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. That’s why this article brings you tips on how to dress for summer with all the summer essentials you need.
Why is dressing well more difficult in summer?
Much more than in winter or any other season, many women over 40 just don’t look as good as they could in summer. I can think of a number of reasons as to why this is.
- Perhaps you own less clothes for the summer season.
- There is less reason to wear layers and clothes that were only meant to be worn with additional clothes are now worn on their own.
- You want to be comfortable and cool first (style comes in second place).
- You may be wearing capris, wide short pants, shorts, tops with cut-outs etc. even when they may not flatter your body type.
- Perhaps you are in holiday or summer mode and your appearance isn’t as much of a priority when considering what to wear in summer.
- It’s also harder to create a ‘new’ look every day, since you can’t really play too much with jackets, layers and scarves.
What to wear in summer – our tips for Putting together summer outfits
However, with a little thought, and some clever techniques, you can look stylish every day during summer.
In this article you’ll find our best tips and tricks for dressing during the summer season.
Plus, read on for the summer essentials you need in your closet, and a summer capsule wardrobe with summer outfit inspiration.
1. Use interesting design details for your summer clothes
If you are only wearing one layer, make it as interesting as possible. You can consider tops that have an interesting design detail.
All you need is a good basic bottom like some nice white trousers, crop jeans or your favorite skirt and you will look, modern, polished yet remain cool.
The Karen Kane top (below) features asymmetry which is useful to hide a belly, as well as being loose and cool to wear so it’s ideal if you are thinking about what to wear in summer while also covering a tummy. It comes in a choice of colors, and wearers say it is nice, airy, flattering, and can be dressed up or worn with jeans.
My top (below) 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.
2. Dress in very thin layers
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 could wear a thin ruana or kimono over your outfit like a duster jacket. Then, if you are on vacation, you could wear over your swimsuit as a cover up.
3. Hide those bra straps when wearing summer style
Bra straps will ruin your look, unless they are very fancy. 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 clips. This can be used with almost every bra.
The Wacoal bra (below) for example would go well under racerback tops.
4. Invest in a few good dresses
Nothing is as easy and glamorous and cool as a good summer dress. Ideally, you will have at least 5 dresses:
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.
The Eileen Fisher shirtdress (below) is linen which should keep you cool.
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 (below) 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.
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 or shirt dress. Asymmetry will add interest to an otherwise simply day dress.
If you opt for a plain dress, you could wear a statement necklace to add interest.
A work dress
A traditional shift dress that looks both professional and conservative and that can be easily combined with a jacket or cardigan. The zip on the sheath dress (below) adds interest. This dress could double up as an evening dress.
A dress for the evening
A dress that is a bit more special than your day and work dress. Look out for luxurious fabrics like silk, or details like asymmetry.
The Chelsea28 dress (below) features an asymmetric hem, and could be dressed up for a summer event or dinner, or down with flat sandals and a denim jacket.
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. You can wear casually with a denim jacket, or dress up your maxi dress with a blazer.
5. Don’t be afraid of silk when choosing summer clothes
We have mentioned silk a few times already. Together with good quality cotton it is a great 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, you can usually wash your silk items 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, it is not always necessary so long as you purchase silk of good quality. Of course, you will have to do this at your own risk. We will not take any responsibility if this does not work for you! (just sharing how we personally manage our silk items).
It’s true of course that silk is more expensive. But it’s worth investing in one special dress or top that will make you feel wonderful. When you look after your clothes well, they can last for many years.
A big plus of silk is that the fabric is also super light weight, so you’ll be able to pack more clothes for your holiday!
The Massimo Dutti silk shirt (below) would look stylish with your white jeans.
6. Summer outfit ideas: Cover up in smart ways
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 shapewear 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.
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.
Women with the apple body type 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.
Georgette @grownandcurvywoman flatters her curves by ensuring she shows off her waistline.
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
- Use a scarf 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.
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. A cats eye shape is always flattering for older women as it draws the eye upwards, defying gravity.
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 wear all white.
Vince Band Collar Silk Blouse – Massimo Dutti Linen Double Darted Suit Trousers – Aimee Kestenberg Bali Double Entry Leather Hobo – Munro Mel Metallic T-Strap Sandal – Karine Sultan Fleur de Lis Pendant Necklace
We’ve already covered some summer essentials above, but what else might you need? Let’s take a look at the summer essentials to make sure you have in your closet.
Every wardrobe needs a great t-shirt. And this t-shirt (below) from the Caslon brand is a little bit different thanks to the twist at the hem, but it will go with just as many outfits as a “plain” t-shirt would.
Carmen @carmen_gimeno above shows how you could wear an otherwise relatively plain outfit of a pair of jeans and t-shirt, and wear your kimono over the top.
You’re also likely to want a dressier top in your summer closet. The silk blouse (below) is truly timeless and looks and feels luxurious.
A long tunic can be worn over your leggings or pants, or can be worn as a swimsuit cover-up on your vacation.
Massimo Dutti Line Maxi Oversize Shirt Blouse – Miraclesuit Rock Solid Avra Underwire One-Piece Swimsuit – Munro Mel Metallic T-Strap Sandal – Tumi Tyler Crossbody Bag – Karine Sultan Imitation Pearl Drop Earrings – Nordstrom Colorblock Wide Brim Panama Hat
What could be more perfect for keeping the chill at bay on cooler evenings than a cozy cardigan? Ideal for nights at home, or for casual days, worn with white jeans. The Stella Carakasi cardigan (below) comes in a choice of colors and has a flattering draped shape.
No matter where you live, you’re likely to need outerwear even if it is summer. This Open Edit blazer (below) is perfect for warmer months as it is made from breathable linen.
