Welcome to part two of my series on the wardrobe difficulties we can experience when it’s too hot to wear a third piece. There are two primary issues related to dressing for hot weather: our physical comfort and our emotional comfort. In my last post, I focused on the physical issues, specifically how to look pulled together while also staying as cool as possible. I shared some workarounds that I’ve used on days when it was too warm to wear a jacket, coat, or cardigan, including cooler third piece alternatives and interesting details that provide visual interest without adding warmth or bulk.
In today’s essay, I delve more into the emotional comfort part of the equation. A person’s emotional comfort issues are very individual, but here a few situations in which one might feel emotionally uncomfortable:
- Wearing colors or silhouettes that don’t feel in line with one’s sense of style or how they see themselves.
- Not being as “covered up” as one would ultimately like to be.
- When parts of the body that are viewed as flaws are visible or highlighted.
As an example, if you prefer to wear only dark or neutral colors and favor solid pieces over prints, it may be well out of your emotional comfort zone to wear a brightly-colored striped top. Likewise, if you usually wear loose-fitting clothing, you may feel very uncomfortable wearing something form-fitting, even if the item is physically comfortable and objectively flattering.
I’ll touch a bit on the issues of modesty and wearing things that don’t feel true to who we are, but the main focus of this post is on the desire to hide what we view as our imperfections. As someone with lifelong body image issues that have been compounded by menopausal figure changes, this is a bigger challenge for me than the physical comfort considerations I wrote about last week. However, it’s important for me to address both aspects as best as possible so I can successfully navigate dressing for weather conditions that are too hot for a traditional third piece. I hope some of what I offer in this two-part series will be helpful to you with the warm weather sartorial challenges that you face.
Reader Suggestions on Dressing for Hot Weather
Before I dive into the main topic for today, I want to circle back a bit to the issue of physical comfort and also share some insights that I’ve gained over the past week. I know that not everyone reads the comments on my posts, but a number of readers offered their suggestions for how to look stylish and polished when it’s hot and humid outside.
Below is a brief summary of those suggestions, many of which I plan to utilize myself:
- Wear linen pieces (the brand Eileen Fisher was recommended) or other natural fibers to stay cooler and drier.
- If it’s still hot during the autumn months and you want to look more seasonally appropriate, start wearing traditional fall colors in lightweight fabrics that don’t “scream summer.”
- Wear woven pieces, as they usually stand a little away from the body and can keep you cooler.
- People tend to notice our shoes more often than not, so choose interesting footwear to help pull your summer outfits together.
- Wear a pair of prominent dark shades as a great third piece alternative.
- Carry a topper with you to put on when you’re in air-conditioned indoor spaces.
- Use color and texture to add interest to your outfits when it’s too hot to layer.
- Wear an open weave or mesh topper to get visual interest without warmth. Fabric suggestions include Tencel, lyocell, linen, and viscose.
- When it’s too hot for a necklace, wear statement earrings and bracelets
- A belt or “waist treatment” (i.e., a wrap, tie, ruching, or some other feature that enhances the waist) can serve as a third piece alternative.
- Focus on “statement tops” that look interesting enough on their own, without the need for a topper or a necklace. This is the tip that I will focus on the most next summer!
- Don’t refrain from baring your arms or legs due to age, size, or body shame, only to end up sweating and feeling uncomfortable. Treat your body like it’s your best friend – because it is. (This was probably the best tip offered – simple but definitely not easy!)
- Outfit formula ideas:
- Maxi dress paired with a shrug cardigan or a thin scarf tied around the shoulders.
- Graphic print wide-leg pants or skirt paired with a bright top.
- Summer dress with a necklace and/or chunky bracelets.
- Printed rayon blouse with an open neckline – it can be tied at the waist if desired.
- Loose cotton or rayon maxi tank dress worn with a thin cotton or rayon kimono, silver bangles, and statement earrings.
