Warm weather seems to do something curious to people’s fashion sense (or should it be common sense?). Some men who normally wouldn’t expose their toes, insist on wearing flip flops and shorts to the office, while some women forget that strappy or too short items are best saved for the shore and not the boardroom.
It can be hard to figure out the balance between lightening up, staying stylish, and being work appropriate. Even tougher, can be trying to figure out how to dress well without spending a fortune on clothing that seems flimsy (at best) and only wearable for a fairly short season.
Before you shop for your summer wardrobe, decide how much you want to budget for the season. Figure out the upcoming high points (vacations, weddings, and barbecues) and how often you can repeat outfits. When you’re ready to splurge, consider the trends and try to balance them with classic cuts, looks, and styles that can be worn on future vacations or next summer, as well.
Play Dress Up
More than any other season, summer can feel like the season of the dress. Light, airy, and able to cover a multitude of “figure flaws,” dresses can easily transition from work to weekend to wedding, depending on your accessories.
Jane Pang, museapparel.com’s Director of E-commerce and style expert, suggests that for work, you can add a cardigan or light blazer and a pair of peep toe pumps to a summer dress, while for a weekend barbecue, you should accessorize with playful, bright accessories and wedges. “It really is an easy and budget-friendly update to your summer wardrobe that shifts with every role you play.” Muse dresses run the gamut from floaty and flirty, to stark and chic (be sure to check out the fantastic sale section).
If you’re not sure which dress styles most flatter your frame, Nancy LeWinter, Editorial Director of OneStopPlus.com offers some tips:
- Monochromatic dresses are best and help to elongate the body.
- Belts are great for creating curves and achieving an hourglass shape.
- Go sleeveless, three-quarter or flutter sleeves, but stay away from short or cap sleeves, unless you love your arms. It “cuts” the arm, making it appear larger.
- Be choosy about fabric. Cling is great, as long as undergarments give a smooth line. Otherwise, opt for flowing fabrics like cotton or jersey.
Dare to be Bare(ish)
If you love the look of strapless or spaghetti strap styles, but are too self-conscious to wear them, consider draping a light shawl or crocheted cardigan over your shoulders. This gives the illusion of exposure without showing off. LeWinter is a fan of tank tops layered with a sheer shirt or a semi-sheer flowered tunic with flutter sleeves.
A hot trend this season are colors not always found in nature- think neon shades of pink, orange and yellow, or brighter and more intense shades, like ultraviolet and royal blue. If you’re not ready to invest in such an obvious trend, consider adding a single, inexpensive piece to your wardrobe instead. For example, Target has super bright (ankle flattering) cropped pants for about $20.00. Bright ballet flats, handbags, and quirky jewelry are also perfect ways to add a shot of color to your neutral favorites.
Still not brave enough to go bold? A neon pedicure in the season’s hottest shade of tangerine should do the trick. Essie nail polish in Camera ($8.00) is a classic coral and Butter London’s Jaffa ($14.00), a juicy orange, will add a potent punch to your look.
There’s nothing quite as cool or fresh-looking as pure white during summer months. The problem is, of course, keeping it clean and pristine throughout the day. One option is to choose a single white item, instead of an entire ensemble.
XOXO has white blazers for under $50.00 that are perfect to wear with a summer dress. Also, a white crocheted dress worn over a colored tank top or tank dress gives the illusion of pure white, with a pop of color to distract the eye from any potential stains or smudges. Finally, white jeans or twill pants for men or women always look crisp and chic and can be easily machine-washed.
The Shirt Box, a men’s clothing store located near Detroit, recommends reversible clothing, such as the Berle Vintage 1946 Clothing shorts. Companies like TravelSmith offer reversible skirts – some patterned on one side and solid on the other. This way, you’ll have two pieces of clothing for the price of one, as well as an easy piece to pack for a weekend away.
Will Smith recently channeled his inner Don Draper by wearing a plaid jacket to a movie premiere. He also seemed to be embracing a more modern trend of splitting up the suit. Companies like J.Crew, for example, have started selling cotton suits for men, which can be mixed and matched or worn to the office for a dressed down or dressed up look.
A hot look right now is a khaki or buff-colored cotton suit paired with a bold-colored shirt (think: violet or puce), with neutral-colored shoes pulling the look together. Colorful or patterned cotton socks can be added for a more playful and whimsical look. Finally, for a touch of chic, consider a pocket square (experiment with folds and fabrics), which can brighten up even the most boring suit.
Comfort is King
“There is nothing worse than wearing uncomfortable shoes or undergarments in the summer heat,” says LeWinter. “Make sure both fit by increasing the width for shoes and a cup side (not band size) for bras.” The same goes for belts that are too tight. Try to avoid man-made fabrics, which don’t let your skin breathe and can make you feel hotter.
As for shoes, “At a very basic level, your footwear should allow you to do your job efficiently and comfortably, whether that is running errands or running a company,” says Susan Ryder, Design Director at Aetrex Worldwide. Ryder believes in a balance of dressing creatively and professionally. It can be easy to want to slip on your most comfortable pair of old shoes, but “leave your tired old favorites by the back door at home,” says Ryder. “Unless you are a lifeguard. If so, leave the beachy sandals at home, as well.”
Though it can be tempting to buy the cheap and cute shoes that are readily available during summer months, Ryder believes “shoes should always be timeless investment pieces. Quality, fit, and comfort are as important to me as being on-trend. More than any other piece of apparel, footwear projects attitude and which attitude you want to project is up to you.”
Remember back when no summer was complete without a pair of Dr. Scholl’s exercise sandals?
Well, trends come and go, but classic shoes stand the test of time. “The best investment for building your summer shoe wardrobe is to find versatile, comfortable, and affordable shoes that can take you anywhere – shoes that take you from work to play,” says Maureen McCann from Dr. Scholl’s Shoes. “Women might consider a low wedge sandal and men might try a lightweight summer loafer, both of which can offer a casual or dressy look, depending on the clothes chosen to wear with them.” For example, Dr. Scholl’s Trustin rope wedges are incredibly chic, but much more comfortable than traditional espadrilles.
A few more tips:
- When shopping online, search for coupon codes (RetailMeNot.com has a great selection) that can drop prices further or offer free shipping.
- Join sites like Ebates.com that offer money back for every purchase made at select stores.
- Sign up for site newsletters that inform you of member-only sales.
- Consider signing up for online sales updates from a company like ShopItToMe.com, which allows you to specify which brands and sizes you are looking for.
- Try to combine two or more desirable elements, so you’ll be less inclined to experience buyer’s remorse. For instance, Aetrex Tanya sandals are super chic and designed to be comfortable, making them more of an investment, rather than a whim.
Rachel Weingarten embraced the neon trend back in the ‘80s and will probably be sitting it out this time around. She is a style expert, marketing strategist & personal branding consultant for CEOs, politicians and celebrities and the creator of MintStyle. Weingarten is the award-winning author of Career and Corporate Cool and Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America ‘40s-‘60s. Rachel writes for top media outlets including CNN, Fortune, Forbes Life, MSN, USA Today, Yahoo Finance and many others. She is a regularly featured expert on TV shows including Good Morning America and The Today Show. Visit her online at http://racheletc.com or on Twitter @rachelcw Write to her with your burning style questions at firstname.lastname@example.org