Photo: Claire Pepper

Summer is a time when faff-free dressing comes into its own. No-one wants to be hitching, hoicking and overheating. This evening, I’m going to a cocktail party, so in a last-minute shirt swap I ditched a plain black silk number for an old patterned kimono top. Mistake. On revisiting the kimono top I’ve discovered it’s a bit neat around the armhole. And this is bothering me. I am very particular about armpit freedom and need a fit that provides ease of movement. The kimono top has been on-again, off-again all day. Too much faffage – and I’m only wearing a skimpy, stripy vest underneath. Never forgo function for fancy-ness. I should’ve gone for my default summer outfit: white jeans, black shirt and Gucci loafers. Easy, effortless, go-anywhere style. The white jeans in the photo are MiH Mimi, bought in the sale HERE (selling out fast and also available, not in the sale HERE) and I am enjoying the high-waisted, tuck-everything-in style. For an everyday black silk shirt, try Everlane and & Other Stories.

Summer simplicity: the Toast dress

Simple, well-fitting clothes make sense. While researching a feature I came across the Toast sale. KLAXON. Over 50% off certain items including this cotton twill, faff-free dress that is currently winging its way to That’s Not My Age Mansions.

Photo via Salt-Water Sandals/Instagram

And I forgot to mention Salt-Water in my recent post on Summer Sandals. Everyday I see women wearing them and I have colleagues who swear by Salt-Water. There’s a lovely feature on the history of the company in the Guardian, based in Missouri and founded by a British immigrant Walter Hoy, in 1944. The sandals were originally made from the leather off-cuts leftover from making military boots. Now that’s the kind of special relationship I admire.

Please note: affiliate links in this post may generate commission.

45 thoughts on “Faff-Free Summer Style

  1. First, I like the white jeans, black blouse combo. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what I put on this morning. Faff-free, indeed, and I second that motion.

    I’m now going to offer an unsolicited opinion about older women style icons I rarely offer out loud. There’s an article today in The New York Times about “The Glamorous Grandmas of Instagram,” a horrific title, by the way. And here’s my faff-free opinion: The women featured in that article are Trying Way Too Hard.

    Of course, they can all try as hard as they wish. It’s a free country. But boy, trying that hard is NOT what I’m going for.

    At 72, I don’t want twelve hundred gadgets dripping off of me. And I hope I never pose with a facial expression that says, “I’m really constipated.” Nor do I wish to slur “little old ladies with blue hair sitting in a nursing home,” because I know a lot of little old ladies who are in nursing homes, and I will likely be there too one day, although I can’t guarantee what color my hair will be.

    IMHO, the Instagram grandmas’ “anti-ageism” pronouncements are missing the point. Cue Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ann, I hadn’t seen the NY Times feature and really enjoyed it. You’re right about the title, the anti-ageing term and also the comment about nursing homes. When it comes to what we wear, I think each to their own. I’m always impressed when I see someone who is making a statement, whatever their age. Though obviously I’ll be remaining faff-free!

  2. I’m with both Alyson and Ann, and at risk of bringing up the Insta women discussion here again (it’s been hashed out myriad times), I love, love, love the idea of faff-free clothing (as a lifelong member of the Gentlewoman fandom), while still encouraging others to do what they want. I read that NYT piece and was just waiting for the moment Alyson would weigh in. I think some of those Instagrammers I would have found to be equally annoying in their younger days. One of the commenters nastily put it that narcissism never seems to get old, either, and another railed about baby boomers never willing to just. shut. up. Why don’t we try faff-free recognition of others, too? Just because some folks like clothes that are simple and within a certain color range (GUILTY and love it), and some love bright colors, patterns, and accoutrements, does not mean we all should get our shorts all twisted about extraverts in a judgy way…or vice versa, where those who seek out provocative outfits and cannot for the life of them ever imagine why someone would wear a different white shirt, menswear trousers, and loafers every day, rail on about introversion being a waste of time in the day with so many people to talk to et al. Faff free discussion, where we accept that to each [her] own, and what can we agree upon, like standing up for children, reading worthwhile books, and better roles for women in every career or movie or community?

