Summer Fashion (or how to look cool and polished in 100+ degree weather)

I always chuckle when summer catalogs arrive in the mail from the East Coast. You know the ones: Jjill, LLBean, and Land’s End (just to name a few). They always show fun-loving young couples walking on the beach in long pants and sweaters or lounging on a sailboat with windbreakers.

Don’t get me wrong — I love the clothes, but they are all wrong for Redding and any really hot, dry climate. (Some of my readers live in Australia).

Unless you spend all your time in air conditioning, how many sweater sets do you need when the thermometer is tipping 100 F. (or 38 C.) day after day and there’s no end in sight? Jeans? Forget them! Polyester tunics over skinny pants? No way! Even most maxi-skirts are out, unless they are made from a very lightweight fabric. Black, navy or any other dark color — also out!

Most of us do not have jobs where we can wear shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops, so let me help you with some ideas for a polished look when all you really want to do is eat ice cream in front of a fan.

I thought crop pants were going out of style a while back, but I see they are still going strong. To me, those and a dressy Bermuda-length pair of shorts will do for most work environments. You can still dress them up with accessories and be cool at the same time.

I also like the cargo-style crops and those with a drawstring at the hemline. You can draw it in or leave it loose, and if it suddenly gets really hot or you find yourself on someone’s deck with a margarita after work, you can tighten the drawstring just below the knee for an even cooler look. These details add interest to an otherwise plain pant but would probably only be suitable for a more casual workplace.

Some of us have to wear suits to work, even in the summer. You can get a very nice cotton or cotton blend suit on some of the better websites or in stores. Talbot’s, for instance, has several very crisp looking cotton suits. Silk is another popular option. The blends usually include a little lycra or spandex, too, so you can have a more tailored fit and still be comfortable. A lightweight sweater or jacket over a sleeveless sheath is nice because you can take off the outer layer in your office or car and put it on for a presentation or meeting.

Men wear the same wool suits in the summer as they do in the winter, although there are different weight wools. Women can do the same. Wool is a natural fiber and so it breathes easily. If you stick with a lightweight wool in a summer styling, that can work for women who need to dress up during hot summer months.

There are also a lot of trouser-style crops and knee length (think Bermuda) shorts being shown in suit styles for summer; when paired with a high-heeled sandal, they look professional for just about any job. And don’t forget the newest in pants: ankle length. Pair it with a wrinkle-free cotton blouse and roll up the sleeves when sitting at your desk for extra coolness. A tailored blouse can also work instead of a jacket, worn over a shell or cami.

A short skirt made from twill or lightweight denim is a must for a look that transitions from work to evening. I like them just below my knees so that I am comfortable when I sit, but if you have the legs, go ahead and show them.

Ten years from now, you’ll wish you had! I have seen some longer skirts shown with shorter suit jackets so that’s another option for those of you who need a suit in the summer but don’t like the knee-length pencil skirts.

How about adding a dressy sandal, a lightweight cotton blouse and a single strand necklace? The blouse can be worn loose over the pants, or more fitted and tucked in, depending on your preference.

Or how about a good quality cotton t-shirt with different neckline and sleeve options? They are easy to dress up or down and layer, if necessary. I have some Land’s End products from ten years ago that I still wear.

A quality fabric should last that long. Not affiliated, just a fan!

Speaking of fabrics, for hotter climates, the fiber content and weave really make a difference. If you are a person who runs hot even in winter, you want to pay special attention to this. The denser the weave, the more the garment will hold in the heat. For instance, a denim or a polished cotton will be hotter than a loose weave like a gauze. A good rule of thumb: the more you can see through a fabric, the cooler it will be.

If you don’t like the wrinkle factor of the naturals, you may like nylon, rayon, and even polyester in a sheer fabric. Because of their tensile strength, the synthetics can be made into a looser weave which allow air to pass through and can be quite cool. Look for georgettes and chiffons. Worn over a camisole or tank top, your look can be fashionable as well as comfortable.

For evening, there are a lot of dresses being shown.

Sleeveless, even strapless, cap sleeves, and flowing elbow-length sleeves are popular and make it easier to find our comfortable level. I like a sundress with a little over-jacket or shrug for a polished look that still covers a bit more skin.

Just make sure the jacket is lightweight with a loose weave. And who doesn’t love all the ruching in dresses that hides a multitude of figure problems and makes a flowy, yet fitted look?

