Hot Weather Dressing: Realizations and Resolutions

Ironkurtin’s recent post got me thinking about my own hot weather strategy. Right now, I’m trying to fill in my wardrobe gaps (sandals, lightweight skirts and breezy tops). Supposedly, this summer is forecasted to be as hot as last summer (over 80 days straight of 100+ degree temperatures). Except this summer there is going to be more rain, so hot plus very humid. Hooray.

All of these aren’t recent “epiphanies” so much as things I’ve come to know after living through six hot summers. But I wanted to commit them to the page and compile them in one place so I can easily reference this over the coming months. I’m hoping it will help me resist temptation and buy a lot of things that I want but just aren’t suitable for our climate (this happens from time to time). I’m also posting it to my YLF Blog. ☺

These are things I’ve figured out about my own preferences, but hopefully it will also be helpful to some of you whose dominant seasons are similarly hot.

1. Showing some skin. I feel more comfortable showing more of my legs than chest/arms. This is probably because I have an hourglass/inverted triangle body shape, and I tend to carry most of my weight in my upper body. I also use sleeved tops to soften my shoulder line. So sleeveless tops often don’t work for me, because from the front they look fine, but in the back they cut in too far. They look like they have a racerback (and not in a good way). There are some styles that do work, such as v-neck, cowl neck or crossover tops with “thick” shoulder straps. But I feel like all my sleeveless tops and dresses fall into that category and I get tired of it very quickly. Which leads me to my next realization.

2. Summers are long and I get bored. This is by far the thing I struggle with the most. How do I mix things up while keeping my wardrobe smallish? By July, I get really tired of, “Now I put this top with a yellow skirt. Now I put it with a blue skirt, now a black skirt…” But the outfit really doesn’t seem any different. I feel like I’m wearing the same thing every day for months on end. And by that time, there are still four more months to go. I just bought a denim vest that I’m hoping will help as a layering piece and make some of my outfits feel like I’m wearing something different from day to day.

3. Abundance of prints. I generally don’t like prints, so I rely on interesting design details and color to make my fashion heart sing. This makes buying summer clothing difficult, because it seems to be very simple in design, and I feel like there are always tons of prints. I’m stocking up because this year there are a lot of them that I do like: polka dots, stripes, novelty. Many times all I could find were abstract floral, geometric, and summer novelty (Hawaiian flowers, palm trees, etc.) which I tend not to prefer.

4. Special bras and foundation garments are definitely out. This one I know from experience. Things that require strapless bras will never be worn because I'll always reach for something else in my closet. Our summers are humid and strapless bras just won’t stay up on me, no matter what, when it’s humid outside.

5. Items that must be layered are out, too. If it requires layering, it will sit in my closet. There are tops and dresses that work well on their own and under a denim jacket or cotton cardigan indoors, and I look for these. But if it’s something that needs a layer, such as a top that cuts in too far on my back or has thin straps, I will never wear it once the temperatures heat up here.

6. Camis and cotton slips are most likely out. This is also from experience. This year, I’ve been on the lookout for items that don’t require either. If it’s lined in cotton, that’s okay with me. But low-cut tops and dresses that require a layering cami will sit in my closet and never be worn. I say ‘probably’ because I will make some exceptions if I really REALLY love the item and don’t plan to be outside at all that day (but that rarely happens).

7. Experimenting with statement jewelry. I tend not to wear a lot of jewelry in the summer because honestly, it gets sweaty under bracelets and necklaces that sit on my chest, and then it’s just a big, disgusting mess. So I’m looking for cute earrings that aren’t too big or very dangly, since my hair is very short. For my personal style, big earrings just feel like too much. I also bought one big yellow necklace to layer over tops that have higher necklines. That way it will sit mostly on fabric instead of skin, and hopefully I can avoid the sweaty jewelry problem.

8. More summer shoe options. I’m not a shoe girl. I actually hate shoe shopping, and if I find shoes that I like and are comfortable, I’m likely to buy them in nude and black and be done with it. But I think maybe having nicer shoes and more color and style options might make my outfits feel different. So I’m working very hard to spend my money on shoes this year, instead of all the other things I’d rather spend money on that just aren’t practical once it gets hot.

Whew, that was a long post! ☺

I’d be very interested to hear all of your summer shopping strategies! I know it has come up before, but I really can’t get enough of it. I seem to always get ideas when I hear from you guys on this subject. Also, it must be just as difficult to avoid all the impractical-for-you fun summer clothing if you live in a cool climate, as it is to avoid it when it’s scorching hot outside. "Look at all these gorgeous blouses and dresses and pants...that would be a complete waste of money for me to buy. They'd sure make great closet decorations."

