Wondering what to wear in London? London is without a doubt one of the greatest cities on Earth that has a near endless string of attractions. Divided into 32 boroughs, the city has a neighbourhood to satisfy every taste, with culture food and live music at every turn.
Come for the classics like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace or the Tower of London, explore the city's modern museums and pretty parks or dive into the cutting-edge culinary scene. Whatever you're coming for; be sure to come prepared.
British weather is anything but predictable. Any savvy Londoner will know that it's unwise to leave the house at any time of year without a brolly, flip flops, beanie hat, sun cream and thermal undies in their bag - just in case.
Needless to say, London's temperamental temperatures can pose a problem when it comes to packing. So, to help you prepare, I've put together the ultimate London style guide, filled with insider-tips and must-have items to help you build the perfect outfit for any season.
Table of Contents
What to wear in London during your holiday
The UK has four seasons, each showcasing London in a different light. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't rain all day, every day in London, though light showers and cloudy skies are prevalent throughout the year. But don't let that put you off. Pack smartly and you'll be ready to explore come hail, rain or shine.
Let's start with the four fundamentals. Regardless of when you are visiting Blighty, bring these with you everywhere… every day.
- Weather-proof shoes. Finding a pair of stylish, comfy and weather-proof shoes sounds like a hard task, but Londoners have mastered the art of staying stylishly dry. Classic leather loafers, ballet flats, waterproof sneakers and chic booties are my go-to, wet-weather footwear. Just make sure they are worn in - you'll be doing a LOT of walking in London.
- Layers, layers, layers. Opt for light layers, like a cardigan or overshirt, that allow you to adjust to the climate accordingly. While it's wise to pack a few classic cuts and colours that will go with most ensembles, you don't have to sacrifice your bold hues and bright patterns. Throw in some colourful pieces or loud accessories, too.
- Stylish raincoat. In London, you also don't have to compromise on style while staying cosy and dry. Nix your northface jacket in favour of a classic British trench coat. If you're visiting London in the winter, perhaps choose a chic quilted number.
- A brolly. You will need a lightweight, compact umbrella that you can stash in your bag and forget about it until the heavens open up. A word of warning though: Brollies come with their own set of rules in London. Conform to the ‘umbrella raise', stay off your mobile phone and avoid putting your soggy brolly on the seat next to you when travelling on public transport. Trust me, umbrella rage is real in London.
What do locals wear in London
During our London itinerary, we noticed that Londoners have a different style depending on their postcode. Chelsea residents are usually found dressed in colourful chinos and espadrilles or skinny jeans with riding boots, while the Primrose Hill kids prefer black skinny jeans with converse.
The super wealthy locals of Notting Hill are a little more polished and have expensive tastes including designer handbags, blingy watches and diamond earrings. But, East London is without a doubt one of the trendiest areas of the city, with Hoxton hipsters donning bold, vintage pieces purchased from one of the many retro boutiques or charity stores on their doorstep.
London may be one of the fashion capitals of the world, but its style is defined by casual, dressed-down looks. And this is true of a night out. Going out straight from work is a common occurrence in London, so skinny jeans and trainers are a typical Friday night ensemble. And since Londoners get about by tube or on foot, practicality is key. The arrival of street food festivals, trendy eateries, secret cinemas, relaxed rooftop bars, and concerts has only added to the capital's casual style. If you're out all the time, it doesn't feel like an occasion to dress up for.
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What to wear in London if you want to be cool
Since London has a multiple of styles, there is not one single "look” that you need to follow. There are, however, a few fashion mantras that us Londoners live by when getting dressed each morning.
- Have fun with your look. There's a reason why London is a global fashion hotspot: because the city's risqué residents are not afraid to colour outside the lines and have fun with their looks. London is all about being individual, eccentric and quirky, so think bold colours and patterns.
- Dress down to dress up. Not everything needs to be perfectly matched or too considered. Londoners effortlessly mix-and-match pieces and usually avoid looking perfectly put together. It's okay to wear an evening dress with an oversized denim jacket and your hair in a chaotic bun.
- Practicality is cool. Practical, casual and cool are the cornerstones of London fashion. Killer heels do not respond well to cobbled streets or public transport. Instead, choose comfy shoes that will work hard for you when you're exploring the city. And don't forget your brolly (this is England, after all).
- Vintage Rocks. London has a soft spot for anything vintage.To get the London look, throw a beat up leather jacket over a graphic tee, or team a cute 1940s frock with a pair of chunky ankle boots. If you're a vintage clothes lover, head to the charity shops and vintage boutiques of Brick Lane, Dalston, Portobello Road and Marylebone to rummage through rails of retro ‘one-of-a-kind' items.
What to wear in London during Summer
Come summer, London is awash with music festivals, open-air cinemas, food markets, sporting events and pop-up bars. Whether you're sipping pimms at Wimbledon, catching your favourite band at Lovebox or lapping up the evening sunshine at one of London's outdoor pools, you'll never be short of things to do during the summer.
Temperatures can soar up to 21-30°C and daylight lingers late into the evenings. But with bouts of sunshine and a forecast of ‘light' showers, travelling to London in the summer is tough to pack for. Here are some styling solutions that will make dressing for London in the summer a breeze and allow you to truly make the most of the capital's outdoor events.
- Slip dresses and playsuits. Easy and breezy, these one-piece wonders will slip into your suitcase and take you from picnic in the park to michelin-star restaurant in effortless style. To stay cool, choose breathable fabrics and lighter colour palettes.
- Bottoms. Tailored shorts are the new go-to summer staple in London. The drapey fit is perfect for keeping cool and they can be worn with almost anything. Dress it up with a coloured blazer or keep it casual with a tank top.