- Turn an oblong scarf into a kimono vest – or a kimono shrug.
A Recent Realization
I spent some time in my closet this past weekend evaluating my wardrobe. This is often something I do around the change of the seasons. Although we’re still getting a few warmer days where I live, the days and evenings have mostly gotten cooler, such that it’s time for me to break out my “not summer” wardrobe. With the exception of my “holding zone” box, I actually keep everything in my closet at all times (which I was never able to do until I pared things down). However, I rearrange my pieces as needed so that the current season’s items are front and center.
I have a lot of plain tops in all sleeve lengths, but the three-quarter-sleeved and long-sleeved versions tend to be the most versatile. Many of my plain tops are in solid colors, but I own quite a few striped items as well. They’re basic pieces that work well when layered with toppers, scarves, necklaces, and the like. Since layering is more problematic to do when it’s hot outside (which was the subject of my last post), my plain short-sleeved and sleeveless tops are much more difficult to style than their longer-sleeved counterparts. While I thought it was a good idea to own lots of basic tees in all sorts of colors and sleeve lengths, that presupposition turned out to be only partially true.
Moving forward, I plan to only purchase short-sleeved and sleeveless tops that are interesting enough on their own that they don’t need toppers or abundant accessories to “jazz” them up. I won’t necessarily get rid of all of the basic tees that are already in my closet, but I’ll consider passing on those that are too difficult to make into a complete outfit using minimal accessories or a patterned bottom. I’ll also try to repurpose some of my basic tees as exercise or sleep wear, as I mentioned in my last post.
Emotional Comfort When It’s Too Hot for Layering
Of course, I also need to consider my emotional comfort in terms of wearing tops without a “third piece.” Even if I owned those “special” tops that I wrote about above, would I feel comfortable wearing them on their own? While I’ve long been self-conscious about my hips, buttocks, and thighs, I used to enjoy showing off the top half of my body. I always had toned arms and a slim waist, but I’ve lost much of the muscle tone in my upper arms and I gained a layer of fat around my midsection following menopause. As such, many of the tops I enjoyed wearing on their own a few years ago don’t look so good on me today, and I find myself wanting to reach for a cardigan to pull on over them.
I don’t want to be faced with either sweating profusely from wearing too many clothes or feeling extremely self-conscious about loose skin and lumps and bulges. I don’t want to leave my house in an outfit that only works when I’ve got that third piece on, especially on a hot summer day. It was only really this summer when I fully realized the ways in which my warm weather wardrobe isn’t serving my needs.
I thought that I could carry on as I had been for years and years, but even though I might still look fine to others in those old outfits, that doesn’t matter if I don’t feel comfortable wearing them. The same could be said for my friend who looks great in many different colors (to me and others), but only really feels emotionally comfortable when she’s wearing black, gray, navy, and maybe white. What matters most is how we ourselves feel!
My Ultimate Goal
My ultimate goal is to feel both physically and emotionally comfortable in my clothing, and I also want to feel like I look stylish and pulled together in what I’m wearing. So, basically there are three criteria that need to be fulfilled with my summer outfits:
- I want to keep relatively cool in the summer heat and humidity.
- I want to feel like the garments I’m wearing highlight my figure in an attractive way, showing off my good points and playing down the areas I’m not as happy about.
- I want to feel in line with my style guideposts of dramatic, polished, and elegant.
That’s really a tall order when you think about it! The first factor is all about physical comfort, while the other factors relate more to emotional comfort. Both are important, and both can make us feel miserable if we ignore them or don’t address them appropriately. It’s not always possible to mitigate all physical and emotional comfort challenges, as there’s only so much we can do to feel cool when it’s over a hundred degrees outside. Also, if our bodies have changed significantly, we may not love the way we look no matter how we’re dressed, but our clothing choices can go a long way toward helping us to feel more comfortable and able to confidently meet the challenges of our individual days.
