How to wear…the sarong skirt

As temperatures rise, fashion is loosening up, and your options for warm-weather dressing are greater than ever. The usual array of denim cut-offs and minis are joined by roomy shorts, printed midi dresses and a new skirt style: the sarong.

For most of us, that means the flimsy little wrap you throw in your suitcase for covering up at the beach or by the pool. But this season, the holiday favourite has been elevated into a sensible skirt shape that can be as modest or as revealing as you like.

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Oscar de la Renta is best known for its dramatic gowns and elegant suiting beloved by A-listers and American first ladies, from Nancy Reagan to Michelle Obama.

In 2017, Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia took the helm as co-creative directors and were charged with bringing the brand into the Instagram era, while honouring De la Renta’s legacy. Two years later, the fashion house has been thoroughly updated, and although the evening wear still has all of that famous wow factor, there is a more laid-back approach: for spring-summer, the opening look featured a fringed wrap skirt modelled by Bella Hadid and since spotted on Emily Ratajkowski.

The effect is relaxed yet modern – a skirt with the ease of a sarong and a runway-ready luxe finish, amplified by an asymmetric blouse and heeled sandals.

It was one of the standouts from the show, but the sarong appeared elsewhere on the catwalks too: at Marni, the look was crafty and handmade, as skirts were covered with finger dabs of paint and the side-draping had more of a sculptural feel. Worn with a beige duster coat, snakeskin slides and a chunky gold choker, it exemplified the best of the brand’s eclectic, arty aesthetic.

Eudon Choi, the London-based designer who made a name for himself with sleek tailoring, offered a softer silhouette, with gathered wrap-style skirts in beige and neutral checks. These were paired with mesh handbags, platform sandals and short-sleeved shirts for a clean and contemporary look.

Paco Rabanne, meanwhile, embraced neo-hippie modernism with a sunnier interpretation of the sarong. Taking the glamorous bohemians of the 70s as its muse, the collection featured a paisley print skirt worn with a coin belt and this season’s It print, the tie-dye T-shirt.

It’s a beachier take on the sarong, modernised with a refined silhouette that could just as easily be worn with a biker jacket and barely-there heels for a 2019 upgrade.

The high street has followed suit with a vast selection of sarong skirts – breezy prints crying out for a summer’s day, understated khaki numbers that nod to the utilitarian trend, and wrap styles with buckle detailing to define the waist.

For maximum wearability, a neutral shade will become a daytime staple. Give it some polish with a sophisticated button-up shirt or blouse, amp it up for evening with a simple ribbed vest and heeled sandals, or try a T-shirt and trainers for easy off-duty cool.

The lengths vary from asymmetric minis to ankle-grazing maxis, but most popular is the midi. These skirts are fully lined and tend to forgo the thigh-high slit, so don’t worry about flashing a whole load of leg – unless you want to, in which case there are plenty of sexy high-cut styles to choose from too.

For evening, look to Gwyneth Paltrow for a lesson in how to wear the sarong after dark without verging into beach bar cocktail territory. Her Michael Kors skirt is embellished with subtle sequins, and topped off with a plunging blouse and blazer for a classically chic, low-key look.

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