Stocking your summer wardrobe can be a challenge. For starters, stores are full of vibrant and trendy pieces that we all know aren’t very practical, but that are still really hard to turn down. I always find myself buying that peach neon strapless peplum dress from Zara because it looks like fun, before quickly realizing how little I will actually wear it in everyday life.
Putting together a summer wardrobe can also get tough because your typical warm-weather outfits probably don’t comply with your company’s dress code. And, at the end of the day, you still want to show up for happy hour in your summery best.
What’s a girl to do?
Start with these six staple clothing items (and two pairs of shoes), and you’ll have a great base for all your summer needs. When mixed with trendier pieces or items you already have in your closet, you’ll be able to create a whole wardrobe of summer favorites—for work and for play.
- Chambray shirt: Get one in a light wash and wear it in lieu of a blazer or sweater for chilly nights (or offices). You can also wear it knotted over a feminine dress to toughen it up.
- Vest: Although it may not seem like an essential, a good vest can quickly turn an otherwise boring outfit interesting and can be worn over dresses, tees, blouses—you name it! Just be wary of jean vests that have a “mom jeans” look; go with white denim and cropped to keep your vest modern, or a leather motorcycle vest to balance out an otherwise girly outfit.
- Striped tee: Boat necked and nautical striped—you’ll wear this a million different ways.
- White pants: White skinny-leg pants look modern and classic at the same time, and can easily be worn with heels, flats, and sandals.
- White silk button down: Not only will this simple, elegant piece go with everything, the lightness of the material makes it perfect for hotter days on the way to the office. (Tip: Make sure you invest in a nude cami to wear under it.)
- Skater dress: The wonderful part about a skater dress (fitted on top and flares out like an ice skating skirt at the waist) is its versatility. Pop a blouse over it and a belt to cinch at the waist, and it looks just like a skirt. Or, slip a lightweight shirt underneath to give it a jumper effect.
- Chunky leather sandals: You can use these to dress up an outfit without seeming like you’re trying too hard (Tip: Buy a pair with wooden bases for a more comfortable, lightweight shoe.)
- Brightly colored flats: Ballet flats in a bold color are comfortable, easy, and can balance out a neutral-colored outfit. You’ll wear them everywhere.
Outfit Inspiration: Work to Play
Now, here’s how to pull them all together, into outfits you’ll wear over and over.
Devil in the Red Dress
To transition from day to night, add chunky leather sandals, the white vest (this turns your dress to a skirt!), and fun earrings. Throw your flats and blouse in a leather work tote of your choice, and you’re ready to go!
Nautical and Nice
This one is a simple transition—just switch your blazer with the chambray shirt (left open), change shoes, and you’re good to go.
Bright Whites, Big City
Embrace white on white for work, and then change into some neon shorts to incorporate a trendier piece. Throw on your vest and you’re ready for happy hour!