      1. Ann AND Gretchen— Very well said, both of you. Such a ripe topic for discussion! Fashion does not have an age limit, and we should not be limited (or pigeon-holed) no matter how many candles are on the birthday cake. Although I do not want to look like the class clown either, I recognize that sometimes it’s the show-offs that pave the way.

    1. Completely agree with you, Gretchen. I’ve only just seen the NY Times article and can only admire the women featured. Their personal style may differ to mine but I like their outlook and attitude – and they are brilliant role models. I’ve met Lyn Slater several times and she is a generous, thoughtful, successful, stylish woman. I strongly believe we should all wear what we please, clothes that please us and make us feel confident and happy. It’s hard to believe that in 2018 women are still fighting for equal recognition, so the more we see women of all ages in the media, the better.

  3. And, btw, I ADORE Alyson’s outfit, per usual. Must. Stop. Clicking. Her suggestions are spot-on and I must not succumb. Anyone have reviews of Everlane’s boho loafers/mules?

    1. A colleague of mine has a couple pair that she frequently wears. They look terrific on her and she says they are very comfortable.

  4. Those white jeans look wonderful.

    Question, for the brand itself I suppose – are these really the same jeans at Matches and at Bergdorf’s? One says 100% cotton, one says cotton and spandex.



    1. Ooh well spotted, Lisa. I have looked at the Matches, the Bergdorf’s and my own pair of Mimi jeans and I’m am sure they’re the same. That is, 100% cotton, so I can only assume that this is a typo on the Bergdorf site?

  5. I’m with you, Alyson… as I frequently am. And although I love the look of that kimono jacket, I’d be constantly fussing with the closure, adjusting the belt, smoothing down the front, and generally paying it way too much attention all evening. Simple black tops and white bottoms for the win every time.

  6. Hi, I think you look terrific, but to my eye, a bit workaday for a cocktail party. Have you turned away from the idea of a dressier shoe, or earrings, or something else that might suggest festivity? When does one “dress up” these days?
    PS The kimono outfit of a couple of years ago looks smashing, so I hope you don’t ditch it.

    1. Hello Michelle, I had to go with the kimono top as I’d worn it to work – and even though I received several compliments, I’ll still be taking it to the charity shop on Saturday. It just doesn’t fit right. With a printed top I tend to keep everything else simple; I still love Casual Glamour!

  7. I read the piece in the NYT and agree that most of the women featured looked as though they were trying too hard – just something too “look at me” about it all. Most of my clothes are simple and my wardrobe mainly consists of jeans and tops, mostly in black, navy and neutrals. However, having studied fashion and textiles at uni I also have an appreciation of beautiful embroidery, colour and embellishment and sometimes enjoy an embroidered top,a colourful print or some statement earrings. Sometimes I feel as though I still haven’t entirely made my mind up about what my style is (and I’ll be 60 this year, maybe I never will!) – I love your simple and chic style Alyson, and probably lean towards that most of the time, but I can certainly be inspired by all the above. And I love your outfit, but agree with Michelle that it looks a bit every day for a cocktail party. But probably if I was at that party in the statement earrings and the embroidered top I would end up wishing I looked like the chic woman in the black shirt!

    1. Claire, I share your love of beautiful textiles and, like you, often find myself wearing very plain neutrals with a stand-out piece of some sort (that must fit comfortably). Maybe you could call it artistic faff-free dressing. I think that is a style in and of itself. For dressier occasions, I like to go a little less cottony peasant and a little more architectural silk, but the concept is the same. And flat shoes forever.

      1. This is me, too. Either very simple but good quality, or very simple with one stand-out piece – can be orange silk embroidered fatties or a wonderful Day, Birger, Mikkelsen black felt jacket with hundreds of gold safety pins and some beads as decoration. It’s taken me a lifetime to find my style.

  8. Yes, faff free so important. I have a beautiful sleeveless Brora blouse with a blue and green pattern the colour of Cretan seas. Every year I take it out of the wardrobe and put it on. It looks fab, but it’s too tight across the busy, so every year I put it back and say I’ll get rid of it. Maybe this year… or else I’ll just hang it where I can see it when the weather’s dull and overcast, cold and miserable, to remind me of summer ….

