How to dress for summer – my top 10 tips & tricks

by Sylvia

how to dress for summer
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Summer can be a challenging season to dress for many women. You reveal more about yourself and your body than in any other season and have fewer layering tricks at your disposal to either cover up certain parts or create a nice silhouette.  It’s also harder to create a ‘new’ look every day, since you can’t really play too much with jackets, layers and scarves. Since I have been living in very hot weather year round for many years now, I have become very familiar with summer dressing, so here are some of my best tips & tricks for dressing for this season.

1. Use interesting design details

redsilktop

If you are only wearing one layer, make it as interesting as possible. I often choose tops that have an interesting design detail. Take for example this red silk top. It’s very airy and very interesting at the back. All you need is a good basic bottom like some nice white trousers or skirt and you will look, modern, polished yet remain cool.

2. Dress in very thin layers.

layering

When I go to the beach I prefer to cover up rather than expose all my upper skin to the sun. This is easy to do when you have a few very thin blouses or tunics. It doesn’t matter if they are see-through because you will be wearing it with either your bikini or singlet underneath. you can combine with either shorts or a long skirt if you like to cover up your legs as well.

3. Hide those bra straps

blacktopwithhiddenbra

I personally don’t like to see bra straps. If you are wearing a unique top, make sure that you have a bra that can be worn invisible underneath. You can either buy a bra that can be worn in several ways or buy a bra clip like this one. This can be used with almost every bra.

braclip-novplpanties

Of course panty lines should be avoided too. I’m loving these no vpl perfect low rise shorts from Marcs & Spencer 

4. Invest in a few good dresses

differentdresses

Nothing is as easy and glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally you will have at least 4 dresses:

  1. A high summer beach dress. This dress can be shorter than your other dresses and is easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle too easily and is not too precious.  A good example is my white cotton dress although it could also be a simple dress with spaghetti straps. Perfect for the beach but can also be used as a tunic worn over pants for casual clothes.
  2. A summer day dress: this is the perfect dress for casual get-togethers during the day. This could be a nice wrap dress in cotton jersey or a casual shift dress. My butterfly dress has turned out to be a very popular day dress for myself.
  3. A work dress: a traditional shift dress that looks both professional and conservative and that can be easily combined with a jacket or cardigan.
  4. A dress for the evening. A dress that is a bit more special than your day and work dress. Silk is my preferred material for a special dress in summer and ideally it’s asymmetrical too! Since I believe in wearing your nice clothes as often as possible I often wear this purple silk dress during the day too!

5. Don’t be afraid of silk

pink and purple silk max mara alldressedup

I have mentioned silk a few times already. Together with good quality cotton it is my preferred material for summer. It’s cool, has a beautiful natural shine and it looks and feels sublime. If you can combine that with tip number 2, you have a true winner on your hands!

A common complaint is that silk is too precious for summer and that it requires too much care. However, I am able to wash all my silk clothes by hand. Yes, it’s more work, but not as expensive as dry cleaning. Although all silk items will always have the ‘dry cleaning’ advice for washing, I personally don’t believe it’s necessary so long as you purchase silk of good quality. Of course, you will have to do this at your own risk. I will not take any responsibility if this does not work for you! (just sharing how I personally manage my silk items).

It’s true of course that silk is more expensive. But I feel it’s worth investing is one special dress that will make you feel wonderful. When you look after your dress well, it can last for many years.

6. Cover up in smart ways

cut out sleeves

In summer you need to be even smarter with the types of clothes you choose when you want to cover up certain areas. I personally don’t believe in using shape wear too much as it’s far too hot and uncomfortable. Instead choose smart tops, skirts and dresses that drape in all the right areas to cover up any bulges. Asymmetric dresses and tops are usually very good at doing that.

Have a look at the following previously written articles:

- How to cover up your upper arms while staying stylish and cool
- How to hide your belly with the right clothes

Here are some of my favorite tops to hide your belly and favorite asymmetric tops and dresses currently available in stores.

7. Dress for your body type

In this season in particular, it’s very important to dress for your body type. Look at some of the guidelines in my articles on the pearappleinverted triaglehourglass and rectangular shape. Apples for example look much better in tops that are fitted around the bust and wider around the tummy. The same counts for dresses. Here are also some tips on how to wear capris the right way.

8. Use accessories, shoes, color, pattern and graphics to make things more interesting

skinny white trousers

Accessoring and playing with colors and patterns is perfect for making your summer outfit more interesting.

  • Play with color blocking
  • Add a belt in a print
  • Add interest with a brightly colored scarf (for lots of example see how to wear scarves)
  • Use the scarf itself as a top
  • Add color with a bag
  • Use a statement necklace
  • Get some colorful standout shoes
  • When wearing flats make sure it’s a fun and arty one

9. Have fun with sunglasses

sunglasses

Sunglasses are the perfect way to cover up your wrinkles and dark circles around the eye for a young and hip look. Use them in abundance in summer, if only to protect your eyes of the sun and harmful rays aand have fun with colors and shapes. For more tips on wearing glasses read what glasses to buy after 40 and how to pick the right frames.