- Tops. London can be incredibly muggy and hot, especially in the Summer. Crops, vest style cami tops, or leotards will keep you cool and can easily be layered if a chill sets in.
- Waterproofs. You can never be too prepared for London's unpredictable weather. Opt for a jacket that's light in both weight and colour - the kind you can throw on during a spontaneous July downpour.
- Shoes. London is one of the most foot-friendly cities in the world. So while your metallic sliders might be the summer rage, will they comfortably carry you across the city? Probably not. A pair of stylish sneakers or ballet flats will take you just about anywhere, without screaming "I'm a tourist.”
- Accessories. Love them or hate them, you'll see bum bags on the hips of London's fashionistas. Compact and comfy, they are perfect for attending big events like festivals or concerts. Wide-brimmed fedoras are also a huge hit in London.
What to wear in London during Fall
Dropping temperatures, autumn showers and light chills are difficult to dress for. The autumn weather can change drastically from day to day. The tank tops you were rocking over the summer will no longer keep you cosy, but it may still be too warm to pull your winter coat out of the wardrobe. So what's to be done? One word: Layering. Here are a few items you will need to layer like a pro.
- Jeans. Versatile and comfy, jeans are a wardrobe staple for Londoners year-round. Washed-out whites, bootcut (yes, they're back!), skinnys or straight-leg jeans can all be paired with sneakers during the day, or elevated with booties or sandals for evening cocktails at the Shard.
- Tops. Packing a mixture of sweaters and lighter tops is a good way to go. Definitely throw in a few patterns, although keep in mind that block coloured pieces are more practical for building a mix-and-match wardrobe.
- Layers. More is more. Keep it cosy with thin sweaters, cardigans and blazers - all ideal for layering over t-shirts when the autumn chill sets in. For men, button down shirts worn over a tee is a popular look in London.
- Trench coat. Opt for a hooded trench to keep you warm and dry when your umbrella struggles to withstand windy weather.
- Shoes. Sandals and sneakers are still a comfortable choice in London during early autumn. And when the temperature drops, just add ankle socks. That's right, socks are hot with everything right now, including sandals. But if you still can't get your head around the controversial combo, ankle boots will serve fashion and function in London during autumn or winter. Boat shoes are a great option for men - comfy, casual, and made for walking.
- Accessories. Add a pop of colour to your autumn wardrobe with a trendy head scarf or a bright manicure.
What to wear in London during Winter
Winter in London is beautiful. As the city waves goodbye to lazy autumn days, it greets a winter wonderland of twinkling lights and festive events. It also welcomes the winter wardrobe - and Brits do winter fashion well. Londoners don't let the cold and wet weather deter them from enjoying a glass of mulled wine at a cosy pop-up bar or exploring one of the city's festive fairs. And neither should you. These staples will keep you cosy and dry when the winter chill sets in.
- A Warm Coat. The silver lining to London's chilly winters is the promise of snuggling up in a cosy, woolly warmer. In summer, Londoners tend to stick to cotton, but come winter, the fabric frenzy begins and almost anything goes. Puffas, parkas, trenches and tailored coats are all in London's winter look-book.
- Bottoms. Black skinnyjeans are always popular and will serve as a versatile base to your winter wardrobe. But if you're tired of relying on a jeans and sweater combo, switch it up with a long maxi skirt paired with an oversized knit or blouse.
- Tops. Team a graphic tee with a classic blazer or pair a jumper dress with trainers or ankle boots. Polo-necks are also easily combined with anything to create that effortless winter look.
- Accessories. To lighten up a neutral winter wardrobe, consider a bright bag or snug accessories like a pom-pom beanie and woollen gloves. Don't forget an umbrella for the frequent wet days and you should also be prepared for the possibility of some snow.
- Shoes. Because nothing ruins a day of sightseeing quicker than a soggy pair of socks. Swap the sandals for smart, yet stylish footwear, like chunky boots or wellies, that will help you safely navigate slippery surfaces and keep your feet warm from the winter chill.
What to wear in London during Spring
With the arrival of spring, the city's parks begin to bloom and there's a sense of anticipation in the air as the locals look forward to longer daylight hours and milder weather. Spring in London can be quite unpredictable, with temperatures of around 12 to 18°C, that frequently give way to chilly and damp weather. So, you will need to pack strategically. Be prepared for anything and avoid a wardrobe washout with these practical style tips.
- Tops. Like autumn and winter, the key to dressing for spring is to layer your look. Throw a light denim jacket over a retro tee for an edgy East London look, or opt for a cute blouse and blazer ensemble - perfect for afternoon tea, brunch or a theatre performance.
- Trousers. Pair a light jumper, blouse or graphic tee with cropped skinny jeans or a midi-skirt. A pinafore dress teamed with a roll neck jumper is a great choice for those cooler spring days. Occasionally, Britain basks in temps of up to 26°C in spring, so it's wise to pack a pair of shorts - just in case.
- Shoes. Comfortable without sacrificing style, every cool girl in London owns a pair of go-to fashion trainers. Butif you're looking for something a little more elevated, peep-toe booties are a stylish inter-seasonal option and the low-stacked heel makes them comfortable to wear all day.
- Waterproof Jacket. Alright, I won't go on about it. But, seriously; pack a rain mac.
- Backpack. Comfortable, easy to carry and good for throwing those extra layers in, a black leather backpack is a stylish and practical option.
How to survive the rain
One final word. Don't let a little drizzle deter you from enjoying everything London has to offer. Make the most of rainy days by checking out one of the city's 250 museums (most of which are completely free), wander the art galleries of Trafalgar Square or visit a market - Greenwich, Leadenhall and Covent Garden are all covered and not bad places to get caught in the rain, especially if you're hungry!