What to Wear to a Beach Party

Girls at the ZRCE pool party
Photo credit: ZRCE

Those two words – beach party – have the ability to strike fear into many a woman, especially one who’s tentatively coming out of a few incredibly long months in polo necks and tights.

But worry not! There are ways to get around the initial dread and learn how to rock the beach party look with a reckless abandon that will have people wondering how you manage to look so darn relaxed.

Beach Party Fashion Guide

Girls at the Misguided pool party
Photo credit: Misguided

A beach party tends to mean one thing: swimwear. But there are plenty of chic cover-ups around and many a way to bypass the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-polka-dot-bikini. Your summer beach look should take you from a lazy day soaking up the rays to a night shimmying on the sand in one flick of an artfully styled beachy hair do.

When it comes to beach and pool party clothing ideas, there are so many different ways to look chic – even if you’re not the Love Island kind of girl who’s going to wear a thong bikini and a pair of wedges (though hats off to you if you are).

Beach party clothes are many and varied, and should not be reduced to that one holey kaftan you bought on sale at T.K.Maxx all those years ago. Leave the monochrome in the city and experiment a bit.: summer party outfits work best when they are colourful. Step out of your comfort zone and have a bit of fun.

Beach party fashion is diverse and exciting, but there are a few notes to heed depending on the time of day or whether you are sea side or pool side. Read on to find out more.

Day Party

Girls dancing at a beach party
Photo credit: Smashd

Open-ended, with no real dress code beyond ‘beach party wear’, this is the sort of invite that requires minimal thought or preparation. That said, it’s often the easiest dress codes that cause the most amount of stress, so let’s find out the key pieces for your best summer beach look.

The Over-Sized Shirt

The best shirt dresses for a day beach party

This can be any colour, shape or size. Whatever you’ve got lying around really. Or even steal it off a boyfriend/dad/brother. It doesn’t matter. This shirt will be your fall-back option when nothing seems to work. If you are wearing a brightly coloured or patterned bikini underneath, choose a sheer option with minimal details. If you’re rocking a classic swimming costume, dare to be bold in your shirt choice: a neon pink, an embroidered red number, or even a navy blue collarless shirt can jazz up an otherwise plain look.

The Playsuit

Playsuit outfit grid for a beach party
SHOP: H&M / Zara / ASOS

A playsuit will be that one item of clothing in your closet that will work harder than all the others, so make sure you choose it with care. Before you buy, ensure that you can move around and sit down in it, and check it doesn’t look unappealing over your bottom. Playsuits were designed to be fun, so go printed and patterned, the brighter the better. If you’re wearing a halter-neck bikini, choose a halter-neck playsuit to allow for minimal strap marks. There are a whole mass of shapes to choose from: strapless, spaghetti, and t-shirt to name a few. The choice is yours.

Pool Party

Girls selfie at a beach pool party
Photo credit: Favim

The pool party is probably the most ambiguous of dress codes. There will undoubtedly be a lot of standing around the pool rather than actual swimming, with the potential to fall in really quite high. So pool party outfit ideas must be ready to be thrown off at a moment’s notice, yet they also need to look slightly more put-together than if you were partying on the beach.

The Boho Top and Shorts

Boho top and shorts look for beach party

This two-piece look is ideal for partying by the pool because you can work anything anything from a cute sleeveless top and maxi skirt to a vintage t-shirt and cut-off Levis. You will look the part without actually having to try too hard. Throw on an old cap or a floppy-brimmed hat to bring your cute pool party outfits together perfectly.

The Swimming Costume

Swimming costume outfit grid for beach party
SHOP: ASOS / New Look / Motel

Not for the faint-hearted, a pool party does not need to signal a cover-up if you’re brave enough to bare (nearly) all. There are loads of styles of swimming costume out there for every kind of girl. If you are feeling super brave, a cut-out costume can look gorgeous with minimal jewellery and a floppy-brimmed hat. If that’s a bit daring for you, choose a classic striped style with a scoop back to show off your tan.

