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For more insight into the trends of the season, we turned to style expert and fashion designer Claudine Patel. She shares her advice on what to wear this summer -- and how best to wear it.
1. Nude dress
Move over white and black, nude is the new summer basic. "Shades of nude are great this summer as replacements for the little black dress or the little white dress -- they're perfect for a fun, flirty night out," says Patel. "My favourite colour of nude is a rosy-beige that will highlight your skin tone and prevent you from looking too washed out."
Patel advises choosing a dress that is made with a light, flowing fabric -- like chiffon silk -- and pairing it with pumps in a bold colour that will stand out.
2. Maxi dress
If you have yet to embrace this floor-skimming style of dress now is the perfect time to do it. Not only are maxi dresses comfortable, they come in countless colours and patterns, making them easy to accessorize.
"The breezy, flowing maxi dress never goes out of style and it's back again for summer 2012," says Patel. "Get one that has a waist that highlights the shape of your body and creates a soft, feminine silhouette," she advises. Pairing a maxi dress with flat gladiator sandals or platform wedges will give the feminine look some edge and add interest to the overall ensemble.
3. Skinny belt
The belt is a summer essential for pulling outfits together. Look for skinny, colourful belts to complement practically anything in your wardrobe, suggests Patel.
"The skinny belt works just as well with dresses, cardigans and skirts, and is flattering on any shape," she says. "Get something in patent leather for that extra sheen and sass."
To really make the most of the trend, wear a white dress with a turquoise belt or a summer-ready hot pink cardigan with a bright yellow belt. Stores like Joe Fresh and H&M often stock a multitude of skinny belts in a variety of hues and finishes.
Page 1 of 2 -- From bright bags to straw fedoras, discover three more must-have looks for summer on page 2.
4. High-heeled platform shoes
While we all love our flip-flops and strappy sandals, this summer is about giving yourself some height. "High heels not only create a sexy allure in your step, they also help give your body a more feminine posture and lengthen your legs," says Patel.
"High-heeled wedge platforms especially are a great way to step out in comfort, yet create that definitive silhouette." She suggests shopping for tan-colour platforms, which will help lengthen your legs and will easily match any summer outfit in your closet.
5. Bright bags
Colour is definitely a must this summer, especially when it comes to accessories. "Don't be shy to plunge into the fabulous world of bright neon bags," says Patel. "Experiment with all colours, as the fun part about bright colour is playing dress up and mixing and matching to create the ultimate outfit."
Patel advises choosing a bright cross-body bag that will leave your hands free for shopping, child-wrangling or sipping cocktails on a patio. Depending on what you'll be doing, a bold canvas tote bag or a clutch in a vibrant berry hue are also get-noticed summer options.
Hats are important when it comes to keeping the sun off your head and out of your eyes and -- when the situation calls for it -- hiding a bad hair day. While there are myriad options to choose from, Patel suggests the fedora for this season.
"A fedora is the perfect summer accessory -- especially on those days when humidity renders your hair out of control -- and can add interest to any outfit," she advises. "A lightweight, straw version with a contrasting band is a great pick to match a variety of outfits." Pair your fedora with anything from cut-off shorts and a bright-hued T-shirt to colourful summer sundresses for effortless hot-weather style.
By picking up a few fashionable pieces that will help update your wardrobe and make it easy to look pulled together despite the heat you're sure to have your most stylish summer yet.
Want more insider fashion tips? Check out our Fashion and Beauty blog.
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