  9. My grandmother always said “Be the most underdressed woman at a party” and I suppose I’ve heeded that advice my whole life. I love what you wore, elegant, and comfortable in your own skin.

  10. In my humble opinion white jeans are never faff free, especially for a ‘do’. One spot of red wine, orange juice whatever…not a good look. Possibly others are more careful than I am….

  11. White jeans and a black top are always a winning combination. I was first inspired by this article on Tonne Goodman I often copy it right down to the Charvet scarf. In the hot and humid US Midwest (Chicago area) jeans in the summer are often not possible: Not only do they feel hat, but they surely make other people hurt just to look at them! We need loose clothing here. A loose shift and sandals will do the trick!

    1. Thanks for that link about a classic look. That jeans uniform works so well for me many days of most months.

    2. If you think Chicago’s too hot for jeans in the summer, imagine Houston! I love white jeans, but I **never** wear jeans from May to November. And I can’t quite get into white jeans in, say, February; so I just never wear them. Same with “summer sweaters”. Ha! Shorts, linen, loose little dresses, that’s summer wear here in southeast Texas.

  12. I really love the jeans too! They don’t look super skinny at the ankle?

    I was told the other day, by a saleswoman, that “skinnies are on their way out.”

    Do you guys agree with this assessment? I am denim-obsessed and would love to know your thoughts!

  13. Ha, ha. faff free. I wore a top with a low v-neck yesterday that I was constantly fussing with. To my horror I had to go on a sales call that required me to be on the floor on my hands and knees. Straight into the garbage for that one.

  14. Faff-free for me too! Black and white always looks sophisticated and nonchalent in that French couldn’t give a toss kind of way. I live in white jeans in the summer – as so much summer clothing is white (tees, shirts, tops, trousers etc.) they all get bunged in the washing machine once a week and voila! The NYT article was very interesting and two of those outfits were black and white. I think that, perhaps, our NY friends take themselves more seriously than we do? Are we Brits more self-effacing? A while ago I noticed myself admiring women who wore basically neutrals (maybe with the (buzzword) ‘pop’ of colour in a scarf/necklace/bag or whatever) and so I ditched most of my patterns/colours and wear black, white, grey and cream in a layered sort of fashion. (I also charity shopped everything that was not comfortable and needed tweaking whilst trying to wear it/stuff that was too small). It works for me and life is waaaay simpler. Nonetheless, Iris Apfel and her buddies do look rather amazing, don’t they?. ps anyone have views on Bass Weejuns – my next considered purchase?

    1. Maudie, Bass Weejuns are everything. A few years ago I purchased a barely-used-vintage pair off eBay because I wanted to relive a little of my junior high glamour–a sartorial dark ages, save for the shoes. I wear them with everything and love the comfort (they’re especially nice with a comfy dress). I am a professor and so I stand most of the day. They definitely go the distance. Hilariously, most of the compliments I receive while wearing them are from my male colleagues–usually because we are wearing the same shoes.

      1. Thanks, Erin, I think vintage Bass Weejuns are fantastic, I used to own a pair in the 1980s but they were stolen (along with the rest of my luggage from the boot of a car, don’t ask). But, the label has been bought out/relaunched and I don’t think the new shoes have the same quality as the originals. So, Maudie, my tip would be to do what Erin did and go for barely-used vintage as opposed to new.

  15. Love the look and it’s one I do all the time. Just not with black. Black on my top half went in the bin with heels and Ill fitting clothes. As I get older black near my face drains the life out of me while as a young blonde it looked bloody great. Small question though – Alyson, are Gucci loafers really worth the £500. I’ve dithered many times and so far just cant bring myself to splash the cash.