Evening Party

Girls at a sunset beach party
Photo credit: Tumblr

Wondering what to wear to a beach party at night? Well this is probably one of the easier moments in your outfit-choosing nightmare because the reality is that night beach party wear lends itself to a simple yet gorgeous dress. One piece, one decision: the beach party dress will save you hours in your hotel room when you could be out enjoying the sunset.

An evening party is also where you can have the most fun with your outfit because, as the sun slowly sinks beyond the horizon and the party is softly lit, no one will be able to see your terrible sun burn or dodgy tan lines. Be bold with your beach night outfits and choose something that maybe you wouldn’t dare to wear on a weekend at home, or keep it classic and choose a shape that you know will show off your best assets.

The Off-the-Shoulder Dress

Off the shoulder dress outfit grid for a beach party

This summer, the shoulder is having a moment, and this cut is even beating the cropped designs as a girls’ go-to on holiday. Off-the-shoulder dresses come in every colour and pattern you can imagine, and you can choose a cut that is either straight across the shoulders or that also has straps. Wear short with a pair of wedge espadrilles and dance your way into the early hours of the morning.

The Maxi Dress

Maxi dress outfit grid for beach party
SHOP: Surf Gypsy / ASOS / ASOS

When it comes to beach party dresses, this has always been a staple in any girl’s holiday wardrobe. And when you find the one for you, you’ll never look back. Clingy in all the right places, choose either a loose jersey fabric for a more casual look or go for soft cotton and detailed embroidery if you want to rock the boho look late into the night. Just be careful of the colour you choose; if you are prone to a bit of sun burn on the first few days, keep your white beach party dress until the final few days of your holiday. You don’t want your lobster-red skin clashing with your dress.

Beach Party Shoes

Girl sitting in white beach dress
Photo credit: Lookbook

So here’s the thing I bet most of you are thinking: why would I need to wear shoes to a beach party? It’s a fair observation. But realistically, you are probably going to be on your feet all day, and your shoe choice can bring your beach party outfit together.

Opt for a pair of espadrilles to keep your look simple, or choose an embellished pair of wedge heels (always wedge on holiday – any other shape of heel will look strange on the sand and will be impossible to walk in anyway). Or of course you just stick to a pair of slip-on sandals, a style that is easy to find this summer.

Beach Party Accessories

beach party accessories - straw beach bag and straw beach hat
Photo Credit: Sheerluxe

Accessories, along with your shoe choice, can also transform an outfit. A floppy hat around the pool screams of the famous sirens of the ’60s and ’70s, protecting their lily-white complexions from the sun’s harsh rays. A wicker basket will hold all your beach essentials but will also look great as you head off into the night. You can also use this back on dry land when you return from your holiday; just be sure to shake out the sand before you cram it full of your groceries. And jewellery is another way to jazz up a simple outfit or just embellish a dramatic one. The options are endless, so play around and find one that works for you.

Beach Party Wear: Top Tips

Before you pack for a party, remember these beach outfit ideas:

  1. Beach parties are fun! So your clothes can be fun too.
  2. Don’t be afraid of a little colour or print. Just because your style in the city is monochrome and minimal, doesn’t mean you have to stick to those guidelines on holiday.
  3. A beach party does not have to mean just swimwear.
  4. Cover-ups of every shape, size and colour are your best friend: try an over-sized shirt or this summer’s key item, an off-the-shoulder dress.
  5. Shoes are an essential part of your beach party outfit. Whether you choose a flat shoe or a heel, just make sure you can dance in them.
  6. Accessories, including a hat, bag or beautiful jewellery, can transform an outfit and allow you to make it totally unique. Seen someone in the same Zara maxi? Add a floppy hat and stacks of bangles to leave them looking like the copy-cat.
  7. Never turn down an invitation to a beach party. You’ll always be able to find something to wear and you’ll always have an amazing time. Promise.
Girls sitting on the back of a car having fun
Photo credit: Pinterest

Read more great articles on women’s fashion here at alexie.co.

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