A Facebook friend, Kay, threw down the gauntlet after I posted a pic of the dashboard of my car which was reporting 106 degrees in Sonoma last week. She said, “Brenda, how about your next article be Dressing for Merciless Heat & Humidity? I didn’t interpret that as an offhand suggestion. I heard desperation so I got right on it!
I took on the challenge and immediately started writing a post in my head. Solutions came streaming in like cold water coming off a glacier. Here are some of those first thoughts:
- Get a handicap sticker for your car so you can park super close to Whole Foods, CVS Pharmacy or Nordstrom to avoid walking on hot pavement.
- Grab one of those cold packs you keep in the freezer for when you whack your thigh accidentally on the corner of the dining room glass top table chasing after the cat but, instead of applying it to your thigh, stick it inside the band of your white tummy tuck jeans before you head out for the day.
- Go to the Cineplex in mid-afternoon and enjoy a movie but bring a sweater, a stocking cap and wool socks in case the blower is shooting air conditioning right down over your head.
- Think cold thoughts.
- Consider making this the year you show your arms anyway.
- Wear a long dress.
- Whatever you do, do not start a steamy romance in July.
Where to start with my heat shield fashion solutions
Ideas that come into my head in the early stages of writing don’t always make it to the final draft. Although all of those tips are pretty darn good on second look except, of course, I don’t want you stealing somebody’s handicap sticker. That wouldn’t be nice.
Let’s start with wearing a long dress.
I can’t convince everybody to do this but I think the simplest solution to staying relatively comfortable in heat is to wear a long dress.
A LONG DRESS!, you exclaim. I hear you, Babe, I hear you! It might sound counterintuitive but I’m sticking to this tip hard like coral in a reef near a beach, where we all should be right now. Sorry, heat sometimes brings on fantasies.
(No steamy romance in July! Keep telling yourself that!)
Now we’re not all in lifestyle settings where we can wear a maxi dress so I will definitely share more ideas throughout the month. But stick with me here.
Two cool advantages of wearing a long dress
- When a dress skims your body, barely touching anything, your body feels free. Containment in the form of clinging fabrics feels claustrophobic and makes you want to start ripping off clothes.
- When you walk in a long dress you create air flow that can cool you from bottom to top because nothing is there to stop the flow. Waistbands or tight jeans are huggers and heat collectors. Clothes that cling are not cooling.
I demonstrate this point in this J.Jill soft indigo maxi dress in Tencel. I LOVE the feel of it. I love wearing a maxi dress that’s not clinging anywhere. This one just drops from the shoulders and that’s it. It’s not opaque but it’s not sheer at all, either. So no need for wearing a slip or anything else underneath. The fabric makes me feel secure. I’m not in something wispy. I’m in something sure-footed.
Now of course, I’ll always have a jacket nearby because of that air conditioning factor. I love wearing this lightish blue denim jacket with the soft indigo of the dress. Blue on blue. My ivory Lanvin bracelet is light in color and loose. I added the Sol Sisters double necklace for some summer panache. And my jean jacket has pins given to me by my daughters and my mother. That makes me feel warm on the inside where you don’t sweat.
On a footnote, the kids were up to Sonoma to celebrate the birthday of me and my twin brother Brent since I was away on our actual birthday. Erin’s beau, Mike, was showing us his friend’s place in Mexico and I was saying, Let’s go! Book it!! As I walked everyone out to their car, I pressed it again with Caitlin who was going to be seeing Mike’s friend the next day. She said, “Okay Mom. And the good thing is, you’re dressed for Mexico. Not the jean jacket but the dress.”
Now that says a lot because this girl has spent oodles of time in faraway hot places, including parts of Mexico. So if she thinks my maxi dress is good for the heat, you’d all be smart to believe her!
Don’t worry, we’ll keep this conversation going. I do have lots more to share.
In the meantime, tell me what your solutions are for the heat!
DianeJuly 10, 2017 at 10:53 am
Hey Brenda, you are right on the button with the dress for staying cool. In cooler weather, I am a pants girl, but come summer I am over the moon to get out my collection of skirts and dresses in various lenghts. They are the best way to keep the air circulating. You look adorable in your blue one. I edit them every year, but keep ending up with more…I love it. Stay cool.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 7:56 am
Thanks Diane. I really am a hardcore pants girl myself and this year I see the hole I’ve had in dresses. NOT like you, I have a few. Now it’s about getting ones that will go to Mexico (whether I do that or not) because Sonoma can get very hot and adding in some casual dresses like this one is just what I need. I could learn a thing or two from you and your collection. Thanks for sharing that insight into how you work summer!
