It was of course David Beckham that spelt the end for the sarong, or – as he said himself more recently – maybe he was ahead of the trend. The former footballer famously attracted international attention when he wore a sarong over his jeans during the 1998 World Cup, and most of it was pretty unfavourable. The rise of kaftan also didn’t help the cause, and for many moons the sarong disappeared from the wardrobes of the fashion crowd.
Fast forward to summer 2019 and the sarong is back, but this time round it’s not just beach-bound. This season’s new iterations are to be worn in the city – to work, then out for the evening, either with T-shirts or shirts, heels or sandals. At Oscar de la Renta, designers Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia styled their fringed version with a voluminous white blouse, while Paco Rabanne’s silk style was paired with a tie-dye T-shirt. Balenciaga’s floral version was elevated to office-appropriate when worn with a blue roll-neck and Dries Van Noten’s check sarong was similarly work-ready with a blue shirt.
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It’s not just the luxury set who have turned to the sarong. & Other Stories, Whistles and Kitri have followed suit, thanks to its universally flattering appeal and ease of movement. Think of it as a a knotted version of the now pervasive midi skirts with thigh slits, or a modern alternative to a wrap skirt. Fabrications are key – a silk incarnation will work better for evening than a cotton or linen style, for example – as is length. A below-the-knee or midi sarong will feel more city-appropriate than a mini length: Balenciaga’s electric blue maxi style is case in point.
“We wanted to design an easy-breezy skirt that you could wear in the city and on holiday,” said Kitri founder Haeni Kim of the brand’s red silk sarong. “It’s very ’90s David Beckham. The great thing about the sarong is that it is very flattering on all body shapes, you can just wrap it around your waist and go. I love that it has a relaxed silhouette that can be dressed up or down. I would wear it with a crisp white shirt with rolled-up sleeves in the city with a kitten heel mule or a pair of strappy sandals.”
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Spanish label Gimaguas reports that its burgundy pareo has proven popular both with customers and the fashion press. “The sarong is highly popular among our customers due to its functionality and versatility,” says brand co-founder Sayana Durany. “We think they’re a key piece for achieving a great summer look as there are so many wearable options. They work well as a top, scarf, skirt, dress, towel or even as a bag; there are many options depending on the size of the sarong.”
Perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of the city sarong is that it’ll make you feel like summer even if the sky is grey. Some fashion pieces feel synonymous with sunshine, and the sarong belongs to that canon. It’s an easy way of making you feel holiday-ready without being on the beach, although ideally you’d invest in a style that works well in different settings, be it at work or in sunny locales.
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“Opting for a sarong that is more of an oversized shawl, as opposed to anything pre-tied or cut as a skirt, is a good idea, particularly if you’re looking for something that offers a little more diversity,” says fashion influencer Anna Vitiello, who swears by her simple Monday sarong that she wears as both a skirt and a halter-neck top. “Vanda Jacintho’s panneau is a brilliant example: it can be worn four ways, including as a top or dress that – when paired with a flat pump and structured bag – works in the city as well as on the beach. Marysia and Adriana Degreas have chic options that don’t feel too wedded to the beach and can be paired with a shirt or blouse for to make them city-appropriate.”
Blue sky or grey, here comes the sun.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s Bazaar UK.