Summer Wardrobe Essentials

Memorial Day is almost here, which means that summer is well and truly on its way, so today I’m updating my list of summer wardrobe essentials.

While the spring-to-summer transition is much more subtle than winter-to-spring or summer-to-fall, I still like to reassess and freshen up my wardrobe for the summer season.

Summer Wardrobe Essentials

Every woman is different so these “essentials” are really more like suggestions. As always, take your job, lifestyle, and budget into consideration when making your list.

I have a very casual lifestyle so that will be reflected in this list. If you need work wear for a professional environment, your list may look a little different, but this should still be a good starting point.

#1. White Jeans

Mother Hustler (29) // Good American Good Straight (6) // Mother Dazzler (29)

White jeans are one of the mainstays of my summer wardrobe. They make a crisp statement and pair well with everything from neutrals to pastels to brights. I have several pairs in different silhouettes, and I rotate through depending on my mood and the overall look I’m going for.

#2. Shorts

7FAM denim shorts (28) // Spanx stretch twill shorts (8) // Joe’s Ozzie cut-off shorts (29)

As a stay-at-home mom, I practically live in denim shorts in the summertime, but there are lots of good non-denim options out this year as well. I like to have a few different lengths, depending on where I’m going. I wear the shorter styles for casual wear and around the house, and I’ll dress up the longer styles to wear out to dinner or to casual summer events.

If you struggle with shorts, you may like my post on Dos and Don’ts for Wearing Shorts. Don’t like shorts? Check out my post on Casual Alternatives to Shorts.

#3. White Tee

Caslon rounded v-neck (S) // Banana Republic crew neck (M) // ATM Schoolboy v-neck tee (M)

A good white tee is something I never want to be without. You can wear it with anything and dress it up with accessories. Choose a tee that fits well and a neckline that flatters you. A v-neck is pretty much universally flattering, but you can always do a scoop neck or a crewneck if that works for you.

#4. Cropped Pants & Jeans

Paige cargo joggers (28) // Mother Insider crop flares (28) // Mother Insider crop flares (28)

Cropped jeans and pants are a good alternative to shorts, if you aren’t too hot natured. I wear my crop jeans all summer long. Just be careful with the length; you want your crop pants to end below the widest part of your calf.

#5. Skirts & Skorts

Sundry Saturday Skirt (size 2) // Michael Stars tank (S)

Casual skirts are another nice alternative to shorts, and these days anything goes — from maxi skirts to pencil skirts, from denim to woven styles. I don’t wear a ton of skirts, but they’re a great way to level up a casual t-shirt. I also included a couple of skorts in my recommendations below.

#6. Dresses & Jumpsuits

Paige Brielle t-shirt dress (S) // Zella knit romper (S) // Eileen Fisher tank dress (XS)

A lot of women like dresses in the summer months because they’re “one and done,” and the same is true for a jumpsuit. I don’t wear a lot of casual dresses, but I make sure to have a couple of “occasion” dresses in my closet for weddings, graduations, or other special events that might crop up.

#7. Sandals

Caslon wedges (8) // Born flatforms (8; also at Nordstrom) // Vince Camuto wedges (8)

I recommend neutral sandals for your basic wardrobe essentials because they’re so versatile, but once you get your basics situated, you can branch out with some fun colors.

As far as trending styles, slides are having a moment, as are wedges. Comfort sandals with a molded footbed are also trending, which is awesome because you can have your cake and eat it too! Comfort sandals that aren’t frumpy is my love language.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Spring 2022 Sandal Trends

#8. Denim Jacket

  KUT from the Kloth Jacqueline // KUT from the Kloth Kara // similar white denim jacket

Even though it’s generally hot in the summertime, I always get cold in air conditioning, so I like to bring a denim jacket along as a layering piece. I wear mine with dresses as well as with pants and jeans.

A white denim jacket is particularly sharp for summer, but if you wear white jeans and pants often, you may prefer a blue jean jacket. I have one of each, and I wear them both a lot. Colors are also trending this year, and I recently added a pink, green, and yellow to my closet!

#9. Summer Handbag

Coach Tabby 26 Leather Crossbody Bag

Handbag trends right now are all about the light neutrals — white, ivory, taupe, and blush are popular; and it’s also nice to have a straw tote option. Of course every woman has her personal preferences, but I like to have a crossbody for going out and events as well as then a few totes and hobo style bags in various colors for my daily use.

If you like to carry just one bag pretty much everywhere, make it something in a light neutral that goes with most everything in your closet. See my post on Handbag Trends for Spring 2022.

#10. Sunglasses

rag & bone sunglasses

Everyone needs a chic pair of sunglasses. Not only do they protect your eyes from the sun, they also make a fashion statement, and you can find a great pair at any price point.

#11. Bathing Suit + Coverup

Becca Beach Date High Neck Dress Cover-Up (XS/S) // Brighton burlap totes // Vera Bradley Beach Towel // Havaiana flip flops // DIFF Shay

Oh, yes, the dreaded bathing suit. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be spending a lot of time at the pool this summer, and having a well-fitting bathing suit is a must. Check out my 2022 Swimsuit Guide for lots of options, and I also rounded up swim cover-ups under $100.