MareJuly 10, 2017 at 10:55 am
I, too, go for long cool dresses in the heat!
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 7:57 am
We’re in this club together! It’s funny how I can get resistance with I bring it up to clients because to them, all that fabric seems like it’ll be hot. Au contraire!
KathyJuly 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm
Ok, I’m kinda outta wind from returning that darn sticker to the guy in his wheelchair..jeez Brenda…I thought it was a good suggestion!
I wear a lot of cotton, natural fibers and try a shrug or light linen jacket in air conditioning. I usually wear dresses avoiding shorts and capris because I look too short (high water). At home, I bare my arms and pretend the wrinkles are tattoos to make me more interesting and I feel awfully brave doing this!
I think your outfit is great! You look stunning and I hope you get to Mexico!
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 7:59 am
Oh Kathy, I’m giggling like crazy and my cat, Bella, is looking at me funny as I read this! I love your arm wrinkle trick! And who said visualization (plus imagination) didn’t work!! Oh, too funny! I’ll be thinking about this all day!
SallieJuly 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm
I love this dress on you – pure summer! Seems like JJill is working well for you these days. I had a good find there – the Pure Jill Easy Tank. I got it in white and it’s such a good layering piece, thin enough to not be bulky but it has absolutely none of the “grab” a lot of spandex tanks have. It gave new life to a Joie top that I had quit wearing because the previous layering piece had too much grab and I could not find anything better. Happy Summer!!!
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:06 am
I hate grabbing tanks!!!! Yes, I’ve done a few shopping trips there with clients this season. I think they’re always great for summer clothes. It’s a matter of cruising the store and picking out those few things that can make a big difference in a wardrobe. I’ll have to check out that Easy Tank. I’m starting to get annoyed with a few of mine! Thanks for that tip!
La semaine d'une gourmetteJuly 11, 2017 at 4:28 am
Oh yes, long dresses rule in heat!
One other solution: If you like ethnic clothes, wear a Salwar Kameez, i.e. the Indian “uniform” of flowy pants + long flowy tunic. If you go for a muslin one, it’s really great in hot weather.
And at home (I wouldn’t advertise it outside home, it does look weird if you go around wrapped in a towel), buy one of those new cooling towels that you wet, wring out and snap a few times, they deliver coolness for more than an hour afterwards, bliss!
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:08 am
Oh my gosh, two fabulous ideas! I love the Indian “uniform” and have it in my mind at times, trying to replicate it. And the cooling towel! Wow. How many of us are going to run right out and get one of those. Or is it online? Sounds great!
La semaine d'une gourmetteJuly 13, 2017 at 1:10 am
Well, the brand is EnduraCool (I don’t earn anything from them, I just am a *very* satisfied customer), and I know that in Italy you find it on Amazon (I know that because I bought a couple to be sent to a friend of mine who lives in Tuscany and suffers a lot when the summer heat hits).
BrendaJuly 17, 2017 at 1:05 pm
Oh great! Thanks for this!
Cindy La FerleJuly 11, 2017 at 4:50 am
You look lovely in blue, Brenda, and I love the long dress too. I’ve been wearing long dresses and skirts in the summer, too. I have a couple of maxi dresses from the Comfy USA line — black with interesting details — and those work well with interesting jewelry. (I love black maxi dresses with straw hats in the summer!) Also have a long Eileen Fisher skirt that’s flattering, which I wear with a short white linen top.
I really don’t like the look of my bare arms (they just sag, even though I’m not overweight), but I’ve been gathering my courage to bare them anyway, after reading some of your posts about embracing our aging bodies and not being ashamed of our looks. (Thanks for that, Brenda!) That said, I do like to carry shawls for dressier summer occasions, or a jeans jacket like yours … Or, I wear linen tunics with 3/4 sleeves on warm days, too.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:12 am
All great ideas here! Thanks for sharing. Yes, I’d say Eileen Fisher is good for loose pieces. That’s a great resource. I bought a linen “jean” jacket from them last year or the year before and wear it all the time! To be honest, I always look for ways to cover my arms but it’s just not seeming like as big deal to me anymore. I think turning 65 was the line I crossed carrying a sign that says, “We dare to bare, so there!”
CaraJuly 11, 2017 at 6:34 am
LINEN is the best! I’m in S. FL, and actually live without AC. Shorts, loose tank tops, past the knee dresses. Do not care people have to look at my wrinkly knees and not toned arms. When it gets really hot & I’m working around the house, I put on Gary’s cotton boxers with a woven cotton top. I find knits usually way too warm. We have the same phenomenon here with frigid AC, so always have a cardigan or jeans jacket in the trunk. It’s absurd and so unsustainable to have AC that cold!
