Well it’s finally feeling like spring here in Cincinnati, and it’s almost summer. Hallelujah! As I look back over my posts from the previous year, I realize that I’ve not posted nearly as many warm weather outfits as I had this time last year. Yes, my wardrobe is quite different since I’ve moved from Arizona. Hahaha! But even here in Ohio, I think I’ll need certain pieces in my summer wardrobe to make it work well. So let’s talk summer wardrobe essentials today.
What is a Wardrobe Essential?
Wardrobe essentials are those clothing basics that you’ll need in your closet to create beautiful, interesting outfits. Generally, with a few exceptions, I like to spend more of my wardrobe budget on these pieces because I expect them to stand up to lots of wear.
Keep in mind that, depending on the climate where you live, the amount of traveling you do, your lifestyle and your personal style essence, your list of wardrobe essentials may vary from mine. But the key is to make sure you have plenty of staples – pants, dresses/skirts, tops and outer layers – in either one of your two neutrals or your signature colors so that you can mix and match your clothing. (By the way, you can learn more about selecting the colors of your wardrobe and what I mean by neutrals and signature colors in this post.)
Let’s get started!
Denim Shorts or Alternative
If you live a casual lifestyle like I do, you probably want a pair of denim shorts or two in your summer wardrobe. No, these aren’t the shorts I would probably wear to a party or church gathering, but these are the ones I wear most around the house on a daily basis. And I certainly don’t mind getting out and about in them either.
Note: I haven’t taken any photos in denim shorts this year yet, so the photos I’m sharing here (and in many sections of this post) are from previous years. But I’m sharing current shopping options in the shopping widgets at the end of each section.
The denim shorts from Talbots above are from several years ago, but they’re the ones I still wear. I like the inseam on these (the length from the crotch to the hem or end of the shorts), but Talbots’ selection of denim shorts for this year (so far) is limited to longer lengths. Still I ordered this pair recently and I’m thinking I may enjoy the longer length this year.
The length of your shorts is totally up to you. Most women will look good in shorts with an inseam between 4″ and 6″. Longer shorts will look better on women with longer legs (I’m 5’8″). But if you’re not so tall and still desire to wear Bermuda length denim shorts, pair them with sandals or sneakers in a color close to the shade of your skin. That way your legs will look longer and the lengthier shorts will look more in proportion.
The shorts featured above are available again this year, but they’ve raised the waistband to a high waist fit, which I think is a good thing, and they’ve shortened the rise from 4″ to 3.5″. These shorts feel great on and fit true to size. So if you’re looking for a shorter denim short, these are a sweet option.
Most of my readers probably appreciate a good pair of denim shorts, but if you’re not into jean shorts I suggest you go for a pair of shorts in chambray, the sweet feminine cousin to denim. Or you could opt for longer denim pedal pushers. I have some of those in the shopping widget, too.
Note: All of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you shop through them and buy something, I potentially earn a commission, but at no additional cost to you. Thank you for shopping my links and supporting my work. It’s a pleasure to serve you!
White Pants – Chinos, Cargos or Dress Pants
I love wearing white pants during the summer. Yes, white jeans are another staple, but here I’m referring to something a little dressier, more polished.
White pants are amazingly versatile and often work for situations where you’d otherwise wear a skirt or dress. When traveling during the summer, these are the one pair of pants I take with me, whether that’s my flat front dressier slacks (above) or my chinos (below).
I’ve gathered a variety of white pants for the shopping widget below from various price points. I suggest looking for white pants that fit your personal style aesthetic and lifestyle so you’ll get the most wear out of them. By the way, some of the pants in the shopping widget are showing up in other colors, but they do have them in white also.
Then, yes, I do suggest a pair of white jeans for your summer closet. I like to size up one size in white jeans (usually) since they tend to show more lumps and bulges. I wear my white jeans so much more than I do regular blue denim in the spring and summer months. These jeans look fresh and seasonally appropriate, plus they help you create beautiful summery looks. They’re so versatile.
You can pair your white jeans with so many things during the summer. Check out this recent post about a red blazer and white jeans 7 ways. You can use those tips for pairing white jeans with any blazer or jacket really.
