Now that summer is drawing to a close and I find myself shopping for flannel, I thought I'd review my summer wardrobe: what I bought, what I thought I'd wear, what I actually wore.
I'll start with my work wardrobe since it's super simple. Here's what I wore this summer (and when I bought it).
- 4 rayon dresses (2 this year, 2 last year): While I'm not especially girly in my dress usually, I like dresses and skirts for work in the summer because they keep me cooler than pants.
- Pinstripe pencil skirt (last year): Worn once I run out of dresses.
- Denim pencil skirt (actually over 2 years old): This versatile skirt is nice enough to wear to work (especially on "casual Friday" which, in my experience, isn't all that much more casual), but it also doesn't look like I'm wearing "work clothes" if I wear it on the weekend.
- 2007-style button-down shirts with short, puffy sleeves (this year): I got a bunch of these at the start of summer--pre-owned, obvs, because they're so out of style. I ended up passing a few on due to color and fit issues, but I really like the two I ended up with, and I wear them often. Dated-looking, but they work fine.
- Infinity scarves (this year): I went from owning 0 scarves to 3 this year after discovering the joys of accessorizing by just adding an infinity scarf. It is the easiest thing ever.
- Navy pumps (last year): These shoes go with both my dress and my skirts, so I wore them.all the time, basically. Except when I forgot to change shoes and wore my…
- Tevas (last year): I live in my sandals all summer. I wear them for commuting. I love the wind on my toes.
And that is more or less it. My summer work wardrobe consisted of 13 pieces (4 dresses, 2 skirts, 2 tops, 1 pair of pumps, 1 pair of commuting sandals, and 3 scarves). Occasionally I'd add a light sweater, but because this summer was so hot, even this was rare.
For some reason, even though casual-clothes-wearing accounts for less than half of my time, I was much more concerned with, and spendy about, my casual summer wardrobe.
There's a lot more here, so I'll break this down into categories by frequency of wear.
Wore A Lot
Let's start with the all-stars. Most of these items are things I already had - not specific summer buys - although, as with most of my wardrobe, they were all acquired within the last 2 years.
- 2 linen boat-neck drapey T-shirts (1 replaced this year): Lightweight and breezy, these T-shirts are the only thing I want to wear when it's super-hot out.
- Merino wool drapey T-shirt (this year): Wool isn't well known as a summer fabric, but it's a great one. I found my ultralight wool T-shirt to be cooler than any of my regular cotton T's. Because of its comfort and smell-resistance, this is the shirt I wear to exercise, but it's also cute enough for me to wear on a normal day. And it's super packable. So basically it's Supershirt.
- Terrycloth skirt (this year): I didn't even pick this out - Practical Cranberry Nut Roll passed it on to me - but I found myself reaching for it constantly. I wouldn't have said "You know what I need? A sweatshirt material skirt," but it was great! Cool, comfy, and cute. On the hottest days, my go-to outfit was a linen T and my terry skirt.
- Nightgowns (this year): I talked about this in my purchase review. I surprised myself this year by wearing nightgowns a lot for lounging and sleep, especially when I wasn't feeling well.
- Merino wool lightweight hoodie (this year): Although I didn't wear this enough to justify the $100 price tag, I was really glad to have it on a few occasions. I was looking for a magic garment as light and packable as a T-shirt but as cozy as a sweater, and this comes close. I did in fact wear it a bunch on my Maine trip; the rest of the summer has just been too hot for any kind of layer. It navy-and-white stripe pattern is a summery look, but I imagine I might still get some use out of this in the fall.
- $4 Goodwill cutoffs (this year): I became obsessed with finding the perfect pair of shorts at the beginning of summer, and ended up buying two even though I suspected (correctly) that I only wore shorts enough to support the ownership of one pair. This was my backup pair, a $4 pair of cutoffs from Goodwill, but ended up being the pair I wore most often (though not as often as my terry skirt!)
- Aqua lightweight cotton skinny pants (this year): I wore these a handful of times. On the rare occasions I wore pants, I usually reached for jeans by default, but these found a place in my wardrobe as a lighter-weight alternative that went especially well with dark blue tops.
- Hemp V-neck (last year): A little scratchier and more fitted, the hemp shirt ended up taking a backseat to the linen and wool drapey T-shirts, but was still a solid performer.
