How to dress for summer: 8 essential tips for hot weather dressing

Feel cool and look cool by following these essential tips for dressing in the summer

How to dress for summer
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’ve survived the often unbearable heat so far this summer, then you’ve been doing something right. With a lot more sun still ahead of us it’s a great time to dive into our wardrobes and rethink what the right selection should be to stay cool, along with adding the right style tweaks to look and feel sharp at work, the weekends and, of course, a relaxing holiday.

There should be more to summer style than just shirts and shorts. Practical considerations like breathable fabrics and the right pair of sunglasses are important, but this time of year is also ideal for finessing your look with vibrant colours and patterns as well. Here’s our guide on how to dress for summer.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

1. Summer colours

The way you dress in summer should reflect your personal taste, but it should also mirror the mood of the season. That’s why this is the time of year to wear the brightest colours that match the broad smiles, blue skies and social buzz that come with it. So now is the time to be wearing colours. Not only does the added brightness open up your styling options, but it will also keep you cooler in comparison to heat-absorbing darker colours.

That doesn’t mean you need to go crazy and throw together several bold colours at once. You won’t be layering much at the moment anyhow, which can help to soften the contrast, so one strong colour per outfit should be enough. And also the darker your skin tone is (or becomes as you tan) the better bright colours will look.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

2. Choosing fabrics

If you wore a tank top made entirely of polyester on a hot day, you might feel a whole lot more uncomfortable than if you wore a long-sleeve shirt made of cotton. For that reason you should check the fabric you’re buying next time you punch in your credit card number. Getting this right, in combination with colours, is a game-changing combination. Lightweight, breathable fabrics that don’t hug the skin should be at the top of your list.

Two of the most reliable fabrics to wear in summer are cotton and linen. Cotton will be your go to choice for most outfits due to its lightweight, moisture-wicking properties. There are many varieties of cotton, but seersucker will keep you most comfortable due to its looser weave and better air circulation. Linen is not your everyday fabric as it leans more towards a statement. But even this is a great reason to pick up a linen shirt, or trousers (or both) to flex at your next summer party.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

3. Loosen the fit

Aside from breathable fabrics, clothing that is designed with a looser fit is essential to dressing the right way for summer. Even a small pair of shorts on a hot day will make you sweat if they hug your body. And you shouldn’t always rely on fabrics to absorb moisture. Loose-fitting fabrics will keep you cooler and have the added benefit of looking stylish as well.

Before you go out and bulk buy XL everything, bear in mind that your clothing needs just enough slack to allow air to flow. That’s because the air will move around your body heat and sweat and help you avoid discomfort even when it’s sweltering outside. Finding loose-fitting apparel is also very easy to do – many designers and big brands cater to this style.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

4. Do more with shorts

You naturally want your summer attire to be comfortable and practical, and a stylish pair of shorts is one of the best ways to do that. Although you might have several pairs in rotation already, it’s worth taking a look at how and where you wear them to see if you can sharpen your look up while staying comfortable.

Also take into account that shorts are generally a casual item. So even though it might be scorching hot, you could easily wear them to a weekend picnic, but it might be too relaxed for the office. However, you can sharpen an outfit with shorts that have straight, clean lines rather than a baggy fit or bulging pockets. And unlike trousers, it’s a great idea to select shorts with vibrant colours rather than just neutrals. You can balance this out with shirts and shoes in more subdued tones to even it out.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

5. Shirt selection

You can’t dress for summer without getting the essentials right, which should make your choice of shirt a priority. There are a stack of options to choose from, so try to narrow it down by going for a selection of T-shirts, shirts and polos adjusted to your style. Pick up a few white crew neck tees before moving toward bold colours, and grab some collared shirts with long and short sleeves and you’ll be covered for work attire along with weekend outings. 

Polo shirts can be a divisive garment due to their preppy associations, but if you leave the Ray Bans, boat shoes and gelled quiff out, it can be a solid addition to your summer wardrobe. To keep your shirt selection versatile, mix up the neutral and brighter colours with patterns or stripes that can be coordinated with complementary items like sneakers and shorts. Go easy on the graphic tees, though, as the novelty usually wears off quickly.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

6. Making trousers work

While you might not think covering your legs will keep you cool in summer, trousers are still a solid option right throughout. Unless they’re in sun-absorbing dark colours, the right trousers are still comfortable and can also shield you from sunlight when it’s scorching. Aside from colour selection, which is often best to keep neutral unless you’re trying to make a statement, there are a couple of other points to look out for.

The first is opting for breathable fabrics that will allow you to stay cool throughout the day. Obviously in winter you want to keep the heat in, but if you choose wisely, then no sweat. The second is buying trousers with a looser fit. Even if this isn’t your regular styling, trousers that sit off the body – versus something like skinny jeans – and, as mentioned, allows air to move around and, with it, your body heat.

(Image credit: Mr. Porter)

7. Choose the right footwear

Summer is the time where it’s almost mandatory to pick up a new pair of kicks. You can also have fun with this, unlike in winter when you’re looking mainly for sturdy, heavy boots to weather the elements. Case in point – the white sneaker. There is nothing logical about putting something you want to keep white on the ground, but white sneakers look great in summer and will match practically anything you throw at them. If white isn’t your thing, there are plenty of summer colourways with vibrant detailing to choose from.

Similarly to trousers, shoes can trap heat in and ruin your day. While you can definitely wear leather, especially if you’re in a suit regularly for work, there are still more reliable options for your summer wardrobe. Canvas and suede are less formal, but score high for comfort every time. Other solid options are the trusty Birkenstock and, of course, a stylish pair of flip flops.

(Image credit: Bucherer)

8. Don't forget about your watch

Wearing a watch in hot weather can be bothersome, especially if it's on a leather or rubber strap. We'd suggest choosing a piece that has a metal bracelet or canvas strap, as these are much more comfortable when things start to get a little hot under the cuff. 

It's also a good idea to think about the colour of your watch. Black and brown pieces don't really scream summer, so instead you might want to switch to a watch which has a blue face, such as those in the Bucherer Blue collection. These evoke momories of clear blue skies and sparkling azure waters – ideal for summer.

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Omar Hamwi