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • ButterflyLady replied 11 years ago

    I have no advice, as I live in the UK, and with the best will in the world, our maximum of 4 weeks of hot weather (just about reaching the 80s, and not necessarily consecutive weeks, either) doesn't count as a long, hot summer. But I have 'hearted' this post, so I can come back and read the wise ones' advice, as I feel the heat terribly, the UK is not big on air-conditioning, and I'd like to be able to dress comfortably.

    Your resolutions sound very sensible.

  • christieanne replied 11 years ago

    Brilliant epiphanies that will hopefully assist you in making the long hot summer more enjoyable.

  • ManidipaM replied 11 years ago

    This sounds counter-intuitive, but I actually like to cover up a bit in summer and even more so in the hot, humid monsoon season (pressure-cooker weather, as we call it here). It's far easier on my skin and more comfy generally to have a light layer of fabric to soak up the sweat than have it trapped in the folds of elbows and knees, or sticking you to flat surfaces (chairs, desks, car seats...)

    I prefer looser shapes, though, in hot weather --- not fitted silhouettes, more skimming or even voluminous. Feels less sticky that way and I don't have to suffer the irritation of soggy fabric rubbing against me too much.

    In dry heat, a cold (fresh from the freezer) cotton scarf or one soaked in water and wrung out can be a wonderfully cooling accessory.

    I'm generally happier in closed shoes and leather, but in summer the non-leather and the open strappy sandal just makes more practical sense.

    Minimal jewellery, mostly just small stud earrings or small-scale danglers. No necklaces or watches; rigid bangles rather than bracelets, preferably not metal as anything non-noble will sensitize my skin twice as quick now.

    Quite a few hi-tech fabrics for hot, sweaty housework.

    No layers! At most a scarf; but jackets and such are out. I don't mind a cami if the outer garment is breezy enough.

    No go without sunglasses!

  • Ana replied 11 years ago

    Thanks for the comments, Butterfly Lady and christieanne! BL, I'm glad this post helped you. : )

    Manidipa, thank you for the suggestions! I forgot about sunglasses, but I have a nice pair that I wear year-round here, since the weather is almost always sunny. I've also gotten a couple of elbow-length knit tops since I prefer that length to short sleeves. I'm going to see how they fare in the hot weather.

    I think the real challenge for me is dressing for the climate I live in while still being able to preserve elements of my personal style. Voluminous linen and cotton tunics are just not my thing. I think many retailers tend to funnel everyone into one or two styles with their summer clothing offerings. To me it usually feels either bohemian or very modern classic with a few trends thrown in. I love those looks on other people, but I think I'm on the opposite end of bohemian, style-wise. I do find some things in the classic category, but often times items will be printed or only available in neutral colors.

  • Meredith1953 replied 11 years ago

    This will be my first summer working in our administrative building. Before I was working out in schools and could dress a lot more casually. I have been told that blue denim jeans are not permitted but pretty much everything else is ok as long as it is modest. Our building is air-conditioned so even in the summer it should be reasonably cool inside. So my strategy is my new white jeans, possibly a denim skirt (which is permitted) some cute tops or blouses with prints (I don't own any yet) A couple of sun dresses or shifts, (which I don't own yet) my colorful jackets and one or two more pants or skirts. I will be layering a lot.

  • CocoLion replied 11 years ago

    Ana, this is a great post. I wish manufacturers and designers would read it! Seriously, a lot of design happens in temperate climates like Europe, NY or LA. Having moved to the center of CA from the coast, our summers are long, hot and dry. A lot of designers just don't design for the very hot climates in the world.

    My thoughts:

    Pants: skinny jeans are a no-no for hot weather because they are by nature fitted and tight. I have a few loose boot cuts and flares in lighter fabrications that are perfect. I am looking for loose, guazey printed pants because they will feel good during our summers.

    Tops: I hear you on the needing a cami! Those tops don't get worn. This year, I am looking for light, gauzey tunics. And I suspect my vast collection of classic tees will get heavy rotation. I also hear you on the needing a special bra. Although I have one dress with a one-shoulder style that works because at least I can hook one strap to the bra to keep it up.

    Sleeves: I also hear you on sleeveless. I no longer feel comfortable in sleeveless tanks, but might consider loose sleeveless woven tops.

    Footwear: I love shoes and sandals so I have no shortage of variety there.

    Dresses: I am on the lookout for more non-fitted soft knit dresses.

