Red Mary-Janes and other unlikely fashion buys to shake up your summer wardrobe

Model in Copenhagen
Look confident and stylish with a few key pieces - Getty

The word “trend” has become a bit of a dirty word in fashion. It represents the kind of clothes that become irrelevant after just a season, that are of little value to the second-hand market, and ultimately end up in landfill sooner than most.

At the same time, it’s hard to reject them entirely. While timeless shirts, blazers and jeans are still the foundations of a good wardrobe, they’d be boring without the opportunity to inject a little newness every so often.

A well-chosen seasonal addition has the potential to shake you out of a style rut. Whether it’s a fresh injection of colour, or a new silhouette, it offers the chance to be creative, boost confidence and bring you joy. And unlike buying a whole wardrobe of trend-led pieces, adding just a single “It” item adds cool without looking like you’ve tried too hard.

The good news is that the trend cycle moves slower than it used to, so you can buy any of the below items with the confidence that you might wear it for the next two or three years at least. That’s a good innings for a high-street buy.

The best bit though? Finding that hero piece. These are the five purchases that will shake up any summer 2024 look.

Mary-Jane flats

Mary-Jane flats
Mary-Jane flats

Red patent Mary-Janes, £420, Carel 

The shoes that inspired this article are a pair of red Mary-Jane flats from Arket. Despite the bold colour, they somehow go with everything in my wardrobe, whether it’s a midi dress or a pair of boyfriend jeans. If red’s not your colour, pick another: silver is very of the moment. Mesh versions are a more divisive look, but unquestionably cool. If they are to your taste, they’d be a brilliant buy.

Mary-Jane Flats
Mary-Jane Flats

Leather Mary-Jane flats, £159, Arket; leather ballet flats, £99.95, Massimo Dutti; mesh Mary-Jane flats, £395; Le Monde Beryl 

The high-neck waistcoat

high-neck waistcoat
high-neck waistcoat

Waistcoat, £110, Sezane 

The waistcoat is so much more than a part of a three-piece suit. As a single hero piece, it has the potential to be your hardest-working top this summer. High-neck versions look especially modern, and offer a pared-back way to create an hourglass silhouette. Look for one with a tie at the back so that you can tweak the fit. Team with jeans, loose linen trousers, skirts, you name it, even with a pair of matching trousers, it becomes much more formal – perfect for the office. Or, add a hat and you’re ready for Royal Ascot.

Waistcoat
Waistcoat

Monika waistcoat, £125, Aligne; linen-blend waistcoat, £99, Whistles; posse linen waistcoat, £225, Selfridges 

The statement skirt

Wiggy Kit
Wiggy Kit

Cotton skirt, £355, Wiggy Kit 

Full midi skirts haven’t looked this appealing in years, and we have the shift from dresses to separates and co-ords to thank. Fit is important, though – you want it full at the hips, but not at the waist. Team with a tucked-in shirt, boxy T-shirt, or a slim-fitting racerback top, and if wearing with a jacket, choose one that is cropped. Anything goes shoes-wise, from chunky sandals to ballerinas.

The statement skirt
The statement skirt

Cotton lace skirt, £145, Hill House Home; ticking stripe skirt, £79, Albaray; linen midi skirt, £95, Boden 

Knitted polo top

A model in a knitted polo at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week
A model in a knitted polo at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week

This is more of a stealth update. It won’t be the first thing others notice about your outfit, but like well-groomed eyebrows, it’s a great way to take your look to the next level. The knitted polo looks great under a blazer for a smarter outfit, or tucked into high-waist jeans off duty.

Knitted Polo Top
Knitted Polo Top

Cotton Eaton knit, £90, Varley; ultrafine Merino wool polo top, £150, Sheep Inc; cotton knitted top, £118, LK Bennett 

Bermuda shorts

Bermuda Shorts
Bermuda Shorts

Not just for California surfer dudes, Bermudas are the most flattering and easy-to-wear shorts of the summer. It doesn’t really matter whether they end above the knee or on the knee (tips on finding your ideal length here), it’s more about that long silhouette. In my opinion, they look best when slightly oversized, and teamed with a fisherman sandal. Unless you’re tall, keep tops and jackets slightly cropped to avoid looking drowned.

Bermuda shorts
Bermuda shorts

Denim high-rise Bermuda shorts, £150, Me+Em; textured shorts, £110, Poetry; The Frankie Shop pleated denim shorts, £159, Net-a-Porter