Take the seasonal imperative to get away in mid-summer to somewhere reliably hot and sunny; add the desire to uncurl on a lounger beneath an umbrella sipping an iced drink with nothing more pressing to do than choose between listening to Midlake on the iPod or reading the next chapter of the latest Freedland/Kelsey/Green novel. And then add the fact that airlines are squeezing our baggage allowances ever further. It all means that this is the time of year when, unless you habitually fly business or first, you will be forced to think hard about packing - and doing so with maximum efficiency.
That implies getting the best use out of the fewest pieces of clothing. I cannot pretend that I am virtuous/clever enough to take on holiday only that mythical "capsule wardrobe" which fashion pages have forever been exhorting us to create, but there is a lot to be said for travelling light (unstrained shoulder muscles for one thing).
Paradoxically, while a tightly-edited holiday wardrobe makes life easy-peasy once you have arrived at your destination, it requires thought and effort before you leave. Actually, effort and a list to ensure not only that you leave nothing behind, but that what you take extends your choices endlessly. I love a good list, but for those of you who don't, think of today's fashion pages as your holiday packing list. And if you pack this frugally, think how much space you will have for stuff you might buy…
If your destination is the Splendido or somewhere similarly ritzy, you have dispensation to take several dozen bikinis or swimsuits. If you are not, or planning to spend time in museums and art galleries, then limit yourself to just one or two. Trust me, people don't clock whether you are wearing a different swimsuit/bikini from yesterday, just whether it looks fab on you. (See what's cool for the pool: www.thejc.com/lifestyle/fashion/32017/just-too-cool-pool).
A kaftan (or two, they're light) really earn their place in your case for sheer versatility. The animal-print kaftan (left) can take you to breakfast, lunch and - with a little camisole underneath, skinny jeans, sky-high sandals and bold jewellery - out to dinner. And throw in a sarong for dual use: concealing cellulite at the pool or for your shoulders for cathedral exploration.
The JC fashion desk loves the maxi - we reviewed its deliciously retro appeal at the end of April (www.thejc.com/lifestyle/fashion/31061/maxi-your-impact-hot-season). It is the perfect piece to pop into your suitcase for sightseeing, shopping and beachside lunches. And it can be dressed down (flat sandals or oh-so-cool plimsolls, chunky jewellery and a big slouchy bag), yet can be teamed with sky-high sandals/wedges and bold bangle, cuff and earrings for dinner.
While the skirt cannot be described as the hottest item on Planet Fashion this season - it's all been about dresses, shorts, trousers and playsuits - the pretty, knee-length tulip ones are still bang on trend and, again, well justify their place in your case. Wear one with a simple camisole or vest and flats for sightseeing or shopping, and dress it up with a statement blouse (ruffly, frilly, tiered, flower-print), heels plus cuff/bangle and chandelier earrings for a glammy dinner.
The trouser du jour, of course, is the carrot-top, peg-top, harem, etc, and while these are perfect for daytime and sightseeing on holiday, they are harder to dress up for evenings, thus lack the vital versatility. Wide-leg, flat-over-the-tummy sailor trousers, however, can lead a double life, dressed down for day and glammed up for evenings. A dark neutral will ensure more than one wear and optimum versatility.
Tops and blouses
If you take just one pair of trousers and one skirt, up to six tops in amiably mixing colours and shapes will give you up to 12 different outfits. Statement tops can easily be worked for after six but, with the right accessories (flats, slouchy bag, panama), can take you sightseeing, too. Choose natural fabrics; Lycra is hot to wear and a too-tight top is not a good look in the heat.
Insecurity drives us to pack more pairs of shoes than we need. With one pair of stylish flats you are sorted for sightseeing, pool and shopping. And if you need to top-up, summer flats are a better buy around the Med than here.
Take the highest heels or platforms you can comfortably wear, in a neutral colour like gold or nude. They are chic and ultra-versatile and can be worn every evening. Worst-case scenario, a strap snaps on your Louboutins; is there anywhere you could be - possibly excepting Bulgaria - where you can't replace them?
As with shoes, we often pack more bags than is strictly necessary. One big, slouchy bag should work at least for beach and sightseeing. If it is a cool but difficult-to-pack basket, use it for travel too. Ideally choose a bag that is not so smart or pricey that you won't mind sand marring its pristine beauty.
Bag for evenings
One small, neat clutch or vintage Chanel-style chain-handle shoulder bag in a neutral or match-everything animal print is all you need for dinner every night.