You'll notice that none of my outfits include a polo shirt; this is mostly because the only polo I own has a giant "Legoland" logo embroidered on it. I don't buy polo shirts because there are many other options that are just as easy to wash and wear and that I find more flattering on my frame. The neckline on most polos is high and has the extra bulk of the collar (which I can never manage to keep looking crisp) which limits your ability to layer with necklaces and scarves.
I absolutely love half-sleeve, ballet neck tops. The neckline is open without being low, the shoulders are substantial enough to cover your bra straps, and the sleeve length feels dressier than a typical cap sleeve tee. Plus they are a knit which means they can be thrown into the washer and dryer without any special consideration.
An easy way add polish to a shorts look is with a belt. I tucked in my ballet neck tee in green gingham shorts and tied it together with a belt that match the tee. The denim blazer is a very dark indigo in a thin fabric. Stay away from bulky, light-colored denim jackets since they will add weight and look outdated. The necklace is more glitzy than most people will wear casually, but even a simple chain will help add some extra interest to the outfit.
For a business inspired summer look, layer a collar-less button down shirt with a cardigan. Losing the the collar keeps the outfit relaxed, modern and allows for accessorizing, if one so desires. I chose a neutral cardigan and belt to continue the business-casual formality, even though most offices frown on shorts. Pair with a patent, slingback flat and a gold bracelet. This is a great outfit to wear for for lunch dates on the patio, to meetings of your volunteer or hobby groups, or for an evening stroll around the city.
A collarless shirt is an easy way to add polish to any outfit. Here are a few to add a crisp edge to all your favorite summer shorts:
Ann Taylor (solid) / (patterned)
Banana Republic (solids) / (patterned)
J. Crew (solids)
LOFT (floral) / (solids)
The best outfits should maintain their integrity even when they are deconstructed. Everyday life requires transitions so when you are getting dressed you should think about how each layer works on its own and as part of the whole outfit.
This base of this casual outfit is a pair of army green walking shorts (rolled twice at the cuff) and a simple summer-weight sweater. This is no heavier than a polo shirt, but adds variety to closet rotation. The most basic layer can be accessorized with a belt, a pendant necklace and your favorite sandals. A light scarf and/or a 3/4 length sleeve blazer add extra coverage for cool nights.
The great thing about summer layers is that you can actually show them off. In winter, most of your layers remain covered because you need them for warmth. In spring and summer you travel between the heat of outdoors to the chill of indoors a/c so your layers are much more likely to be taken on and off.
I prefer to layer short sleeve and 3/4 length sleeve tops instead of long sleeve ones. The outfit shown to the left consists of a half-sleeve ballet neck top, a half-sleeve summer weight cardigan and a 3/4 length sleeve blazer.
Wear a layered outfit like this for a weekend of running errands or any time when you will be back and forth between heat and a/c.
Not all belts need to be worn through your belt loops. If you don't want to do any other accessorizing, a belt can make the difference between a boring outfit and a stylish one. I chose a dark grey patent belt to offset the lace tiered top, however, one with less contrast (such as a metallic) would be an equally appropriate choice.
Belts worn around the waist work best when they are following a detail of the top, perhaps a horizontal stripe or tier. Here are a few tops that can be easily belted:
J. Crew (patterned)
The necklace style you choose can make a big impact on your outfit. The short, glitzy necklace on the far left dresses up an otherwise casual outfit. Paired with a metallic sandal, this can be worn for a sunset drink at your local wine bar The longer necklace can be worn in day to day life, from dog walking to grocery shopping.
Somewhere along the way accessorizing got a bad rap. Never feel like you need to apologize for looking nice. Accessories are not just the purview of fashionistas; they should be embraced by even the most practical dressers.
Don't be afraid of bold patterns, especially in spring and summer. A print on a short is much easier to wear than a print on a full length pant. Choose patterns that are classic, such as gingham and seersucker, that you will get use out of for several years or ones that you feel especially drawn to and will be excited to wear. If you prefer to keep solids on your bottom half, invest in patterned tops. Even a small amount of pattern will help you avoid the pitfall of boring blocks of color.
As you switch your closet around for the new season, keep your accessories and jewelry front and center so that it is easy for you to see what options you have when you are getting dressed. Don't leave the house without at least one accessory; you may feel strange and overdressed at first, but after you start getting compliments from your friends and coworkers, you'll soon get used to the extra pieces.
Other questions about summer clothes? Ask me in the comments, send me an email or fill out the form on the Contact page!