Color can also affect your temperature. I steer clear of black, navy, and other dark colors, but this doesn’t mean you have to only wear washed-out beach pastels or white all the time.

Coppers, corals, golds, and turquoises are all very popular for summer, so get yourself some basic bottoms in khaki, white, or blue and add some colorful tops or, even better, jewelry. A fun necklace can add a pop of color without being too hot.

I love summer fashion because after bundling up all winter and spring, it’s fun to wear something lightweight and colorful. Have fun with it and you’ll not only feel cooler but five pounds lighter, too!

Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or
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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Canda says:

    Great ideas, Barbara. I'm strictly a thrift store shopper, and I've been finding some really cute summer skirts lately. I especially like to wear your idea of an open shirt with a camisole. It's a fun look, and allows me to wear shirts that would otherwise be too tight. Thanks for the great tips!

  2. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    When I get those LL Bean catalogs, I look at the photos and wonder just who they're marketing to. It's hard to imagine a place where you need a sweater in summer. I know they exist… well, I've heard they exist… But it sure isn't here.

    • Avatar EasternShastaCounty says:

      A rant if I may. Perhaps it's because I'm of Social Security age, but I question the use of 20-something models in catalogues such as Land's End and L.L. Bean. I don't know the demographics of their clientel, but seeing the way young people dress, I find it hard to believe that they shop from these catalogues. Being an old broad, but one who exercises an hour and a half daily, I'd like to see how the clothes look on real bodies rather than on gorgeous young things. So there.

      • Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

        A few years ago LL Bean did a "real people" catalog with no professional models. It was just wonderful to see normal folks wearing their clothes. Unfortunately the next year they went back to hiring models.

        • Avatar EasternShastaCounty says:

          Perhaps we should suggest that they do that again. Your comment about wanting to cover you arms — as do I — brings yet another rant. Virtually all of the blouses have cap sleeves and darted fronts which make them fit very close to those model's bodies. Close makes for a hot garment. Plus, darts in plaids ruin the line. And nearly all of the tops have "men's shirt" hems — deep curves which look tacky when worn out. Where are tunics with straight hems and side vents?

  3. Avatar pmarshall says:

    In this weather, it is important to be comfortable. I try to wear loose tops and comfortable pants (not tight), open shoes (have to wear colorful socks). One does not have to be sloppy, just comfortable and c olorful. But I really need a good-looking sweat band. Yes, I don't just perspire, I sweat.

  4. thanks for the comments! Another thing that someone on my sewbiz email list mentioned was that a lot of people need to cover up because of sun sensitivity. There are many products that have sun screen properties built in now.

    I like to cover up my arms, not because of the possible sun damage but because I have really fat arms! LOL I wear shorts because I don't mind showing my legs but you will never see me in a sleeveless shirt. Fortunately, I have a lot of elbow and 3/4 length sleeve tops.

  5. Avatar Darlene Montgomery says:


    I have to agree those catalogues are fun, but so inappropriate for our temps in the summer here. After recently returning from the coast Eureka) I think that they could be marketing to those folks over there. I was glad to come home and put on some shorts and a tank top! I too like to cover up the arms, etc. but more from having had skin cancer and the need to cover up.

    Thanks for the article and the suggestions. Love it!

  6. I know there are cooler climates but they are the exception, I think, in our country. Especially THIS year! Wow, everyone is having temps in the 100's that are normal for us.

    Catalogs and magazines sell a "lifestyle". Hey we all like to dream but not everyone in California lives on the beach or can even vacation at the beach.

    As for using "normal" models, I have read consistently that when companies do that, the reaction is at first good. People say "right on" and all that but they don't sell clothes. Again, people want the fantasy. We have plenty of reality in our everyday lives.

  7. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Beautifully written article Barbara. I am too tall and too "robust" to even try for the look in any catalog, and I truly dislike the colors allotted to women of my age. I love the salwar kameez outfits I sometimes wear to town in the summer. (One hot summer I researched what sensible women in hot climates wear in other parts of the world.) You offer some important things to think about for summer clothing in Redding.

    • Thanks, Joanne! Yes we can learn a lot from other cultures who have our hot climate. For instance, why didn't the "siesta" or the Italian's "pomerriggio" (sp?) ever catch on here? work in the morning, have a good meal, nap all afternoon in the hottest part of the day, then stay out late. That would so work for me!

  8. Howdy! I'm at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the fantastic work!