Covered-up Warm Weather Looks

Already Pretty outfit featuring mesh sweater, cargo capris, black wedge sandals, skull tote

As as the weather turns warmer here in the Northern Hemi, many gals are pondering how to dress for summery temperatures without exposing their extremities. Self-consciousness about upper arms, knees, exposed leg veins, cellulite, and all manner of biological normalcy gets forgotten in the midst of winter layering. But that self-consciousness is awakening now. Which breaks my heart because LADIES if you get hot you are allowed to wear less clothing. You are! You do not have to have Angela Basset’s pipes or Angelina Jolie’s legs to wear tanks and shorts. You do not have to subject yourself to a summer’s worth of heat rash just because you aren’t a Goddess of the Bicep. If you want to wear shorts and short-sleeves, DO IT. Period.

However if wearing shorts and a tank will cause you to spend the entire summer loathing yourself even harder,* or if you prefer to keep covered for reasons of personal modesty, or if you live in a climate or work in an office where warm temps turn cool without warning, here are some tools and tips for creating covered-up warm weather looks.

Open-weave accessories

The sweater in the photo above? IT IS MAGICAL. It’s black and has 3/4 sleeves, but since it’s got an open, loose weave it allows for breeze! Any loosely-woven accessory – be it sweater, poncho, shawl, scarf, or even jacket or bolero – will give coverage without impeding air flow to your pits and arms.

Sheer hosiery

Actual tights in summer may feel oppressive and awful unless you’re working in a meat locker. At least, that’s been my experience. But sheer and sheer-patterned hosiery can help a gal feel less exposed while allowing her legs to breathe a bit.

Maxi skirts

Maxi skirts are unflattering and make you look short and are too casual and so hippy-dippy and BLAH BLAH BLAH. Whatever, maxi-haters, these longer hemlines are both breeze-admitting and leg-covering, so they get two thumbs up from me. I adore my legs and tend to do everything in my power to show ’em off, but on days when I want some coverage, I turn to my maxis. I prefer the floor-sweeping kind with just a hint of shoe showing.

Boleros and shrugs

My love affair with boleros and shrugs is long and well-documented, and with good reason. A garment that makes a sleeveless dress sleeved but only drops down to boob level? Ideal for warm weather wear. The benefits of a blazer without the heft and length and hotness. Three-quarter sleeves are my ideal, but a wee bit hard to come by.

Tall boots

I hear you saying, “WHAA?” But hear me out. Tall boots may seem heavy and oppressive for a humid summer’s day, and a pair of thick leather knee-highs will definitely make you sweat. But here’s how you work ’em: Buy a pair that fit looser so you’ve got some air between your calf and the shaft. Then pair with a sleeveless dress, or a tank and some shorts so the REST of your bod gets plenty of air. Buy in a light color like tan, taupe, or ivory. Or, even better, nab a perforated pair. Breeze-admitting boots RULE.

Again, every woman has the Right to Bare Arms. And Legs. Do not let any magazine or celebrity or style guide convince you that your parts aren’t good enough to show. And do NOT interpret this post to mean that I think sleeveless dresses and short skirts are the exclusive domain of the tiny or toned. Just wanted to give you some options, should you choose to keep a bit more covered in the hot, hot heat.

*I feel this could be a chicken/egg conundrum. Forcing yourself to wear shorts and a tank may be so liberating that your self-consciousness will lessen. But it could also create such intense personal discomfort that you’ll spend endless energy worrying and obsessing about how you look. I leave it to each of you, as individuals with good judgment and highly personal needs, to make the call for yourselves.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • Well said Sal! So many options. In the hot-hot south we still need to cover up in our offices and the stores are freezing, so all these tips are timely.

    I’ve found some very nice nude fishnets (small weave) at Target and they are perfect for summer. And I too love a maxi skirt with a summery top, much cooler than trousers.

  • These are some great tips! My personal fave for hot weather is a knee-length skirt and a fitted tee, sleeveless or otherwise. I shop far and wide for patterned skirts that are light and skim over my tush and thighs, so it creates a cute silhouette. I always feel like I got away with murder because it looks dressy but feels like a blanket draped over my lap. Maxi-length skirts don’t quite work for me because they take so much more care to launder after they accidentally brush the ground all day. Maybe I just haven’t met the right one though! 😉

  • Denise

    Great post! I, too, encourage women that they have the right to “bare arms” in our oppressive Minnesota summers. I just want to add that every shrug or bolero does not compliment every top or tee or tank, and that I’m a convert to the maxi dress. Total leg coverage (if that’s what you’re after) but cool and breezy: who knew?

