Reader Pamela e-mailed me this question:
I’m fairly successful at putting together composed outfits in the fall and winter, when I can utilize several layers. In the warmer months, (and I live in Tennessee, so the warmer months make up the majority of my year), I have much more trouble. I’d love some advice on how to utilize layers in the warmer months. What sort of layers can I use? Should I be incorporating light scarves and vests, or just layering short sleeve pieces? What basic pieces should I have?
A while back, I offered up some options for covered-up warm weather looks, but Pamela is looking for more general guidance on summer layering. And I’ll admit that I, too, have a tougher time crafting fun and interesting outfits in the blazing heat when layering becomes uncomfortable. In fact, if it gets hot enough, I look like this:
When the Minnesota summer gets humid, sticky, and unbearably hot, it’s a sleeveless dress and sandals. Period. Anything more makes me an unbearable grouch. But here are a few ideas for days that fall somewhere between “pleasantly warm” and “infuriatingly hot,” when layers are a possibility.
Layer your skirts
A few summers back, I thrifted up a whole mess of printed, silky, knee-length skirts specifically for layering. It won’t always work, but allowing a fun print to peek out at a dress or skirt hemline is a great way to add interest to a summer outfit without adding too much bulk.
Consider cropped cardigans
Long cardigans hold virtually no appeal in hot weather, and sometimes traditional ones seem equally unsavory. But cropped cardigans and boleros can add interest to a summery frock without bogging you down. This short-sleeved version is ideal for truly hot weather, but 3/4 and long sleeves are typically bearable in all but the hottest weather.
Try wraps and ponchos
A more daring option, to be sure, but worth exploring. Especially if you’re desperate for an option other than tee + shorts + sandals. Lightweight wraps can be draped and tied in many ways that add interest to your upper torso, and ponchos can be worn over spaghetti strap tank tops and no one will be the wiser. (If you go the poncho route, steer clear of heavy, tasseled wool, of course.)
Play with printed scarves
This was a day when it was so hot and humid, the camera lens refused to remain fog-free for more than a few moments. So it was sleeveless dress and sandals … though I grudgingly added a long, lightweight, PRINTED scarf. I believe that printed scarves are ideal for summer wear since so many of us rely on solids for our actual clothing, and a vibrant print goes a long way toward spicing up an otherwise plain ensemble.
Count accessories as layers
Sometimes adding more cloth to an outfit tips it out of balance. Other times it’s too darned hot. So consider counting your accessories as layers. A necklace, belt, and bangles can add all the additional interest necessary to elevate a simple summer outfit. Don’t kill yourself over layering if you just can’t hack it.
How do you incorporate layers during the warm months of the year?