Susan @susan_unefemme above creates a summery look by adding sandals and a basket bag to her jeans and t-shirt outfit.
Layering is often key to creating flattering looks. You can use layers to hide a belly, for example, or to look taller than you really are.
One way to layer in the summer without adding a lot of extra bulk is to opt for a sleeveless vest. You could either wear this Lock and Love vest (below) over your shorts and t-shirts. Sleeveless vests look best worn over other sleeveless tops or dresses, or with long sleeves underneath.
A denim jacket is one of those closet staples that will always be on trend, particularly if you opt for a mid-blue in a classic shape, such as this jacket (below) from KUT from the Kloth.
KUT from the Kloth Helena Denim Jacket – Caslon Sleeveless Jersey Maxi Dress – Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Sneaker – Tumi Tyler Crossbody Bag – Karine Sultan Imitation Pearl Drop Earrings – Nordstrom Print Modal & Silk Scarf
Check out our list of the best women’s jackets for summer available in stores now.
Now onto the pants in this capsule! A pair of white pants or jeans is a summer classic that you can guarantee won’t date. The Massimo Dutti pants (below) will be on trend for seasons to come.
wide leg pants
A pair of wide leg pants are particularly on trend right now, and would look beautiful worn with your sandals, or dressed up for evening.
Sharryn @thestylishwoman above shows how you can add interest to a neutral outfit with the textures you choose and your accessories.
Neutrals are fabulous and tend to form the base of any capsule wardrobe so you can mix and match plenty of different ways.
But you could also think about adding a pop of color, such as red to your summer capsule.
Summer is also the perfect season to wear a pair of print pants. You could keep your top neutral, and let your print pants be the star of your outfit.
A pair of leggings are perfect for casual days. Wear with longer tunics for the most flattering effect. The Stella Carakasi leggings (below) are a 40+ favorite.
Depending on the weather where you are, or if you manage to head somewhere warmer this summer, you’re likely to want to add a pair of shorts to your summer closet.
Carelia @carelia_medich above wears her jeans with a classic blue shirt.
Also take a look at the best women’s shorts that fitter and flatter women over 40 of any body shape.
A jumpsuit is a perfect item to add to your summer capsule as it’s a full outfit in one. This Mango belted jumpsuit (below) is ideal as you can wear it casually with sneakers and a denim jacket, pair with sandals for warmer days, or add heels and a clutch bag for more formal evenings.
We love asymmetry in any outfit, so we couldn’t resist including at least one asymmetrical option in this summer essentials capsule. This Mango skirt below could be worn for summer with sandals. But you could also pair it with a sweater, moto jacket and booties for fall.
One pair of shoes that every summer capsule absolutely needs is a great pair of sandals. If you choose a neutral or metallic pair, they will go with everything in your closet.
Vince Band Collar Silk Blouse – Karen Kane Pleated High Waist Linen Shorts – Munro Mel Metallic T-Strap Sandal – Tumi Tyler Crossbody Bag – Nordstrom Colorblock Wide Brim Panama Hat – Nordstrom Print Modal & Silk Scarf
See our top picks for the best sandals this summer.
A pair of classic pumps are a style staple for any closet. Swapping your sandals for pumps can quickly take your outfit from day to evening.
A pair of sneakers is another good shoe choice to keep in your summer capsule. Sneakers have never been so on trend, and you can wear them with everything from your jeans to your dresses.
No matter what you are doing this summer, you’ll need a bag to carry your day-to-day essentials in. This Rebecca Minkoff tote is totally timeless, and choosing a tote in a pale color will give your outfit a summery look.
Jas @thefashionstylefile above shows how you could choose a tote in a darker shade and keep a summer feel to your outfit by pairing it with sandals.
If you’re looking for a travel bag, or just a day-to-day bag, this Tumi Tyler crossbody (below) is perfect.
Take a look at the best travel purses for your vacation or every day.
Of course, every capsule needs its finishing touches, and a statement necklace will give a contemporary look to your summer outfits.
Open Edit Oversize Linen Blend Blazer – Caslon Asymmetric Twist T-Shirt – Caslon Wide Leg Pull-On Linen Blend Pants – Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Sneaker – Rebecca Minkoff Megan Leather Tote – Karine Sultan Layered Pendant Necklace
Do you tend to wear earrings everyday, or just for special occasions? Either way, these Karine Sultan drop earrings (below) will go with pretty much everything in your closet.
what to wear in summer – a flattering swimsuit
If your summer will include time in the pool or at the beach, you will need a great swimsuit. The Miraclesuit one-piece (below) is a timeless classic.
Claudia @beafitmom.nl above wears a shirtdress over her high-waisted bikini.
You will find more swimsuit inspiration in our article on the most flattering swimsuits for women over 40.
A scarf looks just as stylish for summer as for the winter months. Simply choose a lightweight material and you can drape around your neck for a nonchalant look, or use as a wrap around your shoulders.
A summer hat is vital for protection from the sun, and can definitely add the “cool” factor to your outfits. So don’t forget to add a wide-brimmed hat when thinking about what to wear in summer.
Your summer Essentials capsule wardrobe
Below, you can see many of the summer essentials we have shown you, together in one capsule. You can mix and match the clothes to create different looks.
For example, you could wear the denim jacket or blazer over any of the outfits, you could wear the tunic over the white jeans, or you could dress up the jumpsuit with the heeled pumps.
shop the items above here:
What are you looking forward to wearing most this summer? What are your best tips for what to wear in summer?
- The Best Bathing Suits For Women Over 40 – Swim Suits That Make You Feel Fabulous!
- The Best Women’s Sandals For Summer 2023
- How To Choose A Summer Coat + The Best Women’s Jackets Available Online Right Now!
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Feature image by Jas @thefashionstylefile
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