Age-Wise Style: How to Pack for a Summer Beach Weekend

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InStyle’s Fashion Director Cindy Weber Cleary has been a fashion editor for the past 20+ years. Needless to say, she’s picked up some tricks along the way. Catch her column here each week for how-to tips and style secrets on her favorite, timeless styles.

Growing up at the Jersey shore, my concept of “beachwear” was limited to cutoffs, flip-flops, triangle bikinis, T-shirts, and the occasional peasant blouse. These days, while most of my peers in the New York fashion world head to the social twirl in the Hamptons, I still go to the same beach club in Sea Bright, N.J., that my family has belonged to for more than 40 years. It’s my barefoot “happy place” and I’m delighted to say that my weekend wardrobe still includes denim and T-shirts—but now that we may go out to dinner or meet friends at the beach for cocktails, I’ve added a few “grown-upgrades.”

Here are my five easy steps to make packing a breeze:

1. Start with a color palette so that everything works together. My favorite is navy, white, light blue, which always feels fresh, and works well with denim. Another easy mix is white, cream, and khaki with a pop of orange. Always include a print or striped item or two for visual interest.

2. Lay out what you plan to bring so you can see what works together. I go to the Jersey shore, which is very casual. This is what I always include: one or two cotton dresses, a pair of loose print pajama pants, a couple of T-shirts, a knee-length denim pencil skirt, a light-weight sweater, a swimsuit and a cover-up. (Don’t forget undies, activewear, and sleepwear!)

3. Next come the accessories. I pack a flat shoe or sandal to wear to the beach, a wedge sandal for a casual lunch, cocktail or dinner, a brimmed hat, sunglasses, a cross-body bag, a stack of silver bracelets and an oblong scarf in a contrasting print or color. I wear the same tiny bar-shaped stud earrings I wear most days.

4. Keep your toiletry kit ready to go with sunscreen, shampoo, conditioner, toothbrush, a tinted moisturizer and a few cosmetics and any regular medications.

5. Everything goes into an extra-large canvas tote, which doubles as a beach bag.

Read on to shop fool-proof looks for each of your weekend activities.

Your On-the-Go Look


Marc by Marc Jacobs scarf, $138,; Equipment pants, $248,; Gap skirt, $50,; J.Crew t-shirt, $33,; J.Crew bag, $198,

Beach Wear


TOMS shoes, $79,; Biltmore & Madewell hat, $58,; Heidi Klein swimsuit, $261,; Lemlem dress, $245,; L.L. Bean tote, $50,

Out-to-Dinner Look


Rag & Bone dress, $495,; Stella McCartney sandals, $557,; Kamali Kulture sunglasses, $98,; COS dress, $115,; Tiffany & Co. heart lock bracelet, $675,; Simon Sebbag bangle, $72,; John Hardy chain bracelet, $395,

Plus, make a splash with the prettiest designer beach towels, from Gucci to Pucci.

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