- Plaid button-down shirts (last year): I love my summer-weight plaid button-downs, and I get compliments when I wear them (especially one - I may be "splitting my wears" by having two). But I often forget to wear them, as T-shirts are easier.
- Goodwill dark wash skinny-ish jeans (this year): Though not specifically FOR summer, I got these a few months ago, and I've worn them several times. Even though they have dumb rhinestones on the butt, they're a good balance of comfort, fit, and nice silhouette. I anticipate wearing them more through fall.
- Navy linen blazer: This was on my to-buy list for YEARS, and I finally found one for $30 at Marshall's. I'm glad I got a cut-rate one before/instead of sinking money into it, since I never ended up wearing it! Part of that is probably because it was a cut-rate one that I never felt confident in, and part of it is because it was such a hot summer that I rarely wore layers, but I think mostly it is because a summer blazer doesn't really fit into my wardrobe in a meaningful way. I think I'll give this away and not replace it.
- Lightweight, crinkle cotton button-down shirt (this year): I got this at the beginning of this summer for a specific purpose - to wear as a sort of breathable, barely-there layer over a camisole - but I never ended up wearing it. For one thing, I didn't wear that type of outfit that often, and when I did, it was an excuse to wear my plaid shirts. For another, the cotton fabric of this shirt was actually not all that breathable, for all it was semitransparent. Another argument against cotton as a lightweight summer fabric.
- Full-price shorts (this year): I ended up preferring my $4 Goodwill shorts. My wife loved these, so I passed them on to her.
- Full-price dark wash super-skinny jeans (this year): This is another example where I essentually "doubled up" by getting an equivalent thing at Goodwill, and then the Goodwill thing ended up being more useful in practice. I liked these when I tried them on, but then they went into a drawer never to come out again. When I dress casually, especially in the summer, I am concerned most with comfort, so even though I love the skinny jeans look, it just never was "the right time" to wear tight pants.
- Nice sandals (last year): Had I taken these to work, I probably would have worn them more often, but as it was I kept waiting for a semiformal summer event which never happened. I'll keep these, though, because they're so useful when those occasions do occur. I should wear them to work sometimes, probably.
- Nice summery cotton dress (last year): Same deal. Coulda/shoulda worn this work instead of holding it aside for some sort of event. In the past, I've worn both the dress and the sandals to graduations and rehearsal dinners, but this year I didn't go to any.
Tried Valiantly to Make It Work
- "Gate Check T" (this year): I loved this drapey cotton/Tencel T-shirt when I first got it out of the box and put it on. It was so soft! But after trying to run in it, and wearing it for medium-strenuous activities (like errands or furniture rearranging on a hot day), it's clear that it simply is not as good at dealing with sweat as my merino, linen, or hemp shirts. It's meant to be the kind of lightweight T you wear on a hot day, but it gets damp and stinky. Maybe I just have more sensitivity to being a sweaty T-shirt than I used to. I think I need to stop buying cotton shirts altogether.
- T-shirts with images/slogans (last couple years): These used to make up the bulk of my casual tops, and while I've pared wayyy down to my favorites, I find myself wearing them less and less. I still like the art and jokes and everything, I just reach for my other shirts first.
Let me try to cobble together some generalizable lessons from this…
- I need less than I think I do. I tend to overprepare for casual living (especially vacations), and underprepare for work. And which wardrobe did I end up happier with? My work wardrobe! I really liked having such a small capsule for the season. (With that said, I'm looking forward to wearing different things in the fall.
- Skirts are a practical choice for summer. I always wanted to wear skirts, even around the house. Even shorts lost out against skirts most of the time, as skirts are cooler, more comfortable, and, usually, nicer-looking.
- "Spend out" festive looks at work e.g. garden party dresses, brunch sandals. Medium-formal summer occasions don't actually happen that often; when I really go to brunch, I wear casual clothes.
- Avoid cotton for summer shirts. Hemp, linen, and lightweight wool are cooler and dry quicker.
- Save art for the walls. Another reason I try to make cotton shirts work is the art and slogans on them, but if I really enjoy an image, it might make more sense to get it as a print or something, so that I can choose my clothes based on comfort and style instead of endorsing or displaying a particular image/idea.