My Four-Piece Summer Uniform

 Photo via Nisolo
Photo via Nisolo

You know how they say that you forget the pain of childbirth after experiencing it, otherwise you would never want to do it again? That’s how I feel about summer.

I quite literally lose my ability to imagine HEAT from about October through May. When I daydream about summer during those months, I imagine breezy days at the beach, loose curls, sundresses, and eating dinner al fresco. Then June rolls around and reality hits: summer in the South looks a lot more like frizzy hair, showing up sweaty to every event I attend, and wondering how necessary a bra is (verdict: not at all necessary).

As of two weeks ago, the weather has crept up past 90º and the humidity makes me feel like I need gills to breathe, which has brought up the perennial question of summer survival: WHAT DO I WEAR? I’ve always found summer to be such a difficult season to dress for, for three reasons. First, the actual weather: finding something that helps me stay as cool as possible is key. Second, the exposure element: I don’t mind showing off a little bit of skin, but I hate it when I’m constantly tugging at too-short hems or needing to readjust my neckline. Third, style: in the cooler months, you can add layers until you nail the look you want; in the summer, you only have one chance to get it right.  

Ultimately, I want to have clothing that makes it easy for me to get ready in the morning, feel comfortable and look cool. And I’m happy to announce that after years of hating warm weather style, I think I’ve finally cracked the code. Here’s the four-piece, foolproof outfit recipe that I use every single day during the summer:

1. Nisolo Serena Sandals

I’ve had these sandals for over three years and they are still going strong. When I bought them from Nashville-based Nisolo, I was specifically looking for a sandal that had some support in the heel rather than the completely flat, flimsy sandals that most retailers sell. These have 3/4-inch rubber wedge at the back that works magic when it comes to absorbing impact. I’ve walked for 10+ miles in these and they are more comfortable than my sneakers. Maybe more important than the comfort factor: they’re minimal, gorgeous, durable, and high-quality. I throw them on with every outfit in the summer (they look equally good with pants, shorts, and dresses) and don’t have to give it a second thought. P.S. If you’ve never shopped at Nisolo before, you can use my link to get $25 off!

2. Warby Parker Sunglasses

I’ve had my Warby Parker sunglasses for over three years— exactly as long as I’ve been married, since I lost my last pair of $15 sunglasses on our honeymoon. Thomas, who is as weird about protecting your eyes as I am about using sunscreen (see below), encouraged me to replace them with a nicer pair. I was hesitant because I was so prone to losing my cheap ones but I took the plunge with Warby Parker’s Downing frame, which I also have as regular eyeglasses. I could not believe what I’d been missing with polarized lenses. Turns out, I’d been squinting behind my cheap sunglasses this whole time! With my Warbys, I can actually enjoy being out in the sun. The “whiskey tortoise” frames have beauty honey-colored accents and the blue lenses (now discontinued) look super cool.  And even though I used to lose my cheap sunglasses all the time, I’ve hung on to these for years. 100% worth the investment.

3. Leather Bucket Bag

I am not a “different bag for every outfit kind of girl.” I have three bags in total (a tote bag for work, a bucket bag for casual outings, and a crossbody for evening events). They cover just about every occasion and I love the simplicity of functional, beautiful accessories. For summertime in particular, I always turn to my bucket bag. This is the one I’ve had for over two years is sold out but I love the look of this BAGGU one in brown. It’s lightweight yet surprisingly roomy and the open-top, drawstring look perfectly complements breezy hot-weather outfits. Bonus: mine also perfectly matches my Serena Sandals which makes any outfit look intentional and styled, even if I just threw it on (which is the case this morning). If I were headed to the beach or pool, I would definitely consider swapping it out for a straw bag like this one.

4. Simple Summer Dress

In the blazing heat, I always opt for a breezy dress that touches my skin as little as possible. This is the missing ingredient to my summer uniform right now. Arguably the most important, since the rest of my uniform consists only of accessories. I love wearing lightweight dresses during the hottest months of the year (pants are out of the question) but I haven’t found a good one for this summer yet. I prefer natural fabrics like cotton or linen because they are incredibly lightweight and breathable. When shopping, you’ll spot me unabashedly flipping every garment upside down and inside out to check the fabric composition tags. I find that I only need one or two of these dresses each summer since I end up wearing the same outfit every weekend anyway. I currently have my eye on something like thisthis, or this — but I’m still looking, so please send me any and all of your summer dress recommendations!

Bonus: Glossier Sunscreen

I’m crazy about sunscreen. I sent Thomas off to camp last week with SPF 100 and he returned looking like he hadn’t seen the sun in weeks. Mission accomplished. First of all, a brief but important PSA on protecting your skin: 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. It’s happened to multiple people in my own family. On a more cosmetic level, sun damage is the number one cause of visible aging (and the most preventable). That’s why it’s so important to use sunscreen — not just on the beach, but on a daily basis. 

The problem is that it is horribly inconvenient and most facial sunscreens are greasy, chalky, and leave behind a white cast and noticeable smell. I bought Glossier’s new sunscreen (a sunscreen for people who hate wearing sunscreen) to test. It’s a gel formula that goes on before your makeup and instantly absorbs into your skin with no greasy residue and zero white cast. At $34 for a one-ounce bottle, the price is a little steep, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to get into a daily SPF routine. It’s the perfect gateway drug into sun protection. You can get 10% off your first purchase using this link!

It might not be a perfect system (it doesn’t work in more professional settings — I have a separate strategy for that) but this uniform approach has solved my weekend-wear questions nicely. For those of you who struggle with warm weather style like I do, I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any tips for staying cool in this blistering hot weather. For those of you who thrive in the heat: explain yourselves.

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