So I’ve gathered a number of white jeans in the shopping widget below, but I can only personally vouch for three brands personally (Madewell, Ann Taylor, Loft and Talbots). Feel free to share your favorites in the comments below.
White t-shirt + others
Of course, I think a white t-shirt is essential all year long, but especially in the summer months. It’s easy to pair with most any pair of shorts, jeans or pants, plus you can wear it with a denim or print skirt for a fresh, casual vibe.
By far my favorite white t-shirt (and I’ve tried LOTS!) is this Supima Cotton V-Neck Tee from Banana Republic. It launders beautifully, keeping its polished appearance and soft hand. And a v-neck is generally the most flattering neckline for us gals. This tee also comes in grey and black, and I own them both. I wear these three tees nonstop.
However, I’ve also tried and still wear white and colored tees from Gap, Ann Taylor, Loft, Madewell and Talbots. They’re each a little different. The Madewell and Loft tees are thinner. The Ann Taylor tee is comparable to my favorite Banana Republic tee. The Gap tee neckline is a little lower. And the Talbots tee is thicker and stretchier. Oh, and I’ve also worn and enjoyed the Universal Threads v-neck tee from Target. At $8, this is a great tee if you need multiple.
And look, while I want a good white tee, I don’t like to put too much money into them. I replenish these every year, sometimes multiple times in a year. I just wear them that much.
The shopping widget below contains all the white tees I can heartily recommend. Some of them picture colored tees, but they all come in white, too. Of course, you may want to pick up some in other colors that play nicely in your wardrobe. Right now I have tees in white, black, pink and grey. I’m hoping to add a baby blue or green tee for the summer.
If you’re a gal who likes to wear shorts, I suggest having at least one pair that’s a little dressier. I’m already enjoying my black shorts and my black gingham shorts. Seersucker shorts are also a good summery option.
I also recently dropped into Talbots (I really did!) and purchased these button tab chino shorts. I wish so badly they were still available in my size in white. I got them in the cafe color shown below and I love, love, love them. (Look for them in an upcoming post!) These chino shorts look plain dorky on the website, but in real life (hahaha!) they look extremely chic and sophisticated, but still casual. I love the higher waist band (but not too high) and the slightly wider leg opening.
By the way, I’ve also had great results with the Riviera Shorts from Loft in the past. They come in several different inseams and I’ll include them all in the widget below, but I prefer the 6″ inseam in these for me.
Casual Summer Dress
While I definitely recommend you have at least one nice summer dress to reach for when you attend a wedding or funeral or other nicer occasion, this year I’m encouraging you to stock your summer wardrobe with a couple of more casual selections. Under current circumstances, these will see more wear and prove more versatile.
My dress below is no longer available in this green, but they do have limited sizes available in a pretty navy and white stripe and a solid navy. But don’t worry, I’m linking to plenty of other great summer casual dress options below.
I love wearing dresses in the summer, even around the house. But especially when I get out and about I love the feminine touch of a dress. Last year my daughter Abby shared this sweet dress from Talbots with us, but I later bought it, too. I wore it just yesterday!
That dress is not available now either, of course, but Talbots usually has plenty more like it. I’m hoping they replenish their collection soon. They’ve come out with some new summer pieces today, but I’m hoping there’s more to the collection. We’ll see; strange times and all. Anyhow, I’ve rounded up some other great alternatives.
I’ve become convinced that every gal needs a summer blazer. Now maybe you’d still prefer a cardigan, and that’s fine. But even the prettiest cardigan can’t elevate an outfit the way a blazer can. And you can now find such beautiful, lightweight blazers in all price points.
I recently purchased this light tan linen blazer (still 40% off) above, but I’m still reaching for my white linen blazer frequently, too. I recently did an entire post about this summer wardrobe workhorse.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to beige or white. I’ve seen so many gorgeous lightweight blazers this spring, and I know we’ll continue to see them this summer. Here are some to choose from at various price points.
This year fashion sneakers – or what most of us would just consider sneaker sneakers! – are definitely having a moment. So let’s enjoy it. Plus these shoes have become so versatile. You can wear them with shorts, jeans, crops, dresses, skirts and jumpers. I love having a pair of white sneakers, but you can certainly select a different color or even a print, depending on your style aesthetic.