    Long skirts & midis: I used to love maxis in hot weather, they are quite cooling. But I no longer have the flat abs to pull off this look. So I am considering midis.

  • ironkurtin replied 11 years ago

    Oh no, Ana. Over 100 and rainy and humid?!

    I have to go cry in the bathroom now.

  • Abie replied 11 years ago

    Rainy, What? That is NOT in my summer shoe plan. What footwear do you even wear when it's over 100 and rainy?

    I have a pair of keen hiking sandals that can take the wet. I'm at a loss for what else?

  • texstyle replied 11 years ago

    Texas summers are brutal - and these are great realizations to share. I still wear sleeveless because some days I just can't stand the sleeves (besides, that's how I stay motivated to hit the gym).

    Shoes are something I've also started paying more attention to - and toenail polish. lol. I find that I need at least a couple different pair of everyday sandals (because you need to let them breathe in between wearings), water style shoes/sandals are also great as are water shoes that are more like tennis shoes or mary jane styled. Clarks, Keen, Teva, Merrell and other makers offer some decent options. Shoes with mesh are cooler to wear but a challenge to find anything "cute." You can't really wear a lot of regular "stylish" sandals because they get slippery if your feet get hot and sweaty (I know....ewww, but it's true.) I don't wear flip flops even though that seems to be the "uniform" shoe for many in central Texas come summer.

    Handbags are also a way to show a little style in hot weather. Before YLF I didn't give them much thought. Now I'm starting a little collection. And jewlery - I wear pretty light items so it doesn't bother me much to keep on wearing them in the heat.

    I hope since it's been such a warm winter for the US that retailers will take the clue to offer more stylish warm weather clothing this summer.

  • replied 11 years ago

    Oh amen, amen, AMEN! Can I get a witness here? Seriously this is my life and I have many of the same issues you do. I should be cleaning the house but I had to read your post then respond to your resolutions!

    1. No strippy/strappy tops for me either. I can wear sleeveless shirts, but they aren't my favorite. I sweat on any topper that goes over them, and when I remove it then my straps show. Hooking my straps together grinds on my backbone and is MOST uncomfortable. I refuse to buy "alternative" bras, like you. Somehow I feel like a small sleeve de-emphasizes my broad shoulders, too.

    2. Ugh to the long and boring summers! I have decided I need to create a second season for shopping and my wardrobe about half way through. Actually I'm trying to create *spring* right now (most people would consider our temps right now summer). I am trying to wear jeans with sandals and flats with skirts and shorts before we really get into "high summer" when you can only stand to wear skirts/shorts and sandals are the only possible footwear. I want to cull my closet again in high summer and keep shopping all the way through, a little at a time to try to prevent boredom/insanity.

    3. I actually like prints, and when I'm only wearing one or two pieces of clothing, with very little in the way of accessories, I find a print makes me feel like I have a little more "goin' on". I am the proud new owner of some printed and *woven* summer tops (not T shirts, applause, please) that are good enough to stand alone without a topper. Mama always said wovens were cooler than knits. They ticked so many boxes but are they the perfect sophisted style I would wish for? No. But they're bettter than what I wore this time last year. Baby steps.

    4. No crazy convertible bras. 'Nuff said.

    5./6. Tops and dresses that must be worn with a cami to be modest are completely worthless in my book. I pass on all of these, too. I have some modestly sleeveless items but I don't think I'll be hunting down any more for the reasons I stated above. My preference is for skirts with cotton self-lining or thick denim that isn't see-through. Too bad dark colors work best because they're the hottest. :(

    7. I didn't wear much jewelry last summer, mostly earrings and bracelets. I love Manidipa's idea of sticking a scarf in the feezer! Those plastic chain-link necklaces look like they might feel better against the neck than metal. Many of my new tops have collars so they might not *need* a scarf or necklace.

    8. I should expand my shoe options, too. Maybe some striped espadrilles? Low-vamped shoes let some air circulate around my foot (plus they're easy to slip on and off). I could allow myself more sandals I think. I have three pair and the two from last year will be shot before the season is half over. I just looked all my shoes lined up, and except for my turquoise sandals, they're either light neutral or black (kinda like yours). Maybe we could get some excitement in the footwear department since we have to wear shoes!

    My main frustration with summer clothes is that they don't have the "style" I aspire to. I need them to be functional, and they look *nice*, but there isn't that sophiticated vibe that you can achieve with more layers on.What is your philosophy on bags for summer? Do you have a lot? Do you have one in each "category" (clutch, cross-body, structured, etc.)? That's one more element you can play with.

    Thanks for this post, Ana, I really enjoyed it!

