Working out what to wear to the beach is a matter of both style and comfort. An art best informed by your destination of choice, getting dressed for these occasions is also about bending the rules with personal accents. Once struck, though, it’s a delicate balance that will make sun-dappled days feel effortless, leaving room for those surf lessons you’ve always wanted to try.
What to wear to the beach
Building a reliable wardrobe of fashion for the beach is all about clothing and accessories that make you feel at ease by the water. A surfing trip in Byron calls for uncomplicated comfort, while tropical sojourns invite a more experimental approach. Whatever the occasion, reflecting your personal style in your beach clothes will ensure your look is as memorable as those of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg on holiday or Brigitte Bardot in St Tropez. It's all in the confidence of your delivery.
Identify your beach niche
The easiest way to organise your beach outfits is to consider your surroundings. What sort of mood does your destination of choice evoke? Australian style icons offer helpful inspiration here. Miranda Kerr, for example, opts for denim shorts and crisp whites on family holidays, but embraces relaxed forms and effortless florals for basking on tropical sands.
If a weekend trip to Bondi Beach is on your mind, then an escape from city streets calls for undone silhouettes and minimal, sleek styling. Surfers, on the other hand, will favour more sporty lines – like those of Caroline Bessette-Kennedy and her beau, JFK Jr – in preparation for active days on the sands of Byron Bay. Meanwhile, island getaways to Fiji or Thailand invite floaty beach dresses and a tropical colour palette, making the film Blue Lagoon a perfect point of reference for what to wear to the beach.
Once you know what kind of beach day you’re looking for, the ideal beach clothes will be those that reflect your setting. Using style icons as inspiration, you can build a foundation of essential pieces you can reach for time and time again.
Ace your base
A stylish beach outfit comes down to a workable base — the perfect bikini or swim trunks and versatile separates to toss on over the top. Surfers seek comfort in clean lines for maximum comfort and support, while city-dwelling beach goers favour a sleek maillot or classic boxy style. For tropical breaks, nothing beats the experimentation of printed swimwear mixed in with relaxed resort wear like a diaphanous maxi dress. Take inspiration from Cate Blanchett’s holiday style and pair yours with slides and a straw hat.
For a day by the beach at Bondi, take inspiration from supermodel Nicole Trunfio’s all-black ensembles, teaming tailored shorts with gladiator-style sandals. With statement shorts as your base, all you'll need is an elegant streamlined top to capture seaside sophistication. A weekend of surfing in Byron, though, is all about relaxed denim separates paired with hardworking nylon. Who needs a top when you have the latest swimwear to show off instead?
When preparing for a tropical escape, get into the spirit by channeling a young Brooke Shields — for whom a printed bikini and multi-purpose sarong were always enough. Ultimately, a good foundation of beach clothes will help you feel at ease by the sea, which is what long summer days are all about after all. Once you've mastered the base to build from, then it’s all about defying conventions with personal flair.
Add a personal touch
Style icons like Brigitte Bardot understood the importance of adding a personal touch to your selection of beach clothes. For this French actress in particular a floral bikini, broad-brimmed straw hat and bright beach towel were all that were needed for sun-drenched days in tropical locations. If escaping the city for the day, though, try adorning a crisp cotton shirt with layers of jewellery or a pair of classic black shades.
Active holidays are all about practicality and comfort, but adding your own flair can be as simple as a great pair of flat sandals. Whatever your chosen approach for those hot summer nights, the best fashion for the beach is that which feels effortless. It consists of a great base to suit your activities and surroundings, but also a personal twist to really make the look your own.
What to wear to the beach is as much about reflecting your personal style as it is about your surroundings. So maximise the golden light of summer by curating a mix of reliable basics. A good quality bikini or pair of sunglasses will see you through the summer months, while building a collection of versatile separates makes personalising your look simple. As the salt dries on warm, sun-kissed skin, the only rule is that there are no rules.