  • This is a great post. I love your perforated boots! Just to add to the boot section, I think cowboy boots are perfect for the warmer months. Especially lighter colored ones.
    -Loryn

  • Sherry

    I thought I’d mention that, in lieu of a jacket, cardigan, or whatever slightly warmer cover-up, a sheer blouse with longer sleeves can also be a topper that doesn’t add over-warm weight. It can look so summery to have a little show-through of skin without actually exposing it all, and it’s breezy too.

    • I agree with Sherry. When the weather heats up, I’m turning to loose 3/4 sleeve tunic tops or blouses in gauzy cottons and sheer silks to stay covered-up and office-appropriate while being nice and cool.

  • Anat

    These are great ideas. I have two reasons to need to cover up in summer – one is that there are some meetings where I feel modesty is called for, more modest than I like, so something I can put on top while staying stylish is extremely helpful. The second reason is AIR CONDITIONING. In the hot climate I live in, I spend most of the summer in excessively cool rooms, so again, a covering option is a MUST.

    I am looking to find a short-sleeved fitted blazer, like the one I’ve seen you wearing, that seems like a great option.

  • Lola

    I love to wear tank tops in summer, but as I am one of those many women with wiggly – arms syndrome (teeheeheee…), when I want to be on the safe side, I wear a sheer, lightweight long scarf wrapped around my shoulders and secure it with a brooch. But I have become much braver than I’ve ever been in my life, and mostly I just wear those tops and enjoy the summer!

  • Great tips Sally. Fabric choice is also a big thing when trying to stay cool. I have to keep pretty covered up at my job so I make sure that my clothes are made of natural fibers and are nice and light. It can make a BIG difference. I love cotton and linen especially and even rayon in blends is pretty cool. I stay as far away from polyester (even in a blend) as I can all summer!

  • Kristina

    I love maxi skirts, and I’m puzzled by why there are so many people who hate them out there. Of course, they’re not for everyone, but I find hippy-dippy kinda sweet. They nice and breezy, but you don’t end up flashing anyone sitting on the grass at a picnic. I wore one just yesterday, and I enjoyed the “swish-swish” feeling when I walked, too (channeling my inner Scarlett, maybe?).

  • Rad

    Great suggestions- especially the open weave top. I haven’t yet jumped the maxi dress/skirt train yet, not because I don’t like the way it looks, but I find that my legs can get more sweaty than my upper body in the summer, and I walking up stairs, the skirt can drag, get dirty, etc.

  • As always, fabulous advice!

    Re: the boots, I have a pair with light shearling lining which wicks away moisture and keeps my legs cool in the summer. They are mid-calf length so I still have a peek of skin between them and my knee-length skirt but still feel cool on a humid DC day!

  • paisleyapron

    Fabric choice should be at the top of the list to stay cool in hot weather. Linen and silk are the best, but may be harder to find for a decent price, although I’ve had a lot of success finding linen and silk at he thrift store. Light cottons and rayons are also good. It’s funny and irritating all at the same time when I get asked why I am wearing so many clothes in the summer. “Aren’t you hot?” I get asked when I am wearing a silk blouse and wide-legged linen pants. Well, actually no…I’m far cooler than others in heavy blue jean shorts and polyester shirts. And my skin is protected from the sun. I whole-heartedly agree, Sally, that women should allow themselves to wear shorts and sleeveless tops without guilt. In the same way, I wish I didn’t have to defend my modest choices so much. Thanks for a great post.

  • Christy

    I second Patti’s suggestion up there about fishnets. I always have several pairs of nude fishnets on hand in the summer. And not because I wouldn’t like to show off my legs – but because in the summer, that extra few inches of upper thigh I have rubs together and I get a terrible rash if I don’t! So unless I’ve got shorts on under my dress (which I admit I’ve done on several occasions!) then it’s fishnets for me.

