One of my editors asked me what she should wear as a guest for a society wedding in Bali. The celebrations would cover three days (at least!) and she did not want to spend a lot of money but she had to look good enough to socialize next to the Matthew Williamsons and Alice Temperleys hanging on social X-ray bodies.
Because it is going to be a wedding at a beach resort known for its Gypset (gypsy jet-setters) residents and visitors, wearing something unpretentious, comfortable and hopefully colourful (and printed or beaded) would be a great choice for every occasion (rehearsal dinner, cocktails, reception, morning after breakfast). Plus you don't need to match shoes to your dress because any sparkly pair of slippers will go with everything.
Personally, I don't like to spend very much on beach attire except on Eres and Wolford swimsuits whose cuts and expensive fabric I feel an 'older' body could benefit from without looking matronly. As far as cover-ups and cocktail attire are concerned, I don't believe in making a splash in Matthew Williamson, Roberto Cavalli, Alice Temperley and similar brands simply because I think their products have no value for money because they can easily be knocked off on the cheap by TopShop and HnM and no one will be able to tell the difference. (Williamson and Cavali have since produced cut-price collections for HnM. SEE??? Wadiditellya??) The most I spend for resort wear is on Pucci because I can understand the value in their printing cost.
I should know. I used to work in a business where my bosses would come to the office bearing a 1000 USD Versace top and say, "Make this for 50 dollars." (This was in the 80s-early 90s before HnM and TopShop had world domination)
It is more difficult to produce a simple, well-cut garment in a good fabric than one that is covered in prints, sequins and ruffles because every pull, every missed stitch, every pucker will be revealed in a garment that needs to be so exact and simple. That is why Jil Sander, Japanese labels and Martin Margiela are still in business. A lot has to be said for precision.
Of course there is something to be said for Dries van Noten whose collection, although covered in sequins and embroidery, has yet to be knocked-off on the cheap. Any production person who looks at his line will tell you, "It will be hard."
The science of textile printing has come a long way since the beginning of seven-screen Pucci or Hermes prints. Of course, print quality will never be the same but who is really looking? HnM and TopShop have produced wonderful prints that can pass for the choice of jet-setting hippies.
Consider the prints above by Sara Harnett (not exactly TopShop prices) as a new way to do resort or beach. Not quite sickly floral, not quite hard graphics but statement-making. Similar prints should flood the High Street soon.
What I love to wear (and many will disagree with me) in tropical resorts AND TOWNS are cotton kurtas. There are available at different price points and in Europe and America, even on the streets. (I get mine from mandarinorangeclothing.com or Madhu Pallo: email@example.com who does private sales) I wear them when I visit less dressy cities such as Manila, Jakarta, Singapore, Phnom Penh because a) I look fabulous in prints and/or sequins, b) I keep cool and c) I always look 'dressed' even if all I did was throw on a colorful top and white trousers.