Have fun on the trip
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:13 am
Cara, I am inspired! No A/C in South Florida! I love your whole philosophy on this. Thanks for sharing!
RebeccaJuly 11, 2017 at 7:02 am
For me staying cool in the heat and humidity is all about the fabric – I find linen/tencel blends to be both strong and light, cotton and even bamboo. I need to stay out of the sun, so I have a long-sleeved cotton cardigan which I can wear even in the heat. I find covering up skin to be actually a lot cooler than exposing too much…..I like long dresses and long flowy skirts.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:16 am
GREAT points here, Rebecca. I agree with you. I like my loose silk cardigans for feeling cool yet covering my arms. Blazing sun on my arms can be uncomfortable too. Fiber content is key. I’m wearing a long-sleeved shirt right now (with boxer dogs on it) that is so very cool. It’s in a super soft cotton. Thanks for your ideas. Loving them!
Penelope Chandra- ShekarJuly 11, 2017 at 7:58 am
You are singing my song here. I tend to run hot anyway so these hot days are challenging for me. I am always on the lookout for flowy and flattering dresses. As long as they are past the knees they work for me. Some of my favorites are from J.Jill, and Fresh Produce. Not having to wear a slip is key as that extra layer defeats the purpose.
They have to be sleeveless to be cool enough and I have gotten over sensitivity about the aging arm situation. Yes, I carry a light wrap or sweater for A.C. A jean jacket is pretty much winter wear for me! Keep the cool tips coming….
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 8:18 am
Ah, yes, Fresh Produce. Good line to add to the resource list! I’ve got my cooling thinking cap on so expect more!
TelynauJuly 11, 2017 at 11:38 am
Hello Brenda! I live year ’round in dresses and skirt/top outfits. It’s refreshing to see how you styled the maxi with the jean jacket.
My go-to for our SWLA Summer season is sleeveless jersey tank dresses with chiffon tunics or chiffon open cardigans. Sometimes an infinity scarf worn as a shrug instead. Neckerchief tied at a jaunty angle if bare armed. Lightweight jewelry in scroll or swirl patterns. Anything that evokes airy, watery, cool images is my “favourite”.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 12:34 pm
I have seen people wearing chiffon open cardigans or chiffon tunics and I LOVE that look! I’m so glad you brought that up! And I love your idea of jewelry evoking airy, watery, cool images. BRILLIANT! Thanks, Telynau!
Nancy KJuly 11, 2017 at 2:10 pm
I am reading this in a loose knit dress with short sleeves and an opening above my bra in back with a cowl in the bottom of the opening. It’s i a light weight rayon lycra, my favorite knit for the heat. I have a couple of other summer knit dresses that I tend to alternate when it’s hot. I bought some slip shorts this year on the advice of my dil to keep my thighs from chafing. They are light and comfortable.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 2:38 pm
Nancy, I too like rayon as a summer fabric. And that’s great to hear about the slip shorts! Great tip!
Nancy KJuly 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm
I seem to only wear dresses in the summer. They are so comfortable in the heat. I am in fact wearing a knee length knit dress as I write this. It’s a new one that I made from a recent Burda Style pattern with an opening above my bra that has a cowl drafted into the lower section. Not over exposed, but the opening gives it another place for air flow. Long dresses get caught up in the wheeled chairs in my sewing room and at my drafting table, so not so practical for me.
BrendaJuly 11, 2017 at 2:39 pm
I love “seeing” all of this going on in your sewing room! I can imagine the long lengths getting caught. How great to be able to sew your clothes. I love the idea of that cowl!
KATHYSUEJuly 11, 2017 at 5:14 pm
I like to wear long dresses as well in a soft knit, easy to wear and feels like wearing a night gown but looks better. I also love sundresses, or skirts, bermudas are always good but like you I think a dress gives more air space and breathing room. I show my arms and in most ladies circles they would not, but when it is this hot, I have found wear a cute outfit, a good color and maybe no one will look at my arms!!!
BrendaJuly 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm
I love your thoughts on this! I’m with you.
Debbie KlausingJuly 12, 2017 at 6:02 am
Great blog! I have been on the hunt for one of those chiffon-or- whatever kimono/cardigan tops to wear with a navy swing dress. I am barely 5’4″ , 120 lbs. and I feel overpowered in the ones I have tried on. I can’t seem to find any smaller scaled ones. Any suggestions, or should I just forget that idea? I am drawn to that look, probably because I am tired of feeling boring, lol! I love turquoise, sea spray, teals, , corals, paisleys…
I too am starting to bare arms this summer more than in the past. Exercise has helped the jiggle.