  • Rabbit In The Moon replied 11 years ago

    I love summer clothing and I am actually really excited about warmer weather this year. Having a baby last July, and then making it through those crying months in wintertime was kind of... brutal. Now I have a few cute basic sundresses on order thanks to this site and I am looking forward to not wearing my too-tight maternity stuff like last summer when I was as big as a house!! No, seriously. At least a small airstream.

    I am more comfortable nursing in front of people than showing off my upper arms, but you know what, life is too short not to get a kiss of sun on your shoulders. I'm thinking of strappy sundresses with light cardigans over top, matching simple prints with bright colors. I can't wait!

  • Angie replied 11 years ago

    Come and live in Seattle in the Summer time! Our Summers are stunning (usually). 75 to 80 and sunshine all day - although I would love it a little hotter. No humidity.

    Great epiphanies, Ana :)

  • Ana replied 11 years ago

    This is so great! Thank you everyone for your responses. I'm really enjoying reading over them.

    IK, Inorite? I read an article last year that said La nina again this year means higher temperatures, but hopefully more rain than last year. We'll see, I guess.

    Cocolion and Claire, thanks for your detailed responses! It looks like we're approaching summer clothing shopping from the same direction. Claire, I do have some handbags, about 3 "real" handbags and two canvas bags that I use as handbags, plus a few clutches and wristlets. I am on the lookout for some others, but most days I just carry my laptop bag instead of a handbag.

    Texstyle, I know what you mean! Fliplops are everywhere around here. I've heard good things about Summer Soles, which are some kind of sweat absorbing insole you can stick to your shoes.

    RITM, yay! I'm glad you're looking forward to summer! I have a few friends here who love summer, even when it's hot outside. : )

    Angie, I soooooo wish! When I make my first million, I'm buying a summer cottage on Lake Washington. ; )

    Thanks everyone!

  • Tanya replied 11 years ago

    Thank you for the great post Ana! I am also struggling with summer dressing and this will certainly help a lot. I sympathize with you, as 6 months of hot and humid weather is waiting for me as well.
    I have do admit that I am dreading dressing for work in the summer with all the rules and restrictions ( no skirts, dresses, shorts, open toed shoes, etc.), plus the freezing AC inside.
    How does one stay fresh and cool in pants/jeans and short-sleeved top when it is more than 80 degrees outside and humid? And even if there was an outfit or two that would fit the bill, hoe does one not get bored? Sigh...

  • Aida replied 11 years ago

    Great resolutions list Ana! I am glad that I don't have to deal with scorching long summers, I'm pretty sure I'd have melted away into a sad nothingness years ago ;) On rare hot days if I find I miss layering, I've found that thin tissue-weight tops/tanks (you know, those sheer ones that most people avoid?) can be layered without getting too hot if they're natural fibers. I prefer shorts to skirts, even in hot hot weather, and having several different lengths/fabrications/colors helps keep things interesting enough. I also pick up a couple jersey dresses that I don't mind tossing at the end of the season if they need it (I think your pal TXSarah also does this). What about silk blouses? I was able to wear mine in fairly warm temps last year.

  • Jonesy replied 11 years ago

    It's so tough--wow, 80 days straight of 100+ degrees....I'm sweating bullets just thinking about it. Your strategy sounds great! I tend to dress down quite a bit in the summer and sort of "allow" myself to do that, if that makes sense. I try to focus more on quirky, colorful accessories, like sandals or earrings or a handbag, then just go with loose lightweight colorful fabrics. But I have it easy compared to you Texans!

  • mm88 replied 11 years ago

    Thanks for this post! I used only wear one of 3 things in the summer: light dresses, golf shorts/skorts or board/cargo style shorts. In the past, I tried to keep things interesting with my vast collection of childish graphic ts. Now that I've chucked them out, dressing myself for the hot weather has once again become a challenge!

    I think living in Canada has made me a little cautious of not wearing layers. I always seem to have a light cardigan handy, even in summer, because you never know what's going to happen when the sun starts to set. 30C -> 7C? Entirely possible.

    This summer, I'm looking to upgrade my closet with some nice light blouses, but so far, I haven't had any luck. I picked up a nice, light plain red dress last summer, could be worn on it's own or with a belt. I think buying versatile items is important, so hopefully I'll be able to find things that can be worn multiple ways or with other items in fall/spring.

  • Suz replied 11 years ago

    This is such a great post, Ana! Even though my dominant season is fall/winter, and our summers are quite short, they ARE often hot and humid, and I agree with every one of your resolutions! I don't have any particular wisdom to share but I did want to check in and thank you!

