Cool Looks for Hot Nights

This summer promises to be another record-breaker in the city. How do you dress in style? Here is a guide to the fabrics, styles and brands that will keep you classy and comfy on the steamiest nights.

By Stacia Friedman

Model Anna Cleveland, daughter of ’70s supermodel Pat Cleveland, in a flowing caftan; Hellessy and Ralph Lauren on the runway for Summer 2017.

Silhouettes

Whether you are full-figured or slender, avoid form-fitting clothes in favor of flowing, breezy styles that allow air to circulate between your skin and the fabric. Stay away from clingy knits even if they are 100% cotton. The under-30 set may wear black or white leggings under tunic tops, but don’t even think about it! Your legs need to breathe. Off-the-shoulder, cold-shoulder and halter looks are ideal. So are ankle-length, gauzy peasant skirts. Trade in your pencil skirt for an A-line wrap or flowing handkerchief-hemmed maxi. Chuck your blazer, cardigan and jean jacket for a hip-skimming or maxi kimono.

Pack away your tight jeans for Fall and switch to wide-leg, loose-fitting Levi’s, lightweight chambray or flared linen cropped pants with side slits. Look for adjustable draw-string waists. Or better yet, stick with loose silhouettes that skim your figure rather than bind you. (Note: None of the women in Gaugin’s tropical paintings wear suits!)

Fabrics

Cotton, linen, Tencel, hemp, rayon and viscose are your organic friends. They are all breathable yarns that wick moisture away from your skin and allow your body to cool off. Tencel is actually 50% more breathable than cotton. What about silk? It’s a natural fiber but it tends to retain heat and moisture. It’s also more likely to get perspiration marks.

No matter the fabrics content, the looser the weave, the more comfortable you’ll feel. Steer clear of heavy, stiff cottons or linens. If you hold the fabric up to the light and can see through it—all the better! Watch out for spandex, Elastene and polyester blends. They block fabric’s breathability. Also, avoid any item that comes with lining. That’s one more layer that will keep the heat in.

Denim is 100% cotton but it’s too heavy for summer. However, it’s younger sister chambray is a lighter version and is a great alternative.

Colors

There’s a reason Saudi sheiks wear white and drape their wives in black. White reflects heat rather than absorbing it. Nothing looks cooler—and more classy—than a loose-fitting, white linen shift worn with espadrilles and chunky bangles. Black, on the other hand, retains heat. Save it for after dark. I know. I know. Some New Yorkers feel naked in any color other than black, even when the heat rivals Calcutta. But it really does absorb, rather than reflect, the sun’s glare.

Eileen Fisher

Ms. Fisher, the reigning queen of organic dressing, offers hot weather fashions in crisp, linen and cotton that will never go out of style. This season, in addition to her classic neutral tones, Fisher adds a bright pop of tropical yellow she calls papyrus.

Above left to right: Fisher’s Hemp & Organic Cotton Cropped Top features a square neckline, cap sleeves, loose fit and hits just below the waist. In papyrus, $88 at Saks. Wear it with Fisher’s Organic Linen Cropped Wide-Leg Pants in black. Macy’s, $178.

Also at Macy’s, another must-have piece in the Fisher collection is her Organic Linen Tunic. With its boat-neck, long sleeves, side slits and knee-skimming length, this versatile piece and be worn over cropped pants, maxi skirts or alone if you dare. White only. Now on sale at $160.

What’s cooler than separates? Slip into Fisher’s loose fitting Organic Cotton Boatneck Dress with three-quarter sleeves and patch pockets. Stopping just above the knees, in papyrus, $238 at Saks. Just add chunky wrist bangles and espadrilles.

J.Jill

If, like me, you find Eileen Fisher and Anthropologie prices—even on sale—a bit steep, pop on over to J.Jill shops on the East or West side where you’ll find the very same styles and fabrics at less than half the price! Psst: J.Jill’s summer sale is going on now. Go online to check it out.

