Fashion & Beauty

Dressing for a Heat Wave

Lightweight fabrics and loose silhouettes for hot summer days.

By Janet Kelly

YOU’VE WATCHED the news—and felt it. From Phoenix to Pittsburgh, it’s hot all over the country—and the world. Unfortunately, unless the global community rallies to change the course of climate change, we’re cooked.

In the meantime, though, we need to dress for the weather we have. Conventional wisdom says that natural fabrics, such as lightweight cotton, linen and jersey, should be your go-tos in the heat. When it comes to silhouettes, the keyword  is breezy. Anything tight and/or clingy is just going to make you feel hotter. And don’t even think about jeans. Wide-leg, flowy pants; A-line skirts, roomy dresses and blouses are your hot-weather friends. Wearing light colors (think white, tan and khaki) that reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them (as dark colors can) also helps keep you cool.

And don’t forget a wide-brimmed sun hat. We like this one from Helen Kaminski and this one with sun protection from Solbari.

Below, our picks for what to wear when the Fahrenheit soars:


Keep it simple in Faherty’s sunny striped shirt dress with its classic silhouette in our favorite fabric—linen. You can accentuate the waist with a belt (note, it’s not included). However, a button detail in the back creates a subtle cinch for a flattering shape. It sells for $198.

White is always right for summer IMHO. Marché New York’s Issey dress in 100% breathable hemp (like linen but more durable) with a wide boat neck and multiple pleats has a generous fit. Cinch it in with the wrap belt, which can be worn at the waist or lower on the hips and is adjustable with buttons. It sells for $398.

A dusky cornflower midi skirt from Ninety Percent in viscose, a lightweight material that drapes well, features a generous side slit that lets in the breezes and reveals a glimpse of skin. Wear with a form-fitting stretchy top and ballet flats or chunky sandals. It sells for $265 at Net a Porter.

Masterful drapery, precision cut-out dresses, deconstructed looks and innovative ways with tie fastenings has built Australian designer Christopher Esber a global reputation and fan base. He also is known for monochromatic palettes like these burnt orange cotton pants  (above), paired with a bralette and striped shirt. The pull-on, easy-fitting trousers are selling for $300, down from $750 at Moda Operandi.

An Australian fashion brand owned and run by women, Dissh “unravels designer luxury into refined yet easy-to-wear pieces that reflect our roots in the sunshine state of Australia.” This viscose-blend, ribbed-knit sleeveless dress ($149) with a gentle A-line hem will usher in the breezes. Come cooler temps, throw a jacket over it.

Window shopping in Dublin a few weeks ago, my eagle-eyed friend spotted The White Company ( a store I had never heard of. With humble beginnings in the U.K., it’s now a global company with 60 stores around the world, including one in NYC. Founder Chrissie Rucker explained: “Patterns and colors come and go, but white never dates. I love the perfect simplicity and versatility of white. It’s classic, yet modern and, just like a little black dress, it’s wonderfully timeless, too. Whoever we are, whatever our style is, white always works in some way …” Agreed. This pleated A-line skirt with delicate crinkle pleats is fully lined, and we love its swish. It’s marked down to $118.90 from $169.

I have been seeing Prada’s printed silk satin dress for months now but at a spendy $4,600, I’d prefer to pay my mortgage. But listen up, Prada-philes, a satiny tie-dye dress in a flowy viscose that looks a lot like the popular Prada one is selling for a lot less—$199—at Massimo Dutti.

Toogood’s full-length Shrimper cotton dress looks as if it were made for sticky summer days. Keep the look loose and relaxed or use the front and back ties for a more fitted look. It sells for $652, reduced from $1,043, at Farfetch.

When the thought of anything clingy makes you shudder, pull on these easygoing wide-leg trousers with a pleated front. We love the chambray color sans the hot denim fabric. Tank tops look great with it, but a flowy blouse with a boxy fit would keep you cooler. The pants sell for $124 at Splendid.

The West-Coast-meets-the-Mediterranean vibe in Sundry’s designs is a result of the company’s founder growing up in Aix-en-Provence and then  settling in Venice, California. This gauze button-up ($148) will keep you cool while you look neat and tailored.

A combination of day dress and coverup, Tuckernuck’s beachy caftan ($148) is cut from lightweight cotton voile with fluttery sleeves and a tiered skirt. Pair it with sandals and a wide-brim sun hat for everyday errands or slip over your swimsuit as you head for the pool or beach.

A fresh blue-and-cream print is the primary eye-catcher on Ulla Johnson’s cotton jersey midi dress. But the high neckline, gathered waistband and the satisfyingly swishy skirt add to the list of things to like/love about this dress, which is currently selling for $220, down from $550 at Moda Operandi.





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5 thoughts on “Dressing for a Heat Wave

  1. Nancy G says:

    On days like today, 97 real temperature, anything that doesn’t touch my body is good. Floaty dresses are supreme.

  2. Stephanie S Cavanaugh says:

    But it’s the midsection that’s the problem – unless I wear a megapadded bra so it totally overshadows the gut…

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      How about this? Keep the top and bottom in the same or nearly the same color. That can work to camouflage a pooch.

  3. Stephanie Cavanaugh says:

    Those Splendid pants!!! BUT. How to wear this stuff if you’re not rail thin??

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      Keep the top more fitted. Try a button down and slides or sneakers.

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