Summer Fashion: Keeping Cool

For hot summer days we found light, loose-fitting and stylish clothing for women fifty plus.

By Stacia Friedman


This is the season when choosing the right fabrics and styles makes the difference between keeping your cool and suffering from hot summer days. While younger women can wear skimpy tops and shorts, gals on the better side of fifty need to look for breezy, loose-fitting clothing that flatters our body type. Below are the trends and must-haves you will want, whether you are spending summer in the city, mountains or the shore.


Shape Shifters

Shift dresses are synonymous with summer. Their loose fit assures cool comfort, especially in 100% cotton or linen that allows you and the fabric to breathe easy. J.Jill’s Sleeveless Two-Pocket Linen Dress with a scooped neck, loose empire waist and inverted pleat in front and back is a classic. This 100% linen shirt is machine washable and comes in lagoon green, navy or white with a flax border and white/teal/beige stripes. On sale $60 at J.Jill. (Locations on Third Ave in Manhattan and Columbus at 67th Street.)

Did Eileen Fisher invent the cotton shift? No. She just perfected it. Fisher’s roomy Organic Cotton V-Neck Shift has short sleeves and hits below the knee with side slits up to mid-thigh. In white, black and blue/violet. $258 at Macy’s. Too pricey? Slip into La Cera’s Sea Shore Dress, a soft, cotton jersey shift in a fun seashell black/white print with side pockets. Just $49 at La Cera.


Let it Flow

Romantics will love the flowing dresses of summer that take their cue from Indian sarees, Victorian lawn dresses and the Summer of Love. Wrap yourself in a one-of-a-kind Fareeda Saree Kaftan made from vintage silk sarees. This V-neck, mixed-pattern, one-size-fits-all, caftan covers the arms to the elbow and hits above the knee in front and below in back. In a variety of jewel tones, $267 at Matta in Soho and in ABC Home.

Florals are hot this summer. But you’ll keep your cool in La Cera’s Floral Handkerchief Dress, a breezy, V-neck, sleeveless dress with a handkerchief hemline dipping mid-calf in front and back. 100% rayon in black with multi-colored floral print. Sizes 6 to 18. $54 at La Cera. “Let the sun shine” in a Manasi Dress, a 1970’s inspired boho caftan with dramatic angel-wing sleeves, bias cut and full sweep in airy 100% cotton voile with lurex thread. In bay, moss or wine print. Due to the roomy fit, size small fits all. $276 at Matta.


Sheer Magic

Reluctant to expose your upper arms or prance around town in a cami? Macy’s understands. Go there to grab the summer’s hottest trend—sheer kimonos that cover your trouble spots without adding bulk.

Eileen Fisher has whipped up a gossamer Organic Linen Mesh Tunic for plus-size gals with ¾ sleeves to wear over a cami. It hits mid-thigh with side slits; In undyed natural, $218. Or try a versatile NY Collection Plus Size Kimono with open front, ¾ sleeves and side slits. In black, now $29.50. Regularly $59. Style & Co. offers a charming, open front, ruffled sleeve Sheer Floral Print Kimono in black with multi-colored print. $59.50. All at Macy’s. (They also have a nice selection of kimonos in regular sizes.)


Upwardly Mobile Peasants

Peasant blouses never go out of style. We love La Cera’s Embroidered Peasant Top in 100% cotton with a scooped neck, tassle-tie front and softly gathered ¾ sleeves. In white with blue embroidery or white with lime, $75. Pair it with capris, cropped pants or jeans and espadrilles.

Sticking with that retro vibe, La Cera’s Plus Size Applique Trimmed Tunic in 100% cotton is the perfect topper for jeans, capris or even over a swimsuit. The flattering scooped neckline dips down to a three-button closure, letting you reveal or conceal as much cleavage as you prefer. The beautiful white-on-white applique creates interest on the front and back bib, ¾ sleeves and hemline. $87.50 at La Cera.

Leave it to Donna Karen to design a top that blends contemporary chic with nostalgia. Her DKNY Linen Frayed Trim Top with a deep V-neck and elbow length sleeves falls loosely to the hip with frayed sleeves and hem. In white, black or natural. Wear with jeans. On sale $32, Macy’s.


The Bell Curve

Bell sleeves are still going strong. Eli Tahari’s Sanderson Floral Fauna Knit Top offers a summery interpretation with a fluttery handkerchief hem and graceful ¾ bell sleeves. This wrist-length, pull-over top draws attention with a novelty print of birds and flowers in cotton and elastane. White with multi-color print, $98. Vince Camuto’s Ruffle Bell Sleeve Top offers a more casual version in light chambray heather cotton knit. $59. Both at Bloomies.

Want to make a dramatic entrance? Combine an off-the-shoulder, body skimming white top with bell sleeves dripping in crocheted lace! Yes, you’ll need a tan and a strapless bra but it’s worth it. Bailey 44 Crochet Off-the-Shoulder Top has it all, and then some. This clever rayon/cotton/spandex blend clings to your curves and ¾ of the way down your arms, then explodes in a froth of lace down to your wrists. Just don’t let it fall into your gazpacho. In chalk white. $168 at Saks, of course.



Put your skinny jeans away for the Fall. They’re simply too darn hot. Instead, look for the newer wider pant legs. Remember palazzo pants? They’re ba-ack! Anthropologie’s Striped Palazzo Pants are “da bomb.” These front-zipped pants with removable belt in variegated stripes are made of easy-breezy viscose. The relaxed fit and swirling hemline complements most figures. Blue and white stripes in regular and petite. $148 at Anthropologie.

J.Jill’s Wearever Crops in rayon/lycra/spandex knit have an elasticized waistline, side pockets and are virtually wrinkle-free. We show it in their tropical cream floating palms print. Also available in solid black or deep blue and black ornate floral. XS–XL. $60 to $89 at J.Jill.

You want cropped pants to take you from Sunday brunch to Saturday night? We recommend DKNY Cropped Linen Utility Pants. These comfy linen, machine washable, pull-on, draw string pants with roomy front and back patch pockets pair well with colorful t-shirts, camis and tank tops. White only. $32 at Macy’s.

And don’t forget your most important summer accessories: Sunscreen, a large-brimmed hat and water bottle!
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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 and

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