Assessing My Current Summer Wardrobe
I decided to spend some time assessing my current summer wardrobe to get a better sense of my starting point, as well as what I need to work on before the warm weather comes along in 2022 (as well as the inevitable unseasonably warm days that will occur in the interim). I put on one of my favorite pairs of black cropped pants and a loved pair of wedge sandals, and I then tried on all of my short-sleeved and sleeveless tops to determine which ones work well on their own.
For this exercise, I mainly focused on my emotional comfort. I wanted to see which tops I would be comfortable wearing without a topper. As I tried everything on, I realized that most of the tops I placed in the “no topper needed” category tended to be longer and looser in silhouette. They’re not what I would call baggy, and they’re also not exactly tunic-length, but they’re definitely not the snug-fitting shorter tops that I used to always wear. Many of the tops that I felt emotionally comfortable in were either part of my at-home wardrobe or “crossover” pieces that I wear both out and about and at home.
Unfortunately, what I discovered was that many of those “no topper needed” tops are relatively plain and require at least a few accessories in order to create a stylish look (similar to the stock photo I included near the top of my last post). However, I do have a decent-sized collection of tops that don’t need a lot of accessorizing when paired with pants and sandals on a hot summer day. Here’s a look at those tops:
As you can see, the tops above all include print, embellishment, or interesting details of some sort (and some include two or three of those characteristics). Even the plain black tee in the top row is made more interesting by means of a crisscross detail at the neckline. I’m not sure if all of the tops pictured will work with each of my pairs of summer pants, but I think I have some great outfit options to play with (which I plan to do relatively soon).
Since most of my tops are knits, I plan to find a few versatile woven options to add to the mix before next summer. I think that blouses (which are usually woven) tend to look more upscale than knits and probably won’t require as many accessories to put together an attractive look. Blouses are often more difficult for me fit-wise, but if I’m patient and try on a number of options, I should be able to find a few that either work off the rack or with a few small tweaks.
I also feel like I could use some more colorful options, especially since many of my pants are either black or another dark color. Black features heavily in my wardrobe, but I usually rely on having a third piece to incorporate more color into my ensembles. If I’m going to wear black pieces on both the top and bottom, there either needs to be some texture variation or a handful of accessories, or else I’ll end up looking boring and uninspired. So, I’m going to keep an eye out for a few colorful, interesting tops, as well as another pair or two of printed or non-neutral pants.
I gained a lot of powerful insights through taking the time to evaluate my summer wardrobe and troubleshoot my issues with getting dressed in hot weather. I discovered both physical and emotional comfort issues that have been standing in my way of being happy with my warm weather ensembles. I learned that I need more “stand-alone” tops that look great on their own without the need for layering or heavy accessorizing. I also learned that I prefer my summer tops to be a bit longer and looser than the ones I typically use for layering in colder weather.
I now know what to focus on to prepare for more successful outfits in summer 2022. Your summer wardrobe issues (if you have any) may be quite different from mine, but I hope this two-part series at least got you thinking about any potential changes that you might want to make. If you even got one useful tip from last week’s post or this one, I will feel happy and grateful to have made a difference for you in that way.
Now I’d love for you to offer your thoughts about the topics I shared today and in my last post. Here are a few questions for you to consider, but feel free to chime in however you’d like:
- Do you find it more difficult to get dressed in the summer months? Why or why not?
- What emotional issues do you have around warm weather dressing, or dressing for other times of the year?
- What has helped you to overcome some of those issues? What tips do you have for those of us who are still struggling?
- What are some of your favorite summer “uniforms”? A few were shared last week, but I’d love to add more to the mix to help inspire us all.
Happy (Early) Thanksgiving!
Thank you for reading, and in case I don’t post again until after Thanksgiving (which is likely given what I have going on), I want to extend warm wishes for that holiday to my readers in the United States. May we all continue to have many blessings to be thankful for even in the midst of an ongoing difficult time for the country and the world.