Why you should dress well to run errands – yes, really

·3-min read
Why you should dress well to run errands - trust me - Sarah Brick. Hair and make-up by Rachael Thomas using Dr Barbara Sturm
Why you should dress well to run errands - trust me - Sarah Brick. Hair and make-up by Rachael Thomas using Dr Barbara Sturm

You don’t need me to tell you what to wear to a farmers’ market. Whatever’s warm/cool/waterproof/at the front of your wardrobe, right?

Not so fast. This column works on the basis that if it’s worth getting out of bed for, it’s worth making the best of yourself.

This approach isn’t very Anglo-Saxon. We’re still a let’s-save-it-for-best, jam-tomorrow culture. Or some generations are and I was definitely part of that tribe. Although I was a fashion editor, as a working mum with a zillion different calls on my salary, until my children were well on their way through school I would spend almost nothing on my weekend clothes. It showed. My off-duty look was a ragtag collection of items that were decades old – I was still wearing my university sports bra in my late 30s – and more casual pieces that no longer cut it for work.

Urgh, the photos. But my clothing budget back then prioritised work outfits. I still think it makes sense to focus the bulk of your budget where it most counts for you, whether that’s a great trouser suit that can be worn lots of ways at work or a fabulous coat you’ll wear everywhere eight months of the year. Why splurge on a special-occasion outfit you’ll only wear once? Better to rent, or buy vintage.

But that doesn’t mean turning your off-duty wardrobe into a dustbin, even if you reckon you’re only off-duty two days a week. For one thing, you never really are off-duty. What if you bump into your boss/intern/last week’s Tinder date at the market? And what about impressing yourself?

Pictured above: basket tote bag, Anthropologie, £50
Pictured above: basket tote bag, Anthropologie, £50

Pictured above: basket tote bag, Anthropologie, £50

These days, it’s much easier than it was to build a wardrobe that does you justice full-time. The boundaries between work and ‘play’ clothes have blurred, so well-chosen pieces can glide up or down the register. With heels, a blazer and a smart bag, these belted trousers would cut it in many offices, while a good-quality T-shirt can be worn just about anywhere, night or day. By the way, a T-shirt with a bright motif or a (non-tiresome) slogan is a good way to dip your toe into a colour you’re not sure about.

As for make-up – if you like to give your complexion a rest, a bright lipstick packs so much punch it may be all you need. I wear mascara a lot more than I used to (I’ve been trying Natucain’s hormone-free Lash Serum and they have never looked better). And don’t forget sun protection at this time of year.

My current favourite is the invisible Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen – no coral reef- or skin-damaging nasties, just good all-round protection. This approach is about utility with finesse. And pockets with everything.

Top image and centre: Lisa wears a cotton t-shirt, Bella Freud, £95; cotton trouser, LK Bennett, £169; cotton canvas jacket, Toast, £215; woven espadrille, Penelope Chilvers, £119

Four off-duty buys

Four off-duty buys
Four off-duty buys

From left: Natucain Lash Serum, £59; Supergoop SPF, £32; Sunglasses, £110; white topaz bracelet, Daisy Jewellery, £129

Read last week's column: How to master al-fresco dressing – and what to buy now

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