter, I can assemble an edit from these sources.
You will always require a core kit of: a toothbrush, deodorant, travel mirror, cleanser, eye drops, plastic bath cap, mini brush, hair-tie, nail file, varnish for any chips, perfume and contraception.
On top of this, add:
It is sod’s law that you will be assailed by a giant boil the moment you close your front door. This will nuke it, without leaving your skin parched.
This stuff is simply the best, not only for instantly eradicating grimy roots, but also for lending texture, volume and grip. Brush through a daily blast for sexy, bouncy, photo-ready locks.
This cult, 100 per cent natural, multi-tasking balm moisturises, primes, soothes lips, tames brows, softens hands and feet, de-frizzes hair, and can even be used as a shaving cream.
You’ll want to be protected from the sun, but also look amazing. Behold, a high SPF that also primes, blurs, firms and hydrates, while working as the most beautiful base.
If all my other make-up fell into the sea, I could make do with this powerful, yet natural-looking wonder by way of concealer and foundation.