BrendaJuly 17, 2017 at 12:49 pm
Well, here’s an idea. How about shopping for the chiffon cardigan thingies in the petite department of a store? That way they’d already be cut down in volume. IT’s work a try. I can see it in my mind’s eye and it’s working!
Debbie KlausingSeptember 20, 2017 at 7:16 pm
Thanks Diane! I actually found a shorter kimono in the Junior department at Dillard’s. Who cares if I am 67?
DianeJuly 12, 2017 at 6:22 am
Love this post!!! I have read it three times, comments and all!! It makes perfect sense. With a long dress you can be cool and still look chic but not over done. I’m in love with your jewelry! Please talk more about the Sol Sisters line of jewelry. It is so lovely. I’m 67 and starting to bare my arms again after keeping them covered up for years. I’m finding that it is better to bare them than to faint from the heat, and I really don’t feel as self-conscious about them as I once did. Funny, but since I let my hair grow in to natural salt and pepper I find I have a new confidence about myself. Also, I have discovered that if I wear loose wide-leg crop pants in the heat, I’m much cooler than wearing slim leg pants.
BrendaJuly 17, 2017 at 1:04 pm
So so true about the loose pants! So glad you’re getting great ideas. People have left such great comments! Yes, about the Sol Sisters. It was a chance encounter meeting them. I’d love to make their work accessible to you. I have to figure out how! They’ve mainly been making jewelry for friends but they’re branching out. I like how you’re feeling more free. Woo hoo!
Sandra SallinJuly 14, 2017 at 10:59 am
Love the long dress on you but on my, I look pregnant. You see I’m buxomly and the way they present themselves makes the rest of me look large. Remember you said if one part of you was full you need to have another close to your body? I’ve never forgotten that piece of advice. But where do you suggest I go to find a Jeans jacket that will fit this well-endowed woman. LOVE YOUR BLOG! YOU TOO!
BrendaJuly 17, 2017 at 12:29 pm
Hey you cutie pie! Jean jackets can be tough that way. I found a great linen one from Eileen Fisher a year or so back. Since it was designed to be loose, it had more fabric from the side seams to the front. It helped a LOT that it wasn’t in actual denim which can be much bulkier and only add bulk to one’s buxomness. I’m often looking for jean jackets in departments that tend to cater to younger women for the hip factor in the cut or the treatment of the denim which is a mistake for buxomness. So I’d look in places like Chico’s and J.Jill which cater more to real women with real bodies. Love you too!
Meredith SeiserJuly 19, 2017 at 12:47 am
I have heard of a new bra liner, Wick’ems, to wick away sweat from summer heat. I have ordered some to wear under my mother of the bride dress later this summer. I hope they keep me cool. And of course Jockey’s slip shorts!
BrendaJuly 19, 2017 at 11:31 am
Great tips! Thanks for sharing them, Meredith!
Kay WaltonJuly 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm
In awe of your spot-on counsel! Thank you so much for tackling this topic. I may just survive this steamy Alabama summer by applying your wisdom.
BrendaJuly 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm
Well, that would be awesome!
Gwen DeanApril 7, 2019 at 6:11 pm
I’m 76 and have been wearing maxi pencil cotton skirts that I run up from 11/2 yds of fabric a tank top and beads to match the skirt, straw hat and I’m set for the Texas heat, love your look I’m really encouraged to just bare my arms good blog I love it Gwen
Nora JonesAugust 7, 2019 at 7:50 am
Hey Miss Brenda,
As a transplanted Morro Bay, California girl to southern Missouri where it is humid in spring and more so in summer, I find great comfort in midi or maxi dresses. I am wondering how would you style shorts or if I dare…a swimsuit?
carla pennaJuly 8, 2020 at 3:16 am
Where I live is about 100 degrees for a couple of months, not much air conditioning. Tencel is definitely too hot, and a straight-skirted tencel dress is extremely hot unless you have skinny legs. I love the look and feel of Tencel but the things i bought in it are only good for winter. (It’s also a magnet for stains). It;s too bad because it;s beautiful and has some structure and drapes nicely. I would go more for a crisp dress with a wider skirt. I even have a lightweight denim shirtdress with cap sleeves and a wide skirt that is extremely cool, the denim is too stiff to cling and not so heavy to be hot, and it never sticks to the legs. MOst summer clothes here are too transparent and require a second layer which defeats the purpose. Not easy to find the right balance. Stiffer dresses need to be a bit fitted, following the curves but not touching them, wider at the bottom both to balance the figure and to let in the air. But i find that;s the best for the deep heat