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Six ways to dress for a sunless summer

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From Adele’s plastic mac to midi-length skirts and Dot Cotton’s rain bonnet (yes, really), here’s the crib sheet of what to wear whatever the forecast

Make the rain bonnet your fashion accessory

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Christopher Kane is the man who can turn the most mundane and dowdy items into high-fashion waiting-list-worthy designs. He’s done it with everything from crochet to cable ties. This season, it’s the turn of the rain bonnet – AKA those plastic head protectors sold in 80s hairdressers to women who had just had their hair set and didn’t want to get caught in the rain. Models at his autumn/winter catwalk show wore them, often over wet hair, which may have confused purists such as Dot Cotton. Available for less than £2 for three, keep one in your bag instead of an umbrella – it’s far more alpha to those in the know. This is fashion irony at its best.

Go for a below-the-knee hemline

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Practised sun worshippers will be already on this, but for the uninitiated: if there’s still a chill in the air, anything above the knee without tights is likely to cause blue legs. But all is not lost. Midi-length, cropped trousers or even jeans with frayed step hems totally work and – to varying degrees – mean an early summer tan (earned in a country where the sun actually shines) can be shown off. Kirsten Dunst wore a midi pleated dress for an appearance in London in April, a month when, as Prince sang, it sometimes snows.

Wear a plastic mac with pride

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Adele prefers the kind of glamour pioneered by Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black in the 60s: big hair, sequins and a lotta, lotta eyelashes. But off duty she’s got a no-nonsense mum look of black tracksuit trousers, Converse and buggy crammed with shopping bags. These two came together at a gig in Italy this week, when a rain shower meant she shrugged on a plastic mac over her sequinned Burberrydress in a move that was practical and kind of awesome. Forget a Barbour over a ballgown; the sunless summer is all about the plastic mac. Remember to remove if the sun does come out – no one likes overheating.

Channel Sienna Miller and Kiera Knightley in The Edge of Love

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Miller and Knightley, playing Caitlin Thomas and Vera Phillips, wear a very British version of summer clothes at a cottage in the appropriately named Cardigan Bay: floral tea dresses, wellington boots, knee-high socks and chunky cardies. This is a look that works just as well today as it did in the 40s – those grey skies still need a bit of bracing cheer, and tea dresses are now a bona fide British summer classic. See the pansy printed dress in Kate Moss’s first Topshop collection, now doing a swift trade on eBay, and the chopped-up florals found at Finery. Add a vintage cardigan to see you through this summer’s chilly wedding receptions in style.

Avoid sandals

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Who wants wet toes? Sliders and fluffy mules are all very well but when there’s even a chance of rain, they’re best left at home. That doesn’t mean there can’t be smiles when looking down at your feet. The Stan Smith is still a thing, with variations including cork and python soles, or something chunkier, when worn with bare legs, provides that ‘I went to raves in the 90s’ look. The Reebok Insta Pump Fury, as approved by Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia, is back, and Rihanna’s look at her Fenty x Puma show – trainers plus legs plus hoody – is ideal for grey summer days.

Layering is your friend

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It’s pretty useful that the 90s are big news in fashion at the moment – the decade basically owns the whole slacker layering thing, which works perfectly for the sunless summer. It’s back now – either in T-shirts under slipdresses (as seen on the catwalk) or with short sleeves over long sleeves, a favourite of Rachel from Friends, and now on fashion editors outside shows waiting to be photographed. Wear as a sort of Transformer version of an outfit, one that can be adapted to any weather system that blows in. Just remove layers as appropriate.