  • All this Right To Bare Legs sounds great in theory, but in practice I know from experience that it just opens me up to unwanted attention. My knees are definitely my least attractive part, and I gave up wearing shorts and short dresses in public after hearing too many people literally gasp and ask, “Oh no! What happened to your knees?!” I’m totally on board with baring my arms, though! And I agree with what several other readers have said: a cardigan is a MUST for me in the summertime.

  • Great post! I like that you champion the maxi even on short girls. I am actually quite slim and I like my body, but I still like covering it up. I’m not at all ashamed, I’m just sort of modest when it comes to the public- when I’m at home and with the boyfriend and out on a date, or such circumstances, I’m not so prudish 🙂 So I think it’s nice that you thought of not showing too much skin even when it’s hot out. I think of the people who live in some of the hottest places on Earth, like Saudi Arabia, and they don’t wear short shorts and tube tops, they wear long, breezy, and loose flowing garments to keep the sun off their skin.
    I also love boleros and sweaters that wrap under the bust! I like covering bare arms/shoulders but showing off that I have a trim waist. However, I find that it’s best for me to wear a lighter colored bolero/sweater with a darker colored tank underneath- wearing a bright tank and a dark bolero turns into a optical illusion wear my chest recedes and my stomach takes the attention.

  • MJ

    A timely topic as we are hitting 90 degrees or more some days right now & balancing dress code & comfort can be difficult.
    One tip I would add is cropped tanks as light layers. I have some pieces that are basically bandeau tops with straps. They’re great on warmer days as they cover the right areas without adding another layer to my midsection.
    I also find leggings & tunics, even with boots, cooler than pants & a top.
    Finally, I have been known to ‘skirt’ the dress code with my skirt length. That extra inch (at the knee as opposed to fully covering) can make more of a difference than you think.

  • I’m definitely feeling the perforated boots – I’ve been looking for some perforated ones or linen ones for a year or so now.

    I’d also add that full, knee- or midi-length skirts are good options for staying covered up but still staying cool. Unlike pencil skirts, they don’t force your thighs into unwanted familiarity which, for me, helps me to stay cool.

  • Rachel W

    Reminds me of something Gertie posted not too long ago on her blog:

    http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/2011/04/why-arent-plus-size-actresses-allowed.html

    Rawr. I totally agree with you.

  • Good tips, Sal! For me personally, the summer cover-up operation is all about not getting sunburned. I personally go for lightweight or very sheer linen shirts or tunics. And maxi dresses/skirts are wonderful, no matter what haters say. 🙂 It really comes down to materials for me; you can wear long sleeves and trousers in superlight cotton, linen or silk without it feeling too hot.

  • LQ

    Bike shorts, people. Or lightest-possible control shapewear shorts, bought deliberately a size too big so that they don’t constrict, they just separate and insulate the thighs from each other.

    Regular woven cotton button-front shirts with the sleeves rolled up look more insouciantly pulled together and are much, much airier and cooler in very hot weather than fitted jersey knit t shirts with 3/4 or long sleeves. The bad part is that you either have ironing to do or a dry cleaning bill, but if you need a work-friendly covered-up look that will stand up to significant outdoor time in August, it’s worth it.

    I’ll be over here shaking my head at the idea of finding tall boots big enough to act like galoshes. I’m socked into Duo for zillions as it is just for boots that zip.

  • LQ

    Oh, and Second Base half-camis!

  • Office AC is why I need to cover up a bit in summer, or at least dress in layers. All of these tips are good, only thing I’d add is tissue-weight cardigans. I’m a big fan. Some seasons they’re easier to find than others, but I snap ’em up when possible. Perfect summer layer to toss on in the freezing office, yet not feel horribly hot while walking *into* the office.

  • Carol N.

    Great tips and love your outfit today!

  • Jennifer

    I love that poncho! But it doesn’t look like a poncho in any sense of the word, well not the ones I used to hanker for as a child in the 70’s 🙂

    I have bookmarked that photo under “Fashion Ideas” on my computer!

    Jennifer
    Sydney, Australia

  • THANK YOU for sensibly pointing out that going bare when it’s hot is ok. I once stumbled upon a book of style advice for women over 40, and it had the gall to say that it’s inherently inappropriate/unflattering for us to bare our arms. WTF? Suffice it to say, I threw that book back on the shelf with great force.

  • I’ve been thinking that ponchos should make a comeback. My mother used to make them for us when we were kids….

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  • Love the maxi! They totally can work for any body type!

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