AS they will insist on doing, my holidays have come to an end. Boo and hiss. However, in the course of two weeks, I did manage to spend a substantial amount of time lounging around by the pool in a puddle of my own sweat while scoffing cake and sipping wine and for that I’m truly grateful.
It wasn’t all fun and relaxation though (actually, it really was). During my time under the Portuguese sun, I was also secretly observing the stylish, gorgeous women of the world as they sashayed around, trying to figure out what exactly made these women look so damn good. I would have liked to have photographed them but I didn’t feel I could put the cake down for long enough, so I just stared instead.
Based on this thorough and highly enjoyable research, I have compiled a comprehensive list of five ways to dress like a stylish continental laydee. Just to be helpful, you know. I shall call it ‘Greedy Edie’s Guide to Holiday Dressing Like A Hottie’.
For me, continental chic starts with the feet. Think about it – how many women do you see tottering along the Champs d’Elysees or through Barcelona’s cobbled Barri Gotic in sky-high platform heels? Not many, because they seem to let their head steer their style. That’s why flats are your only friend on a foreign holiday. I’ve learned the hard way, over many years, that packing heels (even wedges) is simply a waste of luggage space. Now I pack a pair of trainers and two pairs of sandals – maybe three if I’m feeling wild.
This year, however, I must confess, I fell (hook, line and sinker, like a veritable fashion sucker) for the Birkenstock revival. Ugly shoes are in, it’s true, and by God this is an ugly shoe…but, oh my, it’s comfortable.
For two weeks, I strode and stomped over cobbles and beaches with ne’er a blister to bother me (this is unusual for me – one summer, my feet were so badly damaged from walking around in cheap sandals that I ended up wrapping them, both, in surgical bandages from the toes to the ankle and cramming them into men’s sliders. Sadly, this was many years before sliders became acceptable footwear).
So how do I feel about my Birkies now that I’m home on Irish soil? Still love, nothing but love. They look great (I think, others may strongly disagree!) with everything from pretty little dresses to slouchy black trousers. And they force me to paint my nails pretty colours because, let’s face it, Birkenstocks with bad feet speak of something else entirely…
Hats and headwear
It takes confidence to rock casual headwear but these women have it nailed. Be it a fedora, a wide-brimmed sunhat or a nonchalantly tied headscarf, they know how to wear it. This year, I invested about €3 of my hard-earned money in a Penney’s sunhat and it was the best buy of the summer. Sadly, I wore it to death, see exhibit A:
But I’m thinking I might try a bit harder to incorporate a similar hat into my real-life wardrobe – it only makes sense in this changeable climate, I think.
Always. Be. Minimal. Forget about the torso jewellery you see in fashion spreads or the statement jewellery designed to draw attention to your bikini, these women know that less is more. All it takes to finish their summer look is a big, BIG bag, preferably a basket (like this Sensi Studio one from Net-a-Porter). No more stylish way to carry around your suncreams and beach towel.
Oh, and a great pair of sunglasses but that kinda goes without saying (these Persol beauties are €217 from Brown Thomas).
When it comes to holidays and makeup, the two don’t really mix and, I think, they shouldn’t. Having fun in the sun involves a lot of perspiration, jumping into water and having sand kicked in your face – none of these are compatible with foundation, blusher or powder. But if it’s too terrifying to ditch the slap altogether, opt for a light BB cream with an SPF (I’m currently wearing the Boots No 7 Beautiful Skin one, price €17.50) which will cover blemishes, protect your skin from the sun’s rays and not hold you back too much.
The eyes, however, are the biggest problem, aren’t they? As I have a tendency to look like a narcoleptic mole if I don’t wear eye makeup, I can’t leave the house without mascara and eyeliner. For holidays then, an eyelash tint is an essential. And here’s a tip for you – permanent makeup. I know, I know, I hated the idea too when I first heard about it. There’s a misconception that permanent makeup equals heavy-handed application – not true. I found myself repeatedly coming into contact with people who had had their eyeliner applied using this technique (which isn’t actually permanent, just very long-lasting – you should get two to three years out of a treatment) and they all looked perfectly normal – nay, great. So, earlier this year, I visited Laser Ireland, a local business here in Ennis, and did the deed. It was an uncomfortable half-hour, as I underwent the procedure, but by no means painful and, once it was done, the results were brilliant. My eyeliner is very subtle, just enough to open up my eyes and mean that I don’t need to wear eyeliner on a daily basis (and there’s always the option to darken the line should I so wish). Permanent makeup isn’t cheap but the €300 pricetag (approximately) is well worth it, especially given the longevity of the results.
And, hey, the sheer joy of being able to take off on holiday with nothing in your makeup bag but bronzer and some lippie makes it absolutely worth every penny!
Finally, there is an attitude, a confidence, that sets these women apart. But confidence is a hugely personal thing – some people have it, some don’t; either way, we all want it.
But let me just say this. Next time you visit a beach far from home (Spain, France, Italy, wherever you may be), please take five minutes to stand back and observe. Just look around you. Try to filter out the Irish and British women – we’re usually all quite self-conscious. Focus on the local women. Look at how they don’t care. Look at how they are enjoying the sun and the sea, regardless of what they look like. They are not trying to flaunt their bodies or intimidate others with their athleticism or dress size. They are simply hot – and what do you do when it’s hot? You take your clothes off and take a dip in cold water. And enjoying this simple pleasure you will see old women, young women, fat women, skinny women, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, women with disabilities, missing limbs, missing breasts. And they’re all hanging out, paddling, swimming, playing ball.
I love this. It’s such a joyful sight. And, for me, it puts my petty insecurities into perspective. Life is not a catwalk or a courtroom. Life is a beach.
Over the years, these observations have not only only reduced my luggage allowance (finally) but they’ve also helped me enjoy my holidays more. I’ve seen that a trip, a break, a time-out is all about stepping away from the stresses of life for a short period to relax and recharge. So ditch the suits, the heels, the pressures of everyday life – if you have comfortable shoes, a swimsuit and a smile on your face (oh, and cake, don’t forget the cake), you’ll have fun. Happy holidays!