22 June 2010

Reader Request:: Surviving Brutal Summers

Fabulous Reader Mindfulranter asks:

"Hey can you think of some looks for a seasoned (nearly 50) full figured woman who lives in Phoenix? Summers are brutal, would love to figure out simple, flattering, comfortable outfits to wear!"

I'm immensely flattered by this request! I've lived in the northeastern US all my life, where summers are a bit cooler and much more humid than the Southwest, so I'm working from theory rather than personal experience.

I don't know anything about Mindfulranter's figure type, complexion, or financial circumstances, so what follows are general ideas and suggestions, rather than specific recommendations for garments to buy.

lovely linen
Learn to love linen. Linen has a bad rep: people think that it's hard to care for, wrinkles easily, and needs to be dry cleaned. That's true if you expect linen to act like a suiting material and be crisp, shiny, and have a hard hand. Linen was the fabric of choice for undergarments in Europe for centuries for a reason, though, and not just because it grew easily all over the continent: when washed, linen becomes soft, drapey, and develops a gentle hammered texture. It's also one of the coolest fibers you can wear: unlike cotton, it doesn't "swamp" when it gets damp, and it's much more breathable than any synthetic. Look for linen garments that can be machine washed and dried, whether the tag says so or not: avoid acetate linings (which ruin the cool comfort, anyway), hand-wash-only trims, and structured garments like blazers. Other good fibers to look for are ramie, cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp, and rayon. Avoid polyester, nylon, and synthetic blends: they trap heat and moisture. Fabrics like seersucker, chambray, gauze and voile are all good choices: these are lighter, more open weaves that allow for more air flow. Lighter colors are generally more comfortable, but some dark hues in your summer wardrobe are just fine.

super sundresses
Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Dresses are the best. What could be better in the summer than a cool, breezy dress? Look for styles that skim the body rather than cling in lightweight fabrics. Don't fear maxi dresses whether you're full-figured or slender: just choose them carefully for your figure type. The extra length can provide a bit of shade and trap breezes. Keep accessories light and minimal: broad belts and giant statement necklaces can be oppressive in the summer heat. Skirts are great, too, when you want separates.

summer tunicsFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Flowing tunics are great, too. Pair them with cropped leggings, harem pants, and knee-length or maxi skirts. Again, keep the fabrics light, and choose wovens over knits: knitted materials seem to absorb and retain more moisture, trapping heat with it. A super-light summer scarf, wrapped loosely, can add color and style without getting too schvitzy. Soak it in cool water, cowboy-style, to help cool off if the temperature's unbearable.

Outfits with hatsFashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Don't forget your hat. Broad-brimmed hats are ideal for sunny, hot climates: what's not to like about portable shade? Fuller-figured women often have the body scale to carry off broad brims with style. Look for straw or canvas styles, and pair them with just about anything in your wardrobe.

One thing I don't think works well for hot, dry climates are shorts. Those are better in hot humid weather, where excess fabric can cling and stick. However, when it's hot and dry, a loose, drapey longer garment can provide a bit of protection from the sun and trap stray breezes.

Any Fabulous Readers from desert climates have any suggestions or further ideas? I'd love some feedback!


  1. I live in a tropical climate (more humid and sticky) but I don't like shorts in hot weather!
    I love the asymmetrical skirt in the top set...

  2. Thank you so much for you ideas! I especially love the tunic shirts! Great length, fabric, and fashionable without appearing matronly! Keep up your good work!

  3. I, too, live in a tropical climate and dislike shorts in the summer (I also find it to be too humid for pants, capris... well anything that has the legs enclosed in fabric). Dresses and skirts (especially long flowy skirts paired with sandals) are my go to items for this weather, in addition to tees and tanks. And for the A/C in the office -- 3/4 and short sleeved blazers and summer sweaters.

  4. Great ideas! Thank you so much! I especially like the tunics. The soft off white mixed with the skirt is especially up my alley! I find tunics are good. They are stylish, hide a multiple of sins, and do not look matronly!

  5. This is Mindfulranter. For some reason I am unable to comment under my google account! Anyhoo. Love the ideas! Especially the tunics! I find tunics are stylish, comfortable, hide a multitude of sins and do not look matronly...which seems to be my problem a great deal of the time. Thank you again!

  6. Well I guess my comments went through!!! Took a couple of days! Take care now~


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