A style dilemma for many is picking what to wear on a hot summer’s day, especially when you want to wear layers. Often, we feel limited by what we can or may want to wear due to the heat.
There is a time and place for layering. You can never go wrong with just a plain or graphic t-shirt, jersey shorts or jeans, and white sneakers. However, occasionally, you will want to have a more produced outfit and kick things up a notch. The thought usually goes away because you don’t feel like sacrificing comfort for style. I believe no sacrifices have to be made, and I want this blog to serve you as a stepping stone to the world of wearing layers during the summer.
Over the past year, I’ve discovered a few essential and efficient tips on how to wear layers while keeping as cool as possible, literally and figuratively. Before we dive deeper into how to layer, let’s explore two essential guidelines to follow when picking your layering piece: color and material.
Rule #1: black is not as friendly in the summer.
This isn’t to say that wearing white or light tones in general will necessarily keep you cooler, but consider these two factors when it comes to color here: season and convenience.
This article by KSLA offers some of the benefits of wearing lighter colors in the summer:
“If you are wearing dark colored clothing, those dark colors will absorb all the wavelengths of light and will turn it into heat. This will then make you hotter.
If you wear white or light colored clothing, then it will reflect all the wavelengths of light and will not convert into heat. The point is you will get hot when you go outside, but wearing light colored clothing slows down the process.”
Black isn’t a color normally associated with the summer or with hot, sunny days. Not only that, but given what you just read about wearing black outside while the sun is out, it just makes much more sense to avoid black, or at least lean more towards lighter colors. White, cream, beige, light grey, light blue, tan, khaki, and violet are some great options.
With that being said, if the material of the piece is breathable enough, then by all means, a fashion-forward darker color like black, navy blue, or maroon in the summer can make your layered outfit much more stylish. Next up is a look at some of these breathable materials.
For more breathable materials, you can never go wrong with cotton, viscose, poplin, and linen. An honorable mention goes to lightweight wool, as it is a great option for your formal wear needs. According to the International Wool Textile Organization, or IWTO for short:
“Wool can conduct heat, as well as retract moisture away from the skin; those wearing lightweight wool sweat less, as a result. Therefore, wearing lightweight wool in the summer is like wearing air conditioning on our skin, allowing one to stay cool and dry throughout the day.”
Cotton allows for air to circulate throughout the fabric, making it an easy and smart choice for clothing in the summer. Many dress shirts you’ll find in stores or online will be made up of a blend of cotton and polyester, but I would look for the ones with a higher percentage of cotton. I recommend this white oversized dress shirt from ASOS.com, a perfect layering piece for the summer.
Viscose is another lightweight, breathable fabric with a soft feel, and you can find plenty of viscose dress shirts in different stores. It also blends well with cotton and polyester (MasterClass, 2022). A great material for either long-sleeve or short-sleeve dress shirts, viscose dress shirts are similar in weight and feel to linen, with just a touch more “luxury” look and feel to them.
Linen’s natural and light fibers also allow for major breathability. I’m not the biggest linen fan as it tends to wrinkle way too easily for my liking, and frankly, that annoys me, but I would suggest having at least two or three linen essentials, such as a pair of beige linen trousers or a light-blue linen short sleeve dress shirt, both of which together make for a solid Sunday-afternoon outfit. A more specific recommendation: wearing this for a trip to a wine-valley.
3. STYLING LAYERS
The meat of this fashion guide sandwich: layering.
Keeping colors and clothing materials in mind, it’s time to actually assemble an outfit with layers.
Oversized or relaxed-fit dress shirts and overshirts (I tend to lean towards viscose and cotton for these) are the perfect layering essential for the summer. I have gotten lucky in the past with regular-fit shirts by ordering them in a size L, but ultimately, this largely depends on the brand. While I am very used to ordering online by now, I would recommend buying in store so that you may try the shirt on before having to return an order you bought online and exchanging it.
Now, as to what to layer these over, the second layering essential for the summer is the tank top. Much like how suits can be mixed and matched and are extremely versatile, tank tops can be white, black, brown, or grey tank tops depending on the colors of your trousers and your overshirt or dress shirt.
If it’s not too hot outside, switch up the tank top for a plain regular or slim-fit white t-shirt. Tuck those suckers in and let the layering piece do the talking. For a bolder look, try wearing shorts for your bottoms piece instead of jeans or trousers. Want an even bolder and more fashion-forward look? Switch the sneakers for a pair of black sliders. The ultimate in summer comfort and style.
As you can see, layering is much easier to pull off in the summer than you may have initially expected. As long as you look for comfortable and breathable garments for your layering piece and wear lighter colors, the summer outfit possibilities are endless. With these tips in mind, you could probably even make use of existing pieces in your current wardrobe and assemble a stylish, layered outfit.