To Sum It Up!

This list of summer wardrobe essentials isn’t exhaustive, but it should get you started.

You’ll definitely want a variety of cute tops to wear with your shorts and white jeans, and adding a pair of printed shorts is a fun way to add some interest to your wardrobe. I like to have a few basic tank tops to wear on the hottest days or to layer under a jacket or blazer with pants or skirts, and I always keep a few pairs of blue jeans in my closet for cooler days or evenings.

It’s a good idea to keep a list, and when you notice “holes” in your wardrobe — pieces you need to complete an outfit — add them to the list. Then you can be more intentional when you go shopping because you’ll know what you need.

I’d love to hear what pieces you consider to be essentials, and I hope this post helps as you form a foundation for your summer wardrobe.

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21 Responses

  1. I love all the outfits on you, can’t say enough how I love a white tee as well. I think the Banana Republic crew looks especially nice with those jeans, looks so neat.
    Have a great Memorial Day and enjoy your family! The sun has finally peeked out here this afternoon and warmed up.

  2. Hi Jo-Lynne,
    Love your suggestions! I love the printed tee you are wearing in the third shorts shot. Can you tell me who makes it and where I can get it?

  3. Now that Larry has expressed how much he enjoys seeing me in dresses, I have begun adding casual dresses to my closet. I have to admit that they are cooler for this very hot natured female, and I do like that they are one & done! I think I will get a plastic container out of the attic so that I can take out the pieces for cooler weather that I had left out for a bit. That will definitely free up some space.

  4. Did you size up in the Wit and Wisdom shorts? In the reviews. a lot of people say they run small. Thanks!

  5. Thank you Jo-Lynne for this post. Love all your outfits. My closet has been totally cleaned out. I couldn’t wear most everything in there because of all my weight loss from my heart surgery. All of My jeans and crop pants are gone. My pants were so big I couldnt alter them to look right. I had to start over. I had so many clothes it was unreal. Anyway if you have any tips on redoing the closet, please help me. Thought maybe you might have a post I could refer too. Im glad you’re doing well with your surgery. I hope you have a Wonderful Memorial Day weekend. 🥀🌻🌷🍀🌼🌴

    1. Linda……. Congrats on your weight lose. How fun to get to start over with sizes smaller. I’m sure you went through a lot with your heart surgery to get there. Glad its behind you. I see starting your closet over could be a task, but probably feels good to clean out. I would just go with Jo-Lynne’s basics for Summer that she posted today and then she will put out another post for Fall and Winter similar and you could slowly build your new wardrobe and have a well planned out closet. Take your time to buy quality, timeless pieces, but have fun adding in a few fun/on trend items too. You don’t have to spend as much on the on trend items. Have a good weekend.

  6. We are suppose to have rain and clouds all weekend. :(. So over this weather. Great list. I keep going for jeans and white shirt. I find I’m not buying pieces that go together enough. I need the more intentional buying list you talk about. :). Have a great weekend.

  7. Do you have links to the jeans and jacket you are wearing in the Nordstrom Anniversary picture post? I already have plenty of white tees and I have the studded sandals. Love the sandals when I purchased them last year per your recommendation and going to be wearing them again this Summer. You are sooooo informative with the Anniversary Sale. I have shopped it since I was a kid and my friends mom use to take us to it. But, as you know it has changed over the years and now its so competitive. You can’t get too serious about it or you would go crazy. I don’t have a card….trying to limit my cards over the years and down to one that I get points on. But, I really am thinking of getting one for Nordstroms, as by the time I get to shop, everything is gone. Do they give you extra points or anything, closer to the sale if you open up a card? If I’m going to get one, I may as well get the bonus that comes with it. LOL I love FALL and clothes for FALL, so even though its Summer coming, I love to see what they are going to put out and think about putting on those cozy sweaters and jeans. 🙂 Thanks for all your hard work on the Anniversary Post. I almost missed the link to go into it. I really do think you are the best blogger. Have a great weekend.

    1. The jacket is the Rails Collins – https://shopstyle.it/l/bHtsv – but the leopard print is an older one. I got it on a major sale back in 2020 right after Covid shut everything down and retailers were practically giving stuff away.

      The jeans are the 7FAM Josefina boyfriend jeans – https://shopstyle.it/l/bHtrq

      And yes, they do offer a bonus for signing up for the Nordstrom card. It’s a $40 nordstrom note – https://shopstyle.it/l/bHtrC

      I also don’t keep many store cards, and I don’t like to advise people to open them, but having a Nordstrom card makes a lot of sense if you shop there often. Obviously, with my biz, I kind of need it. I want to be an Icon member so I can shop the #NSale first, but I had a Nordstrom card long before I cared about that. I also love it for the free or discounted alterations.

      1. Thanks for your great reply….I know you are so busy and I hate to bother you. Have a great weekend.

  8. Would love the white denim jacket with the black tank dress!

    Take care this Memorial Day (I’ve always felt it just doesn’t sound right saying “happy” Memorial Day).

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