  • Heather replied 11 years ago

    I relish spring and summer and wish they stayed year round.

    I wish you cool, chic and comfortable days this summer, Ana! :D

  • Debbie replied 11 years ago

    Ana Thank-you for posting this.
    I realized some things after reading this. I think almost every top needs a cami. Making everything instantly hot. I love dresses and skirts for the summer but I want to try and steer away from knits. Something to put on my shopping list for the meet up.
    I love sandals. I would like to have another pair but not black. Summer shoes in the rain is a problem that we have not had in years. I need to think about that.

    It will be a long hot summer. Can't wait to see what ideas everyone comes up with!

  • ironkurtin replied 11 years ago

    I am going to make the (apparently unpopular) vote for a cami under. Almost all of my summer tops are loose and sheer, and I wear a sheerish, almost tissue-like cami with a built-in bra underneath them. Viola, no unsighly bra lines, no hint of pink, and no underwires.

    The downside is that you have to wash both the cami and the top you wore over, but I have found this the best way to dress in the hot so far.

  • AJ replied 11 years ago

    I'm nodding along as I read each item on your check list! A lot of my tops are button downs and I usually have to wear a cami under because of the gaps between buttons. So cute summer tops that don't need additional layering are a priority on my list as well.

    Something that I've done for a couple of summers now when the temps get 90+ and I have to be outdoors is to wear simple bikini tops as my bra. Less material and it's quick drying when I'm sweating bullets. Granted, I know this is not a solution for everybody. My girls don't need that need much support so this works for me.

    I also got a denim vest but it has an unusual "dusty" finish to it and I'm still mulling over whether it is the right fit for my spring/summer wardrobe.

    Sandal wise, I think I'm good. I just need to concentrate on tops and bottoms. I really like IK's idea of having two separate summer capsules for hot and REAL HOT temps. I think I'm going to incorporate that too.

    Thanks again for starting this thread. I can't get enough of summer wear conversations either!

  • Ana replied 11 years ago

    I don't think it's going to be super rainy this year, just more rainy than last year, which I guess isn't saying much since I think it only rained once or twice. I usually just wear sandals in summer rain because they dry pretty quickly.

    Tanya, could you wear shorts or a skirt and slip on sandals to walk over to your work and then change into pants once you get there? I know it's not very far so it might not be worth it, but if it's very hot it might be something to consider.

    Aida, I like shorts as well because they absorb sweat better than skirts do. All my shorts are about 4.5" inseam. 5"-7" are an awkward length on me, and I find knee length too hot. I am trying to find some brightly colored shorts that are more structured, smooth cotton as opposed to chino. J. Crew has some cute options right now. I'm also trolling Target and TJ Maxx for "disposable" knit dresses for this summer.

    Jonesy, I am definitely focused on experimenting with some fun accessories this summer. I like printed canvas bags because if they get dirty, I can just toss them in the washer and they usually have more interesting designs or text than other kinds of bags. Plus they're cheap, so I can have quite a few and not break the bank. : )

    mm88, I like this strategy! Focus on things that can bridge into fall with layering.

    Thanks for the well wishes, Suz and Heather!

    Debbie, I'm looking forward to the meetup! I need to make a list.

    IK, this sounds like a good plan! Unfortunately, my babies are double Ds (or fortunately I guess, if you ask my DH). I've found they don't fit into one of those shelf bras, and I end up cutting it out. I've found some nice layering camis with no shelf bra at Banana Republic, but they're kind of thick. Where do you get the tissue weight camis? I might give them a try for the few things I have that require a layering piece.

  • Ana replied 11 years ago

    Thanks, AJ! I think the bikini top idea is pretty good! I don't think it work for me, but why doesn't someone make like a really fabulous "summer bra" and it can have underwires and be made out of bathing suit or that wicking sports bra material so it will stay cool and be easy to wash? And it could come in 34DD, hee. One of my friends wears a real sports bra all summer, but she has a very sporty style and wears thicker t-shirts so you can't see the straps or anything.

    I'm definitely focusing on silk tops for this summer. I don't mind getting things dry cleaned and I decided that silk just seems dressier than knit, even if the shape and style of the item is more casual. I think it's a good balance for me, since I tend to like dressier things but have a more casual lifestyle.

  • ironkurtin replied 11 years ago

    Ana, all of my camis are from the now-defunct ParkVogel. I am hoarding the few I have left. Really dreading when they get too gross to wear underneath other things... Hoping that j.park (one f the Park Vogel designers) will still make them. These are one of the items I can honestly say I wear TO DEATH.

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