On Saturday 27 August, Notting Hill Carnival will make a triumphant return to the streets of West London for three glorious days of music, dancing and celebration of Caribbean culture. A highlight of the London calendar, this year’s festivities promise to be bigger and better than ever before, with an expected attendance of more than two million people across the bank holiday weekend; all of whom will be dressed to impress.
Although Carnival has no official dress code, if you’re planning to make the pilgrimage this year, you’ll no doubt want to be sure that your carefully-considered ensemble is turning heads for all the right reasons. Not sure where to begin? No worries. The Luxury London team has put our heads together to come up with a comprehensive guide on how to celebrate Notting Hill Carnival in style, without risking any fashion faux pas.
First, a few basic dos and don’ts of carnival dressing. Don’t use cultural dress for your style mood board (this should go without saying, but any Rastafari hats, cornrows, Native American headdresses or similar will simply leave you looking the fool – best to leave them behind). Do look to Gen-Z for a bit of inspiration; their proclivity for neon brights, dopamine dressing, Y2K prints and skimpy silhouettes is ideally suited to the celebratory vibe of carnival. Don’t risk your box-fresh white trainers; the deluge of spilt drinks will not be forgiving – strappy sandals and heels are also a no-go unless you want to be hobbling home early. Do opt for something comfortable that you won’t mind having to throw in the wash – your beat-up gym trainers are perfect for this. Finally, don’t come unprepared – bring a backpack or bum bag to keep all of your essentials safe, and do bring some kind of waterproof jacket to ensure any unexpected showers won’t dampen your spirits.
Aside from comfy footwear and a secure bag, there are a few other essentials to put on your carnival checklist. A water bottle, SPF and your best shades will keep you well-hydrated and protected from the summer heat as you party all day. And don’t forget a pack of tissues for any spills, drunken tears (no judgement) or impromptu toilet stops – sure, some of the locals will most likely grant you access to their bathrooms in return for a little pocket change, but you’ll still want to be ready on the off chance the attendee before you used the last of the loo roll (thank me later). Less essential but still of great importance are portable chargers to avoid any missed photo opportunities or lost friends, and extra layers for the long commute home hours after the sun has set and the music stopped.
Still in need of some outfit inspiration? Look no further, here’s how to ace Notting Hill Carnival style in 2023.
Though neon brights are the order of the day for most Notting Hill Carnival attendees, don’t feel discouraged if your personal style is more colour-averse; you can still party as hard as the rest in an all-black ensemble. To bring the bling one would expect of carnival, opt for an embellished piece like this fitted mini dress from swimwear specialist Oceanus. Pair it with chunky Chelsea boots or Dr Martens for an edgy look, intensified by Annoushka's black onyx earrings and Celine's retro-inspired cat-eye shades. Add a black leather backpack – Coach's will easily fit all your essentials. And to really tie things together, style with a pair of fishnet tights (Hedoine’s are great and will last all day) and an Acne Studios leather biker jacket.
For men, keep things simple with Acronym's functional shorts which feature multiple pockets for stashing the important stuff paired with a classic Comme des Garçons T-shirt and black leather trainers. Lean into carnival style with a '90s-style bucket hat and sunglasses. Finish off your monochrome look with a bum bag and some pared-back jewellery, like this black pearl bracelet by MJ Jones and your best bomber jacket.
Bear with us as we go full Gen-Z with our styling, but if you can't go all-out in a colourful co-ord set for carnival, then when can you? The multicoloured abstract pattern of Missoni's matching set will have you feeling right at home on the streets of Ladbroke Grove – and provide much welcome ventilation, thanks to its mesh material. Keep accessories within one (fairly monochrome) colour palette to avoid looking OTT. Jacquemus's belt bag is ideal for stashing your phone, purse and keys, and will go great with Balenciaga's super-comfy pale blue sneakers. Add a mismatched pair of earrings and some statement shades and you're good to go.
Nanushka's twinset is ideal if you're just dipping your toe into co-ord dressing: its khaki and black striped pattern will work well with a whole host of pieces you already own. Again, keep accessories pared-back and tonal. Veja's canvas trainers will see you comfortably through a day of dancing and can easily be thrown in the wash once you get home, while Saint Laurent's sunglasses will garner you serious style points. Complete the look with a small crossbody bag which won't pull focus from the rest of your 'fit.
Back to basics
If you'd rather keep things low-key, you can never go wrong with the classic denim-and-a-nice-top combo. Agolde's frayed denim maxi skirt will look classically cool and make for a nice change from your everyday straight-leg or mom jeans. Pair it with a delicate white top – this one from Frankies Bikinis will scream summer. Play up your colour palette with complementary accessories: Ganni's bright yellow collaboration with New Balance will help bring the look together along with a pair of gold-tone Ray Bans. Accessorise with some delicate gold jewellery.
For the guys, let your top half do all the talking. Charles Jeffrey's abstract animal-print camp-collar shirt will easily amp up Brunello Cucinelli’s slim-fit jeans. Accessorise simply with blue Alexander McQueen sunglasses and Church's black leather sneakers.