Above left to right: Who could tell the difference between the high-priced spread and J.Jill’s A-Line Linen Dress, a body-skimming, sleeveless shift? In island blue, african violet, black, grey and majestic blue. On sale now at $69.99 (reg $99.99.) Or J.Jill’s Linen Kimono Tunic with three-quarter sleeves that falls just below the hip. Pair with cropped pants or a maxi skirt. In black, white, soft blue. $69.99 on sale. Reg $89. Go get ’im.

We love J.Jill’s Drawstring Linen Pants with rolled cuffs. In Soft Verbena, $39.99. And don’t miss J.Jill’s linen skirts in a variety of styles—all under $50! Many feature the easy-fit, flared hems that make city walking a breeze.

Macy’s

Above left to right: For the absolute steal of the season, grab one or more Style & Company Layered Cotton Handkerchief Hem Skirts, now just $10.86 to $32.99 depending on color! ($16.98) This fluttering A-line, maxi skirt features an elasticized shirred waist band. In ocean dye blue, navy, blush, white and grey pin-stripe. In S, M, L, XL. Pair this or any skirt with a Karen Scott Cotton Tank Top in bright white, black or navy. $19.50 at Macy’s.

If you want to latch onto this summer’s ethnic peasant look, consider Style & Co’s sleeveless cotton Shift Dress with embroidered trim along the handkerchief hem. It features a breezy sheer overlay of cotton so fine it appears to be chiffon. In black or burgundy. $39.99 at Macy’s. Add strappy metallic sandals and dangling earrings for a night on the town.

Anthropologie

This store gets it. They know how to pair comfort with high fashion without breaking the bank. More importantly, their targeted customer is under 50. Way under. Which doesn’t mean they are not for you. It means this is where you can find fun pieces to keep your wardrobe young at heart.

Left: Want to conceal upper arm flab while staying cool? Look no further than Cloth & Stone Open-Shoulder Tee, a loose fitting, rayon, pullover with elbow-length sleeves and breezy shoulder openings. Black only. $78 at Anthropologie. Pair with flowing cotton or linen skirt, wide leg capris or jeans.

Below left: There’s something nostalgic and romantic about their Solange Buttoned Blouse with its wide scooped neckline, lightly padded shoulders with pleated detail and buttoned cuffs. In rayon/linen in white or plum. $78. Wear it with a maxi peasant skirt or flared pants.

Above center: Anthropologie’s aptly named Fair Weather Wide-Legs are the ideal cropped pants in Lyocell linen with draw-string waist, four pockets, raw hem and side slits for maximum ventilation. In white, yellow and pink, $88. Equally noteworthy is their Sydney Linen Wide-Leg pants, a sleek sweep of gently flaring pants with slant pockets in white or navy, $88.

Now about those jeans in your closet. While it’s all well and good for kids to prance around in designer jeans ripped to shreds, that’s not the best look for us older gals. You’ll be cooler and more fashionable in the newer, wide-leg jeans. Below left: We like Levi’s Hi-Rise Wide-Leg Jeans with their slimming hi-waist and flared legs. $88, Anthropologie.

Above center: Better yet, try the super soft chambray denim of Pilcro Ultra Hi-Rise Wide Legs, flaring jeans with a removable tie belt and front pockets. Chambray is denim’s lighter weight sister, $148. Also at Anthropologie. Remember denim wrap skirts? They’re baaaaack! But this time in lightweight Lyocell and linen. Slip into Level 99 Chambray Wrap Skirt, midi length at $99.

Ultimately, the best way to keep cool is to toss your cotton and linen outfits in a duffle bag and high tail it to the shore or mountains. Haven’t got a vacation home in Maine or Marblehead? No problem. Go there anyway and knock on any door wearing Ray-Bans with bottle of chilled Champagne and a smile. They’ll be happy to see you.

Stacia Friedman is an award-winning Philadelphia-based journalist who writes on health and lifestyle for regional and national magazines. She also contributes humorous essays to NewsWorks.org and PurpleClover.com.

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