  16. I was intrigued by the references to the NYT Instagram Grannies article which I just read. Not too much new here. Alyson has already covered Lyn Slater and Maye Musk and several others with distinctive styles. As a mid-60 something who still loves clothes and wants to look attractive I welcome the “non-invisibility ” of older women wanting to look good and celebrating their stylish looks. And why not ?!
    I’m with Alyson and her comments above about letting people get on with wearing what they feel like wearing whether it is minimalist monochrome neutral or printed and colourful.
    As ever Alyson looks good and relaxed in this outfit. Not what I’d wear since I don’t have the legs for white jeans which I haven’t worn since I had white Levis with white string vest at 14. This year I seem to be wearing less dark clothing and am in many green clothes and blues plus reds and oranges. Depends on mood occasion and circumstances. I agree with some of the comments about cocktail attire. For me it’s usually a print silk dress or print silk shirt in a geometric design with plain dark trousers. I do add necklaces and bracelets and this personal ornamentation is part of my personal style.
    I just saw the Frida Kahlo exhibition preview at the V & A. Highly inspiring and interesting to see her clothing and jewellery and personal effects from her house in Mexico. I was quite moved to see her decorated body casts and over things and the representation in her artwork. Makes me want to explore putting together outfits with some of these colourful elements for summertime certainly. It is bound to prove influential on interior design.

  17. I like your black and white outfit, but for a cocktail party I would go for a dress, I tend to err on the dressed up side whenever possible ! Is there a link to the New York Times article ? And about the Saltwater sandals, I’m tempted to get a pair, but do they make your feet look huge if you are anything over a size 38 ( 5 ) ?

    1. I think I would agree with you, Maisie. My feet are a 37 and Saltwaters look ok on them, but much larger and they can look a bit hearty, IMO anyway.

    2. I love Saltwater sandals, but mine got returned as I am a size 40 and they looked like flappy boats on me! Just got some from Lilimill – a fantastic brand that I have just discovered and they are perfect.

  18. I used to be an absolute Toast groupie, but they’ve changed over the last few years to much more baggy/boxy cuts, which sadly just don’t suit my short hour-glass figure. I’m beyond sad about it, as I keep trying and keep having to send items back, because everything makes me look like a potato. Ditto with the saltwater sandals- love the look and idea of them, but the stitching placement on the sole sat at the wrong place for my feet, and rubbed like hell, even wearing them for 5 minutes on my carpet, so back they went. I have a real dilemma now, as ok, foot-wise you can prize my birks from my cold dead hands, but I’m a bit at sea in terms of finding a new clothing brand that I can really go for and rely on.

    1. The dress pictured just looks sad. I like simple summer dressing, but can we have something pretty, or at least nicely tailored, as well? For Ana below, I’m American and I think faff is strictly British, but I interpret it as meaning something like “fuss.” But maybe a little ruder?

  19. What does faff mean? I can´t seem to grasp the meaning of ‘faff-free’, and I looked the word faff up in the dictionary and it does not exist, I would appreciate any reader’s help

    1. Faff = when a disproportionate amount of effort is required (i.e it is a piece of clothing and shouldn’t need constant tending and rearranging all the time.)

  20. Faff is a throwaway and useful word that is indeed related to fuss but also has an element of irritation and confusion. So, you wouldn’t say: stop making a faff (if you were being annoyingly picky or creating over nothing in particular) but you would say: you are faffing about (in a bit of a tizz, not organised, lacking direction). Faff-free dressing would be a comfortable, clear aesthetic that does not require you to fiddle (or faff) about with details, pull something down, hoick something up, tie something in or stagger about in danger of falling off your shoes. It doesn’t have a rude element so you would be fine saying: can I help you to stop faffing so we can catch the bus? Or: you are in a bit of a faff, hold still!
    I think that covers it. This is a useful word. The thing about faff is – you know it when you see it, you really know it when you do it. Best avoided. Good day.

    1. Your examples have been very helpful, thank you so much for taking your time to answer me; I usually use my old dictionary or the Google translator, but this word was nowhere to be found, thanks again!

  21. Fantastic feature as always! I’m a devotee of faff free dressing so my next purchase will be that gorgeous Toast dress!

Leave a Reply

Thank you for commenting but please be respectful and considerate.
If you want to be in my gang, play nice.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.