It’s oh-so-typical to wake-up in those final, fading, throes of the longest, hottest, summer in memory and realise ‘A-ha, I’ve finally figured out how to dress for immense heat, I’m ready, sun. Bring it on!’. Which is exactly what’s just happened to me. Nevermind.
When you grow-up and live in a culture where the answer, and expectation, around hot weather is to just wear less, what a refreshing revelation it is to realise that the answer to being stylish and comfortable is to actually wear MORE.
That’s right, all these years spent sweltering, bound up in constrictive shorts with their digging-in waistbands, capris which can sometimes feel a bit polo-mummy, and poorly made singlets that you buy 2 for $30 every-single-year – all together making you feel frumpy, sweaty and uncomfortable – they all have all been needless. Yes these items have their place. But sometimes we want, or need, something more put-together, which can be really so very hard when you feel like you’re about to melt.
So who’d have guessed that wearing MORE is also the trick to achieving that little-something-extra level of polish?
Well, actually, almost every country in the world that has ongoing, prolonged, tropical climates has always known that this is the key. We just happen to live in a society with zero common-sense when it comes to our sweltering months. Sure, wearing shorts and a tank top removes the immediate issue of excess heat from layers, but in New Zealand, our sun is so awfully brutal that you are burned within minutes. So, what’s the point?
Instead I have learned the valuable lesson that if you choose your fabric, cut, and colours well, you can be a totally stylish Sun-Queen – fabulous, cool, without a hint of sunburn.
For me, this re-education began a little under a year ago, when I read about Zuri Kenya. An emerging label, based out of the US, that makes just one dress. Yep. Just one. The dress in question is the shirt-dress of your dreams, made in Kenya, from glorious waxed cotton.
It’s the ideal hot weather dress – designed to we worn in African heat – loose fitted, long sleeves, breathable, natural fabric, perfect to travel in and to be frequently washed. You can wear it buttoned up as a kind of tunic, belted, or over a dress, skirt or trousers as a light jacket or overcoat. It also possesses the fashion holy grail that is deep, practical, pockets. All of these things are fantastic, but for me, the biggest draw was the range of flamboyant prints and colours that the Zuri dress comes in – each fabric bought in short supply, making every design a limited run – this vibrancy is of the kind of beauty we seldom see in ethical, versatile, clothing. It’s one of those garments that shines in its simplicity because it is cut, and wears, like an utter dream.
Since being lucky enough to get my hands on a Zuri, I’ve never looked back and it really has been the foundation for my summer attire philosophy. In it I am stylish, and feel nicely put-together, whilst remaining cool and protected from the sun.
From there, I have acquired a couple of additional dresses in this same vain – cotton, loose, bright, and with far more fabric and length than I’d have typically considered for a sweltering day. In news that will shock no-one, they are both vintage, and originate from gloriously vibrant, heat-heavy, countries.
This vintage Panama muumuu (muumuu – a derided and feared word in the plus-size fashion world, evoking memories of that Simpsons episode, but forget all of that – they are fabulous and designed for a reason: coolness) which I acquired on my trip to New Orleans, last year. It’s the most amazing emerald green, the kind which I am endlessly searching for in shops and online, but seldom see (such a shame as it’s a shade that suits many), with fantastic embroidery detailing. I feel like a million bucks every time I wear it.
And finally, a vintage cotton sundress, that originates from Pakistan, which I wrote about in a previous post, and adapted slightly to make the length work for me.
These three dresses have been my life-savers this summer, specifically on those days where it’s over 30 degrees, and I’m required to venture out into the world, when all I want to do is languish in a tepid bath, with a G&T, dramatically sighing “IT’S SOO-DAMN-HOTTT”.
This style of outfit works so well because whilst these are the most comfortable, effortless, breathable, garments imaginable, as soon as they are paired with some statement jewellery, bright sandals or, if I’m feeling particularly extra, a flower-crown, I’m able to present a completely on-brand Statement of Fabulousness to the world, when really, you’re doing very little.
Here’s my guidelines for this summer-style-philosophy:
1. Natural fabrics – cotton, linen etc.
2. Loose, baggy, cut – ideally no fastenings or anything resembling a waistband
3. Mid-length or longer, and some kid of sleeve – keep those shoulders well and truly covered, they’re always the first (and worst) place to burn
4. Bright colours and pattern – they not only help with the heat, but patterns help mask sweat marks, and detract from melting faces / lack of make-up
6. Accessorise like you’re Iris Apfel – more isn’t just more when it comes to fabric, it also applies to beaded necklaces, statement earrings, hair flowers, bangles, rings, etc. to help elevate your garment from oversized sack, to event, or work, ready
We may be in the final days of summer, but it’s nice to know I might have finally cracked dressing for it.
That’s the thing I love about fashion – if you open your mind the possibilities to keep learning, and evolving, are endless.
Fashion is the most fantastic, creative, journey imaginable . A journey where we should never want to reach our final destination, because where’s the fun in that?.