Once warm weather rolls around, I start to evaluate my summer wardrobe for what I know I’ll reach for most: the essentials. They’re the versatile basics I can mix and match over and over so that I great and spend less time getting ready. After all, the best part of summer isn’t the clothes—it’s al fresco dinners, roadtrips, outdoor concerts, and more—but it sure doesn’t hurt to look chic while we’re living it!
Here’s my list of the top 10 summer wardrobe essentials all women need. This less like a capsule (though, I do have a complete summer capsule wardrobe) and more like a guide to what to build your summer outfits off of. Nail the basics, then add trending pieces as you wish!
1. White Dress
Nothing says summertime like a breezy cotton dress. Whether midi dresses, maxi dresses, or mini dresses—this is a must have. I have a few different lengths because summer dresses are so easy to throw on with sandals and a denim jacket or cardigan.
2. White T-Shirt
I consider this a year-round wardrobe staple, but a short sleeve white tee is especially helpful on hot summer days because it shouldn’t show sweat. I recommend investing in one that will last many years without shrinking and that goes with skirts, jeans, and more casual looks.
3. Tank Tops
Tank top, body suit, sleeveless blouse—whatever your preference, a summery top without sleeves that lets you cool down in the summer heat is essential.
4. Denim Shorts
If I had to describe my summer style in one outfit, it’d be a pair of jean shorts with a blouse. The feminine + laid back combo is a summer staple for me, so I always have a pair of jean shorts on hand.
5. Tailored Shorts
I think this might be the most overlooked summer staple! Dressier shorts are the best for date night and events when you’re not feeling a dress or pants. Throw on a bodysuit, a blazer, and heels, and you’re ready to go.
6. Large Tote Bag
For whatever reason, I always feel like I’m lugging around more during the summertime, whether it’s water bottles or layers I’ve taken off from earlier in the day. A large tote that can fit weekday must-haves, like your laptop, and weekend goodies, like fresh flowers, is a must.
7. White Jeans or Pants
For layering with a cami or a button down shirt, white denim is an absolute summer staple. I recommend going for a high-quality pair that won’t be see through, like this straight leg pair from Levi’s. If white skinny jeans are your thing, this is the pair I recommend.
8. Slide Sandals
Flat sandals are my go-to summer shoe for the pool, meals out, and errands. These are my favorite flip flops, but I recommend grabbing a white, nude, or black pair from the selection below that will go with a variety of outfits.
9. Dressy Sandals
Unless it’s a semi-formal event, I’m not reaching for pumps or high heels, but a little lift feels good for date night, girls’ night out, or the office. I have a mix of strappy heeled sandals, open-toe espadrilles, and heeled mules in my closet for summertime.
I consider sunglasses part of my skin care routine during the summer. When I’m driving around town, eating outdoors, or walking the neighborhood, I always wear an oversized pair, like Celine-inspired pair from Amazon, in addition to SPF and a hat.
Editor’s Notes: Summer Wardrobe Essentials
Keep in mind that this isn’t a complete list of what I wear in the warmer months—just the summer fashion essentials I reach for all summer long. With that in mind, a few notes for those of you looking to fill in your summer wardrobes even more:
- For beach day and resort must-haves, like coverups, sun hats, sunscreen, beach bags, two-piece bathing suits, and one-piece swimsuits, I wrote an entire post about what to pack for a beach vacation.
- A few optional summer staples to have on hand that didn’t make the shortlist include a straw hat, a woven crossbody bag, chinos, white sneakers, jumpsuits, midi skirts, and t-shirt dresses.
- For budget-friendly summer staples, check my ‘Finds Under $100’ posts. I share budget-friendly seasonal pieces several times each month in these posts, and May–July Finds Under $100 are all about favorite summer finds!
If you’re looking for a specific item, make sure you’re following along on social media or send me a DM on Instagram. If you have the LIKEtoKNOW.it app, you can search my profile for outfit ideas (‘warm-weather outfit’) or for a specific item (‘sundresses’, ‘rompers’, ‘swimwear’).