Thinking about what to wear in summer can be challenging. 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.
What to wear in summer – Putting together summer outfits
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 for your summer clothes
If you are only wearing one layer, make it as interesting as possible. I often choose tops that have an interesting design detail.
My top (above) has a twist detail which adds interest even though I’m simply wearing a gray top and white pants. Look out for an interesting drape, asymmetrical detail or pattern.
All you need is a good basic bottom like some nice white trousers or skirt and you will look, modern, polished yet remain cool.
Qearal cowl neck sleeveless top
Dudo (above) chooses a tie-waist top to add interest to her monochrome outfit. Check out a similar top here.
2. Dress in very thin layers in your summer wear for women.
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.
Monica (above) adds a lightweight linen blazer to add an element of layering during the summer months. You can find a similar striped jacket here.
3. Hide those bra straps when wearing summer style
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.
Of course panty lines should be avoided too. I regularly wear panties from Uniqlo and Marks & Spencer.
4. Invest in a few good dresses
hereGet a similar floral dress here and an asymmetrical sleeveless dress here.
Cute summer outfits – the dresses you need
Nothing is as easy and glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally you will have at least 5 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.
Choose a dress that will be perfect for the beach but can also be used as a tunic worn over pants for casual clothes.
When I go to the beach I prefer to cover up rather than expose all my upper skin to the sun.
I could easily wear my tunic (above) with a pair of cropped pants, white jeans or leggings.
You can combine with either shorts or a long skirt if you like to cover up your legs as well.
2. A summer day dress
This dress should be 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. Asymmetry will add interest to an otherwise simply day dress.
I’ve also found myself more drawn to patterned and floral dresses this year.
Eileen Fisher asymmetrical shift dress
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.
Sam Edelman asymmetrical dress
5. A maxi dress
You may also want to add a maxi dress to your summer outfit choices. They can be a particularly good option for vacation time as they manage to be easy-to-wear yet glamorous at the same time.
Georgette (above) looks super stylish as well as being comfortable in her lightweight summer dress. This is a Lou & Grey limited edition dress that sold out very quickly. But you can check this one out for a similar look. You can read more about Georgette’s style in her style interview here.
5. Don’t be afraid of silk when choosing summer clothes for women
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.
Eileen Fisher silk & cotton top
6. Summer outfit ideas: Cover up in smart ways
Ann Klein cowl neck top – Eileen Fisher asymmetrical drape top – Chaus shark bite top – Ann Klein asymmetrical tunic top
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 articles too:
– 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 when choosing summer fashion
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 pear, apple, inverted triangle, hourglass 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 casual summer outfits more interesting
Accessorizing and playing with colors and patterns is the perfect way to make 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 they are cute. You may check these cute sandals for summer
Ann Klein drawstring midi dress
Sandra (above) lifts her white dress outfit with her accessories. Check out her cute sunglasses from Amazon. You can find a similar orange heels here and a similar colorful clutch here.
Claudia (above) adds the wow factor to her outfit with striped pants. Here is a pair of similar pants that you can get to copy this style.
9. Have fun with sunglasses with your summer wear
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 and have fun with colors and shapes.
For more tips on wearing glasses read what glasses to buy after 40and how to pick the right frames.
Quay Australia square sunglasses– Kate Spade square sunglasses– Ray-Ban Clubmaster sunglasses – Le Specs cat eye sunglasses
Madeline (above) looks fabulous in her classic aviator shades.
10. Wear white in your summer outfits for women
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 it.
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.
Something Navy button-up midi dress
Look at these cute summer clothes below for white inspiration
Gloria (above) opts for a stylish white jumpsuit, tied at the waist and teamed with high-top sneakers. You can find a similar piece here.
Kristina (above) wears an all-white outfit with tan accessories. You can get a similar top here and trousers here.
Here are some more summer attire ideas
A dress is easy to wear as you hardly need anything further apart from a few accessories.
If you select the right dress for your body type,you will always look put together and polished.
Here are just a few examples.
What to wear in summer
What are you looking forward to wearing most this summer? Do you have a favorite look from the above.
For even more tips you can read a previous post where I discuss all the DOs 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.
What are your best tips for what to wear in summer?
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My friends and I are planning to book a staycation and we decided to bring old clothes, then mix and match them for new outfit ideas. I love how you twist up a dress that would be perfect for the beach under your bikinis and can also be used as a tunic worn over pants. Thanks for this article that I can also share with my friends for basic outfit trends. This is such a great read!
I find it very difficult in summer to know what to wear. Recently went on holiday and couldn’t fit into anything – I just seem to bloat around the tummy as soon as I get there. Had trouble getting swimwear on and even my bracelets wouldn’t go on my wrist. I only put on a pound in weight so don’t think it was eating too much. It’s very frustrating when you take and plan nice outfits and then can’t wear them. My tummy is quite big anyway but I’m not big elsewhere. I think no. 2 summer day dress is the only option but I would look pregnant! And what to wear in the evening?
We have had an extremely hot June in Germany and I have found my uniform of wide legged viscose trousers and a white top in linen or a very crisp T-shirt very useful. I put on a pure silk top one day- 38 degrees- and won’t ever again as it showed up all my sweat and I felt very embarrassed. Cotton sops it up better. I definitely don’t touch polyester in the summer. I don’t even want to wear much jewellery when it’s so hot and scarves were also too hot, so it is definitely harder dressing for work in very hot temperatures (no air conditioning where I work.) Thank you for all your tips. Very useful.
I’ve lived in Texas for over 30 years but spent the first 25 in the north US. I’ve learned A LOT about dressing for the heat and sun. It is brutal on the skin and my #1 tip is sunscreen, hats, sunglasses in that order. Don’t forget your driving arm! I stick to short skirts and dresses if I can find them to fit. I’m an (slight) apple and inverted triangle and only 5 feet tall. Much navigating to be done but still have very good (short) legs! so play up that part and it works with scarves and hats. Thanks for your images and ideas Sylvia. I look forward to seeing your posts.
I wear cotton tunics when it’s hot in the UK – no need to reveal too much, but they keep me cool.
Almost all of these tips are just so amazing to live up to summer season. Loved the thin layer idea….this one is absolutely I wold love to adhere to.
Thanks for sharing.
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
Great tips! I love lots of thin layers and I can’t imagine leaving the house without sunglasses.
Thanks for the inspiration. –Susan
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!
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!
Great to hear that you are a bikini girl too Lorraine!
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
Hi Marie, I store all the articles particularly relating to the latest trends here https://40plusstyle.com/category/fashion-tips-for-women-over-40/
I LOVE the back of the lilac silk top at number 5! It is really interesting and unexpected.
Marie D. (Australia)
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!
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.
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!
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.
I know. I find it quite important. It makes a difference of looking sloppy and polished…
Great post Sylvia. Many good suggestions on looking great while sweltering in the heat!
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
Thanks for your feedback Conny! Great to have you here!
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.
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.
Thanks Annette. Happy that you found the article useful. Enjoy the sunshine!
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!
yes, I forgot about the hats but they are very important too. Certainly wear them whenever I go to the beach!