I’ll go right ahead and say it: I am not a summer fashion person. Growing up in Puerto Rico, warm-weather clothing made up my year-round wardrobe and I hated it all my life. But my disdain for stereotypical resortwear goes beyond my love of tailoring, textures like plaid and knits, and black clothing. I find that, often, summer styles are romanticized to levels I can’t quite wrap my head around. In fashion campaigns and cruise shows, the vibrant prints, maxi dresses and caftans, and raffia accessories promise an escape from the more buttoned-up fashion of other seasons, yet never quite deliver IRL. A Caribbean villa with a private beach has yet to materialize whenever I bring out my gladiator sandals. Instead, I find myself running around with straps falling off my skin and sunglasses slipping from sweating my makeup and SPF off.
Not only does stereotypical summer fashion strip away the layers available to play with in other seasons, but, beachwear aside, it’s also never functional for everyday life. Not to mention, uncomfortable for people with skin conditions that can’t be exposed to the sun — take, for example, my keratosis pilaris — or those who don’t enjoy wearing revealing clothes.
I’ve long rebelled against the hot shorts and spaghetti straps agenda, choosing breathable pants, neutral colors, and more structured pieces come June. In the process, I’ve found ways to make summer fashion work for me with outfit formulas that balance sharp tailoring that I’ve come to love with the effortless nature of warm-weather styles.
If you also feel hostage to sundresses and tank tops, here are five foolproof outfit formulas to cope with the season’s heat without trading your personal style.
I’ve long relied on wide-leg trousers to keep me cool in the summer. I often pair them with equally flowy, oversized button-down shirts that don’t stick to my skin and allow me to open and close buttons depending on how hot it gets. The key is to keep the colors in this formula as neutral as possible, so you can accessorize for all types of activities. Add a raffia hat and flat sandals, and it’s a brunch outfit. Mix in heels and a leather handbag, and you’re ready for dinner or rooftop drinks.
In the summertime, there are few worse feelings than wearing clothes that stick to your body, which is why a boxy shirt and flowy shorts are always a good idea. I also like adding a harness or corset on top — depending on the temperature — and heels to add some interest to the fairly simple formula.
One of the best ways to add texture and layers to your summer wardrobe is to simply tie a sweater around your shoulders. I’m not talking about a scratchy winter sweater; a lightweight striped crewneck or an open-knit cardigan will protect your skin from the sun without scorching your body. Although this styling trick is an old one, it’s been popularized recently by It Girls like Sofia Richie and Kendall Jenner, who are spiking the stealth wealth trend. If the sweater’s too warm on your shoulders, you can always wrap it around your waist.
A flowy top and tailored shorts is my hot-weather version of a tailored suit. (Alternatively, you can go for a matching vest set.) In the summer, I like to play with prints, like stripes, to keep the look from looking boring or wintery. A neutral-colored monochrome suit will also be easier to style with a wide range of accessories and pops of color (if that’s your thing).
From summer concerts to fashion shows, shirtdresses are one of my most versatile hot-weather pieces. They are the best blank canvas for accessorizing, easily paired with anything from a pair of sneakers to glitter platforms. (A black T-shirt dress can also double as a fall essential come September.) For the past two summers, I’ve worn my white shirt dress with everything from a leather harness to raffia platforms and corsets.
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