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How to Dress Cool

We’ve reached the part of the summer where it’s virtually impossible to go outside without feeling sweaty and sticky in all of the wrong places. There are lots of tricks and tips for staying cool, like putting ice in front of a fan, staying hydrated, eating lighter meals. Your wardrobe can also help you keep cool in the summer heat. Here are a few ways to keep you feeling easy and breezy no matter the daily high.

First, opt for garments made from natural and breathable fabrics like linen and cotton. Tencel is also a solid material to help you stay as dry as possible in the heat. Quince and Magic Linen are two retailers offering various affordable pieces in airy fabrics. I like the 100% European Linen Button-front dress from Quince: it’s a great summer staple for a casual office setting, coming in eight different colors, and with pockets, it’s functional while also serving minimalistic chic. While Magic Linen’s Spaghetti Strap Zion cami works as a layering piece for both weekday and weekend looks.

Speaking of layering, most often, layers are associated with bundling up, which is the opposite of what you want to do when it’s hot and muggy outside. However, dressing in layers is essential for surviving summer as you move inside and outside.
Freezing air conditioning is ubiquitous for 21st-century summers — offices, grocery stores, and movie theaters they all can get downright arctic. In order to stay warm indoors while not becoming a sweating mess outside, you need to layer. You want to lean toward light pastel colors with your layers to reflect sunshine away from your body, as opposed to darker, richer tones that will absorb the heat. I like the idea of starting with a tank top in breathable fabric, a breezy oversized button-down shirt, and a summer sweater for inside. Then, maybe drape the sweater and unbutton the shirt as you transition outside. You can also tie the sweater around your waist and sling the button-down around your bag (or vice versa) for longer periods out of doors.

Summer sweaters are also great for summer nights — a lightweight knit, whether a pullover or cardigan, can pair quite effortlessly with a sundress. I’ve been eyeing up the Blythe Cropped Summer Sweater from Natural Life to slip on over a tank dress for post-dinner date strolls. This also has the potential for fall with a Henley shirt and jeans. Banana Republic’s Cait Linen-Blend Long-Sleeve sweater in white, tan, or navy is a more sophisticated take on summer knitwear. I can see this pairing nicely with a wide-leg cropped linen pant in the same color and flat sandals for a semi-formal night on the town.

Regardless, if you dress in layers and with whatever fabric your garments are made from, you should also be mindful of fit. Not fit, in the sense of wearing the correct size, but in fit in cut, shape, and silhouette. This is all to say you want to wear pieces that allow for movement and flow. Skintight or bodycon pieces are sweat traps in the summer heat. Oversized and baggy items keep things breezy and give your skin room to breathe, which is key to keeping cool. Plus, fuller skirts and drapey shirts can catch a bit of breeze for some personalized natural air conditioning.

Again, I can’t stress the importance of breathable, light fabric. Just because a garment appears to be summer-friendly doesn’t mean that it won’t end up causing and/or trapping heat and sweat. Check the tag and care instructions, especially for new purchases. Case in point, I fell for Instagram ads and ordered this dress from Cali Summer Sale that purports to be one of Oprah’s favorite loungewear pieces and that videos claim to be lightweight and perfect for summer. Well, I did not read the material details and ended up with a sleeveless mini-dress rendered in modal, polyester, and elastane. The first time I wore it outside earlier this month, I ended up very sweaty and a little bit stinky, so lesson learned — not all sleeveless options are actually made for summer.

Lastly, don’t forget a hat. Shielding yourself from the sun’s most powerful rays can help you stay cool. An oversized bucket hat, sporty visor, or floppy sun hat are all fun ways to create some personal shade. I like Girlfriend Collective’s 50/50 Bucket Hat, made with a mix of recycled and organic cotton— key breathable material — that comes in six different shades. I’d opt for a darker neutral or a bright blue so you can wear this hat into the fall. If you’re looking to add some texture to your headwear, check out Target’s Braided Straw Visor hat, which will look just as stylish at your next outdoor event as it will for an afternoon of gardening.

Other ways to keep cool — or look as cool as you can — are blotting sheets, drinking water, a motorized personal fan, and misting sprays. However, if you’re dressed in flowing, lightweight garments that reflect the sun and stay in the shade, you’re less likely to need those tricks to stay cool.