I’ve been wearing the white leather Keds for the past year, but recently I picked up these Madewell Sidewalk Sneakers and the Tory Burch Leather Howell Lace-Up Sneaker. I like them both and they fit true to size, but I have to tell you, those Tory Burch Sneakers are some of the sweetest I’ve ever worn. They’re a splurge, but so, so sweet!
On the flip side, the thing I like about the Madewell sneakers is that they’re not quite as stark white. Plus they’re 40% off an already more reasonable price. Great sneakers for the price! Oh, and if you like Keds, I think these are a little more modern.
Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to white sneakers. I love my baby blue Ecco Soft 7 Sneakers as well. And they’re extremely versatile in my wardrobe because they work with my chosen neutrals and signature colors. You might enjoy animal print sneakers, too. And since animal print works like a neutral, they’re a great choice.
Our pedicures have been put on hold this year, but I’m determined to get one today! And once I do, I’ll be wearing sandals more days than not. These are definitely a summer wardrobe staple.
I love having a pair of neutral sandals, something close to my skin tone. They elongate the legs no matter what you’re wearing. And of course, they’re versatile. But I also like having a pair of metallics and some animal print. Last year I really enjoyed wearing my leopard print slides, seen below, and I’m already wearing them again this year.
If you prefer heels, definitely look for sandals with heels. I love my new Eileen Fisher Viv wedge sandals. They definitely elevate a look, but they’re extremely comfortable, too.
Here’s a shopping widget with lots of sweet sandal options.
Finally, at least for this list, you’ll need a summer handbag. If you only want to invest in or even carry one bag this summer, I’d suggest a light colored neutral, maybe a beige, pale pink or warm caramel. Select one that will work nicely with your chosen neutrals and signature colors. For a stylish, but economical choice, I suggest this Nordstrom leather crossbody in beige smoke. (No photo here) Or if you’d like something a little more caramel in color, check out this Bella crossbody in tan pecan. Bellissima!
My Everlane leather tote in soft taupe (shown above) is proving to be an extremely versatile warm weather bag, but I’m sure I’ll carry it year round. I also frequently carry my Tory Burch leather hobo in devon sand. I don’t mind spending a little more on quality handbags that I can carry for several years or more because I know these will stand up to the wear.
But I also love a straw bag for summer. And while I’d love to have one that would last me for years, too, I haven’t found that bag I’m dreaming of yet. So I’ve been content to buy less expensive ones. I recently picked up this straw clutch from Chico’s when it was 60% off and I’m itching to carry it somewhere!
Recent post: Check out my recent post on Straw Bags for Summer. You’ll find some great options there!
Well, for the sake of not losing you altogether due to the length of this post, I’m going to simply name a few “honorable mentions.” These are items that may or may not be essential to you depending on your lifestyle and personal style essence.
- Denim jacket – This is a wardrobe essential, period. But depending on where you live and travel this summer, you may or may not use it often.
- Swim suit
- Swim suit cover-up
- casual pants such as chinos or cargos in your chosen neutrals.
- casual skirt, such as a denim skirt
Remember, when it comes to shopping for most wardrobe essentials, I suggest investing enough to get quality products. These are either items you will wear for years (think blazer, denim jacket, handbag, denim shorts) or they are pieces you will wear frequently (think white t-shirt, sandals, sneakers) so you want them to be durable, well-made and classic.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. If you have questions, please let me know. Thanks so much for reading.
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Blessed for My Day
How are you doing at living in community these days? I have to admit, with the Covid-19 restrictions in place, I’ve become a bit of a hermit. I already work from home and have to intentionally plan and calendar lunches or coffees in order to get out and mingle with the world enough. So this “stay at home” order pushed me even further into recluse mode.
So I’m making it a goal to reach out a little today. I’m sending out some texts and even placing some long overdue phone calls to check up on friends. And I’m telling you so I’ll be more likely to follow through! #accountability Let’s be women who intentionally live in community with others – encouraging, comforting, rejoicing, celebrating and rejuvenating with one another – so that we’re healthier and happier.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15