I’ve Worked in Fashion for 30 Years—These 8 Simple Pieces Work Every Summer

May 16, 2021 at 08:00AM

If anyone knows whether an item is worth buying or not, it’s Tracey Lea Sayer. Having been in the business of fashion for 30 years now, Lea Sayer is a style insider who says it like it is. She wants her clothes to work hard for the money and is a dab hand when it comes to hunting down timeless high-street pieces. As well as sharing her knowledge via Fabulous magazine as fashion director, she charts her own wardrobe over at . Her outlook is about buying less, buying better, and restyling what you already own. This month, she shares the items she’s worn every single summer in recent history. Over to you, Tray!

As I have gotten older, I very much shop for what I need rather than what I want. When I dash around the shops on appointments for work and scroll through my Instagram account I see loads of stuff that would make me the most fashionable Instagrammer in town, but when I actually take a step back and ask myself “Do I actually need that?” the answer is normally “No.”

As a fashion director, I am in a very privileged position where I often see pieces before they hit the shop floor. This gives me time to think about what I need to build a more sustainable, long-lasting wardrobe rather than a “pile ’em high, throw ’em out after a few wears” kind of wardrobe. I have no interest in this now. I like to think that I have fallen in love with slower style because fashion has become far too fast and furious for me.

That being said, I only have a smallish budget for clothes so I have always been a bit of a High Street Queen. Even now at the age of 49, I love a trip to the high street, but I do have a few rules when I shop there. 1. Fabric is key! Anything that is thin, itchy, makes my hair stand on end or makes my armpits smell funny is a big no from me! Once you start to walk past these types of fabrics then you will really have whittled down what is actually available to you in the shops. 2. Always ask yourself: “What will I wear this with and where to?” Make sure you have at least three different looks you can create out of a new piece and three places that you would feel great wearing it. Also remember, if you wear an item 30 or more times, you can work off the items carbon emissions created during production. 3. I like to make an “I love you” list. If you look for the same items each year over and over again then you know this is your go-to style. So splurging on a great trench or saving up for a perfect suit, if you know that you will wear it over and over again, is totally fine. Only buy a piece if it fills a gap in your wardrobe and your heart with joy. So here is my love-worn summertime wardrobe. I respin, recycle and rewear it over and over again…

On Tracey: Massimo Dutti suit; Arket blouse and sandals; Chloé bag (all past seasons). In my opinion, you can’t beat a well-cut suit, and this one ticks all my boxes. The minute I put it on it really made me feel really quite special. It is a stand out high-street look: great fabric, a great cut and gives me all the ’70s Chloé designer vibes that I am looking for on a much smaller budget. I also split the suit up and wear the waistcoat with jeans, the blazer over a dress and the trousers with a chunky knit. So lots of looks for the price of one!

On Tracey: Roland Mouret dress; Next bag; Urban Outfitters sandals (all past seasons). This is one of the oldest items in my wardrobe! I saved up and bought this Roland Mouret dress when I got my first job in fashion over 25 years ago. A Little Black Dress is such a classic piece. Invest in one you love and it will never date. I started off wearing it to black-tie events in my 20s and 30s, but as time went by I began to take it on holiday each year. Now, I style it with flat Grecian sandals and a basket bag. It comes away with me whenever I am going somewhere hot and I have to say that my husband always loves me wearing it because he doesn’t see me in an LBD very often!

On Tracey: French Connection shirt; H&M skirt; Weekday bag; Teva sandals (all past seasons). I never think of buying a skirt. I don’t know why but they don’t grab me. Then I shot this H&M tie-dye Sarong skirt for Fabulous magazine and I totally fell in love with it. I had been looking for one of these sarong skirts since I saw one in a Dries Van Noten show in Paris in the ’90s, but one that I could afford. I style it up exactly the same way Dries did: for work, I like to smarten it up with a shirt and a boxy blazer but I also take it away to the beach as well and throw it on over my cossie. This was definitely something that was on my “I love you” list and it was only thirty quid!

On Tracey: Weekday suit; & Other Stories sandals; Debenhams bag (all past seasons). I discovered short suits about four years ago. There is something quite crisp and cool about them that I just love. I have dressed this one up with a tux shirt and strappy heels which would be perfect for a summer event, but I would also wear it with a vest and plimsoles for a more casual look for work. This cut is classic and won’t date and I can see myself wearing it for years to come.


On Tracey: Mango dress; Next bag; Carvela sandals (all past seasons). I really love Mango’s Committed collection. Mango has recently stated that 79% of their garments have sustainable properties and that by 2022 they are aiming for that to become 100%. While there is still a lot of work to be done at almost every brand and every price point, I always look out for high-street collections that have the environment at the forefront. I bought this dress three years ago and they have reissued it each year since which means it is a winner! Committed is one of my favourite ranges and whenever I wear this dress I feel cool and comfortable in the organic cotton which at my time of life is a very big bonus. Yes, it’s a beach dress essentially, but you can still style this up for city life, staycations or weekends at home.

On Tracey: Mother of Pearl x John Lewis dress; Topshop blazer; Whistles bag (all past season); La Redoute High-Top Trainers (£52). This shirtdress was given to me as part of a charity partnership that I did with John Lewis and the BFC to help fund young designers at London Fashion Week. It is a collaboration that John Lewis has worked on for three seasons now with Mother of Pearl. Amy Powney, Mother of Pearl’s creative director, champions sustainable and ethical fashion and has introduced natural fibres, transparent manufacturing and a socially responsible approach to suppliers. The range is full of timeless iconic pieces. I am a huge fan of this type of designer and high-street collaboration.

On Tracey: Topshop blazer; Ines De Fressange x Uniqlo blouse; Arket shorts; La Redoute High-Top Trainers (£52). I often wait for the sales because I am in no rush to buy clothes just to put on social media. I call this a “cooling off period.” I am a cautious shopper. I stalked these shorts for months before they were reduced to half price—top tip. Doing this also makes me really think about the item and whether I really do need it. I have made the mistake in the past of panic buying stuff only to find that it was mainly an adrenalin rush I was after. I get that from exercise now. Much better for me and the environment

On Tracey: Mango trousers; Arket Oversized Wool Hopsack Blazer (£135); H&M shirt; Veja trainers; Model’s own dog! “Oh, hi, silver pants of catwalk dreams!” I shot these trousers in Jaipur in India four years ago and when I got back the PR very kindly gave me them after I begged her to! I am a huge Isabel Marant fan, and these Mango foil space pants were so similar to her runway version that I had seen on Vogue.com only for a fraction of the price. These pants stop traffic and sometimes, as you get older, it just feels bloody good to do that!

Next up, see Tracey’s year-round capsule wardrobe.

Author Tracey Lea Sayer | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC

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