10. Wear white

spring2012trendallwhite

White is your best friend in summer. It is the most versatile color to wear and whenever I don’t know what to wear I turn to this. Combine with almost every color and pattern in your closet for a clean, modern look! Or while all white. For more tips check out how to wear white and how to wear white pants.

For even more tips you can read a previous post where I discuss all the DO and DON’T of summer dressing. For more inspiration on summer dressing, you can also visit the What I Wore section of this site where I showcase many of my own outfits.

For some live interaction and even more summer style secrets, watch this video!

I mentioned Heather from The Style Confessions in the video who shows off her beach body with confidence. Read her interview here and see how she rocks a bikini!

What are your best tips for summer dressing?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

traceyliz65

I have a blog post planned for summer accesorizing and sunglasses and hats are a definite. Would like to say try playing with scarves on your hats for variety. I embraced hats in my early 20′s and attribute that and great skin care routine for my great skin now. All of these are great suggestions and things we can all do!

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Sylvia

yes, I forgot about the hats but they are very important too. Certainly wear them whenever I go to the beach!

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Annette Quinn

Great article, come at must the right time, as the sun is out. I live in a very cold climate, so find dressing for the sun very hard.

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Sylvia

Thanks Annette. Happy that you found the article useful. Enjoy the sunshine!

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Conny von A Hemad und a Hos

Hello Sylvia, the idea with the clip to hold the bra is great. So far I only knew to stick with the method I was never satisfied, because that does not keep well for me. Your silk outfits like very much, I love silk as well and try to take good care of the things – I wash all by hand. And hope there are no grease stains while eating. Greetings from Conny

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Sylvia

Thanks for your feedback Conny! Great to have you here!

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Conny von A Hemad und a Hos

I’m really impressed. With so many readers you notice that I’m new. I’m pleased – thank you. You’re doing a great job here.

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Rebecca

Great post Sylvia. Many good suggestions on looking great while sweltering in the heat!

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Sylvia

Thanks Rebecca!

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Heidi

Great tips–especially on bra straps. That one drives me crazy as it’s so easy to address, either with the strap clip or one of the many different styles of bra with alternate strap profiles.

I also find outfit creation a bit more challenging in warmer weather when I can’t rely on layering as much. I’ll be on the lookout for more light layers. I’ve also found that lightweight scarves are a good accessory in summer.

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Sylvia

I know. I find it quite important. It makes a difference of looking sloppy and polished…

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Marie S

Thanks for this Sylvia. Great tips! I really struggle with summer dressing and sometimes feel that I wear the same thing all year round but with fewer layers!! The UK summers have not been that great recently so I could get away with it but it would be nice to have some lovely outfits prepared for when we do get some warm weather. I love your use of white and am inspired to have a go at using more white especially trousers. I also like to wear dresses in the summer.

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Sylvia

I feel for you Marie… I hear everyone in Europe complaining. You all really deserve some beautiful days! Definitely try white and you can never go wrong with a nice dress!

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Marie dowling

I LOVE the back of the lilac silk top at number 5! It is really interesting and unexpected.
Marie D. (Australia)

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Sylvia

I really like these kind of tops which would be suitable for colder climates as well. You could use them for layering as they are simple in the front, yet have something special to wear when it gets hotter in summer!

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Marie Dowling

Hi Sylvia, thank you so much for all your wonderful information. Since I live in the opposite hemisphere (Australia), is there an archive area on your site so that i can read past posts about the opposite seasons?
Warm regards from Melbourne which was a wet and cold 14 degrees today
Marie Dowling

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Sylvia

Hi Marie, I store all the articles particularly relating to last fall here: http://40plusstyle.com/category/fashion-tips-for-women-over-40/prefall-2012-collections/ Use the navigation menu at the top to see all categories.

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Lorraine

I am with you on the visible bra straps – ugh! – but haven’t seen that gadget. I can personally vouch for the M&S ‘shorts’ – the nude ones are the best to wear under white (NOT white, as it shows) and are perfect if you don’t like thongs. Some of them have a special strip around the waist and legs that keeps them in place on your butt too.
I was happy to hear about Sharon Stone’s knees, as she is the same age as me (as is Madonna!) but my shorts days are well and truly over! I DO wear capris (but not the leg flapping variety) and never with socks (LOL!). I always wear bikinis rather than swimsuits. A spray tan is relatively cheap and lasts for a week if you nurture it. It gives you confidence, especially if you have just arrived at your holiday destination and are glaringly white, and gives you chance to get some natural colour!

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Sylvia

Great to hear that you are a bikini girl too Lorraine!

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Lorraine

I hope to remain one Sylvia………..
I find swimsuits frumpy on me but to be honest I don’t think anybody is looking at me so I don’t care as long as I feel good!

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Susan

Great tips! I love lots of thin layers and I can’t imagine leaving the house without sunglasses.
Thanks for the inspiration. –Susan

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Tina Boomerina

Sylvia, good solid tips. You’re one of the few bloggers who can think for herself. I will pin this even though your style is polished/tailored and my style is boho. I want to come back and read this again later. T

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