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Do You Feel Frumpy in Your Summer Casual Clothes?

Summer is a time for relaxation and fun.  It’s also generally a time when the temperature, and sometimes the humidity, soars.  You probably spend more time outside where you get hot, and dare I say, sweaty which begs the question…what do you wear?

You might be shaking your head saying, that’s easy!  I wear shorts and a t-shirt and feel great.  And, that’s fabulous.  You are blessed.  For some people dressing casually feels so natural and easy and for others (like me and so many of my clients)…well, not so much.

What’s the problem?

We’ve been conditioned to believe that super casual means a T-shirt and shorts or jeans and that can create two problems:

  1. Perhaps a T-shirt and shorts doesn’t reflect your personality – at least not the traditional T-shirt and shorts, but you don’t know what else to do.  So you wear it and feel out of sorts and like an imposter.
  2. You used to be able to wear those things, but since your body has changed a bit, it doesn’t seem to look effortless and pretty like it used to.  You just feel old and frumpy.

I know this issue first hand.  I never felt good wearing a T-shirt and shorts.  In fact, soon after I became an image consultant, I finally identified this as a problem.  I remedied it by reworking my T-shirts – taking them to the tailor to create a scoop neckline from the crewneck, shorten them so they weren’t so overwhelmingly long and I would always roll up the sleeves.  It felt better, but still not always like me – especially if the T-shirt had a pocket, writing on it or was way oversized.

And, don’t get me started on shorts.  I have NEVER felt great wearing shorts.  I don’t like the way my legs look and I just feel gawky and uncomfortable any time I have them on.  So, I stopped wearing them when I was about 40 (yes, it took me that long to come to that decision!).  Now, my neighbor laughs (good naturedly) at me when I go to the beach in a jersey skirt, but, hey, it works for me.

Ginger at Beach 2013

If you have a similar feeling about traditional summer casual wear, here are 3 ideas to inspire you to try something different:

1. Tailor your casual clothes

  • Do you want a top with short sleeves but all you find are cap sleeves?  Get a ¾ sleeve or long sleeve top and have the sleeves tailored to short sleeves.  Or if you find a great cap sleeve top, have the cap sleeves removed to make it sleeveless (this will only work if there is a seam at the shoulder).
  • Have a pair of shorts that you like everything about except that they flair at the bottom making you feel wider than you are?  Have the tailor taper them to reduce some of the fullness.
  • Did you find a pair of great capris, but the diagonal pockets gap and add width at your hipline?  Have the tailor remove the pocket and sew it up so it creates a smooth line at the hip.

If you are reluctant to tailor something that costs so little or that you just wear to kick around in, please reconsider.  Your peace of mind is at stake.  Either that or don’t buy it and hold out for something that fits perfectly (but sometimes that can ‘cost’ more in aggravation and energy spent looking than the few dollars it costs to make a t-shirt shorter!).

2. Make sure the color is spectacular

Marion, my partner, only wears shorts and T-shirts in the summer.  The styles are basic, but we make sure her colors are great.  Why wear a color that is blah, screaming/overwhelming or just so-so when you can wear one that makes you glow!  I am always happy to share the 4 colors that look great on everyone: watermelon, deep periwinkle, deep teal and forest green.  You can read more about that here:

3. Try something new

Like me, you might not feel great in shorts.  If that’s the case, there are other options: capris, skirts/dresses and even skorts.

But first…let’s talk about dirt!

Many times my clients will say to me, I wouldn’t wear that because I’d be afraid of getting it dirty.  This is usually related to either color or price—or both!  Getting dirt on a navy dress feels different than on a sparkling pair of white pants.  And, getting a $39 dress dirty (or even just the threat of dirt!) feels totally different than wearing a $100 dress that might get soiled.  Even when something can easily be washed in the washing machine, people worry.  But, unless you get blueberry stains or ink on something, most outdoor dirt comes out with one washing.

Want a couple of easy-wear, inexpensive, can-get-dirty, wardrobe essentials?  Here are some ideas below so you don’t have to limit yourself!  Try these:

  1. An easy-to-wear dress.  This is that watermelon color that looks so good on so many people and the print is fun and summery:
    Summer Dress
  2. A skort can cover a lot of bases.  It feels like shorts but looks like a skirt so you get the best of both worlds.  Many are on the shorter side so if you feel good about your legs, they are great.  If you prefer something a bit longer, this one is fun (a bit pricier ($89), but the lowest I could find with a slightly longer length and with what looks like a slight A-line):
  3. When it’s hot out jeans feel too heavy but linen feels too delicate.  How about a stretch cotton cropped pant?  Be absolutely sure they have some stretch in them.  100% cotton pants tend to get wrinkly fast and can look messy in a heartbeat.  Add a touch of spandex and you’re in business!  Step away from the traditional navy or white.  How about a fun pair of dusty coral (they call it Amore Red) in a curvy (yay!) fit:
    Colored Chinos Ann Taylor Loft
  4. Wear something completely unexpected!  Palazzo pants are very on trend right now.  They are everywhere and soooooo comfortable.  Because they are flowy, they generally look best paired with a fitted or belted top.  And, most of them come in fun prints so any minor dirt tends to get lost in the print—an added benefit.
    Palazzo Pants

Now is the time to pick up some great summer looks at sale prices before fall items flood the stores.  Experiment with at least one of these three ideas:

  • Tailor your casual clothes so you feel great wearing them.
  • Wear a great color even if the style is very basic.
  • Try something new!

You’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make in how you feel day-to-day.

Do you have other ideas that make you happy when you dress casually for hot weather?  Please comment on my blog and let me know.

Note: All garments pictured here are vegan-friendly (made from fabrics that did not harm any animals).


Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.