It’s the first day of June, which means summer is well and truly on its way, so today I’m updating my list of summer wardrobe essentials. The spring-to-summer transition is much more subtle than winter-to-spring or summer-to-fall, but I still like to freshen up my wardrobe for the summer season.
Since it was cold and rainy over the weekend, and I didn’t have much going on, I took some time to go through my closet and weed out some of the pieces I’m not wearing. I tried them on to be sure they still fit, and that I still like them. Some things I put away to revisit this fall, others I put up high on my “maybe shelf” so I can see if I reach for them now that I’ve tried them on and been reminded about them, and others went straight to the donate/resale pile. I try to keep a pretty tightly edited closet, and it feels good to get things pared down again after doing so much shopping this spring.
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
White jeans top the list because they’re 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. Jean Shorts
As a stay-at-home mom, I practically live in denim shorts in the summertime. I’m willing to spend money on my jean shorts because I wear them so much, but I’ve also been on the hunt for more budget-friendly pairs to recommend. Be sure to take into consideration your body type and style aesthetic, and choose a pair that you will love to wear over and over.
See my Denim Shorts Reviews for more info on specific styles this season, and 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
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.
See my White T-Shirt Reviews for more info on the roundup below.
#4. Cropped Pants
Cropped pants in a lightweight material are a nice alternative to shorts. Fortunately cropped pants are very much on trend right now so they aren’t hard to find, and they come in all different silhouettes. Just be careful with the length; you want your crop pants to end below the widest part of your calf.
#5. Skirts & Skorts
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 skort in my recommendations below.
#6. Dresses & Jumpsuits
Casual summer dresses are a great alternative to shorts or cropped pants, and the nice thing about a dress is, it’s “one and done.” The same is true for a jumpsuit. And of course, it’s a good idea to have a couple of “occasion” dresses to pull from when you have a wedding, graduation, or other event to attend.
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. I always gravitate to nude tons that blend in with my skin color, but I also like to have metallics and white and black.
As far as trending styles, slides are having a moment, but they’re not as easy to walk in as a thong or an ankle strap style, so take your personal needs into account. Happily, sport sandals are also trending, and they offer a good bit of support. When you want a dressier summer shoe, block heel sandals are trending this spring. The best thing about this style is they’re easy to walk in and offer more stability than a stiletto or even a wedge.
See also my Shoe Trends for 2021.
#8. Denim Jacket
Even though it is generally hot in the summertime, I always get cold in air conditioning so I often bring a denim jacket along as a layering piece. I wear mine with dresses as well as with pants and jeans.
#9. Fashion Sneakers
While I mostly wear sandals in the summer months, I keep a few pairs of sneakers handy for rainy days, or those times when I want more support. My white leathers Vejas are my go-to, but I also love the P448 skate style for trendier looks, and slip-on styles are nice to have as well.
I really should get a pair of canvas sneakers; they’re lighter and more breathable for summer, but I don’t have any at the moment. And before you ask… no, I do not wear socks with my sneakers.
#10. Summer Handbag
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 2021.
I’m a big fan of oversized plastic frames, as you can see, but there are lots of other styles trending right now.
#12. Bathing Suit + Coverup
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. No one likes bathing suit shopping, but it must be done. Check out my 2021 Swimsuit Guide for lots of options.
And don’t forget a coverup! I usually throw on my jean shorts and a t-shirt and call it a day, but there are tons of cute coverups out there.
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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