What are your top 5 summer clothing staples?


I’ve been thinking about clothing staples: those few pieces of clothing that you come back to over and over again. I like to wear what I sew (of course), so I find it helpful to assess what I actually wear from time to time.

With warm weather approaching, I was just wondering: What do you guys wear over and over in the summer?

Here are my top 5:

Sundresses. Be they vintage, new, or handmade, nothing says summer to me like a colorful or light strappy sundress. I like a fitted bodice and full skirt without a lot of extra “poof” around the waist. Sundresses are awesome because I am lazy and they are a no-brainer. Dress, sandals, and sunglasses are all you need. And sunscreen, if you are pasty from 9 months of Oregon rain and clouds, like some of us.

Light cotton cardigans. I am a cardigan addict. I have a rainbow of nearly 50 cardigans (most of them thrifted), and I wear all of them. I like super thin ones in pastel colors for cooler summer days and nights. Above is a picture of me last summer, in a colorful sundress-and-cardigan combo.

(Another photo from last year, before heading out for a sunny bike ride)

Shorts. I wasn’t a shorts lover until recent years. I like that they’re casual, cute, show a little skin, and are super comfortable in hot weather. I’ve made three pairs of shorts for this summer already!

Stripes. Yeah. It is almost laughable how many striped garments I own. Cardigans, tank tops, dresses, boatneck tees, whatever. Easy and cute.

Dark denim jeans. I like that dark denim is a little “dressy,” if jeans can ever be described that way. They go with everything and they’re flattering.

As much as I love these items and how easy they are to throw on, sometimes I feel like I need some new ideas. What do you wear all summer long? Do you have comfortable summer staples you always turn to? I’d love to hear yours and maybe get some new ideas!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 60


I think your Sorbetto is going to become a big staple!! Thanks soooooo much for being generous enough to share such a great little pattern for free. I suspect there will be Sorbettos springing up all over the place, all summer long!


Thanks Portia, I hope you’re right!


Your list pretty much mirrors my summer wardrobe staples! :) Especially sundresses; I pretty much live in them from April through October. Probably the only things I don’t have a lot of are cardigans (it never cools off enough to wear them down here during the summer) and jeans. Probably my gathered floral skirts and lightweight tank tops replace those. (I recently started amassing a bunch of sleeveless blouses that are a bit more sophisticated than the knit tank top, but still in comfy, breathable fabrics.) Aside from the ease of a sundress, a bright cotton floral skirt and linen tank are really easy both to put together and wear all summer.


I’m sure you and I have different summer needs, since it’s so humid and hot in Florida compared to here! I do wear a lot of tanks too, though. I like the ribbed tanks from Lands End Canvas, since they come in a million colors!

Katherine (Blooms)

I live in a hot, humid climate, so it is summer staples for us almost all year round.
My staples are;

Cotton, cotton, cotton.

Bra-friendly sundresses (it is rarely cool enough to need a cardi here)
Drapey tank tops with wide legged pants
Cool, loose-fitting pull-on dresses (eg shirt dress)
Long-sleeved, cotton tunic to wear as a caftan over swimmers (for sun protection)
A-line skirts in funky prints with scoop neck t-shirt
Denim shorts that go with everything


Interesting that you mention the bra-friendly thing. That’s something I struggle with so much in the summer.


I agree with you on the sundresses and cardigans, but I stay away from shorts in favour of skirts (unless I’m being sporty) because they are easy and cute and for some reason make me feel like I’ve put a bit more effort into my outfit. A favourite of mine right now is my Ginger skirt finished during Sunni’s sewalong – thanks for an awesome pattern!


Glad you like it! I like skirts, but I guess one thing I prefer about shorts is that they work well for all the physical activity I tend to do in the summer… biking, gardening, etc.


Tanks/sleeveless tops are pretty much a must have for me. Paired with skirts on most days and jeans with some (the need to shave days ;P) they get worn more than anything else in my wardrobe during the summer.


If I added a sixth item to my list, it probably would have been tanks. Plus they show off my tattoos, which are pretty hidden most of the year. :)

Carlotta Stermaria

I’m with you on the stripes, dark denim and light cardigans fronts. Otherwise, I really love full skirts for summer : they’re not only cute and fun to wear, but I tend to find them ‘fresher’ to wear than shorts and tighter skirts. And I think I have to add gingham to your list : it’s part of half of my sewing projects for this summer, certainly because it’s such a refreshing, charming fabric (and probably because I’m currently obsessed with young Brigitte Bardot, too).

This being said, I’ve been collecting pictures of chevrons patterned dresses lately, and I’m completely amazed by your striped dress!


Oh yes, gingham! I made a pair of black/white gingham shorts the other day and wore them to work the same day Caitlin wore a black / white gingham sundress! Gingham is such a great pattern for summer.


I’m all about the sun dresses too. I’m still nursing my son so I make then with buttons down the front or at the shoulders for easy nursing access.

This summer I have a new staple: Jeggings. They’re perfect to wear with a nice summer top, flattering for my body, and not quite as heavy as regular jeans.


I always crack up at that name! They seem comfy.


It’s too hot in Philadelphia for long jeans and sweaters! But those are my general wardrobe staples fall through spring. In this summer I’m a big fan of full skirts, under which I can fit bike shorts (I bike), crisp blouses, bright color combinations, sundresses and slingbacks. But no spaghetti straps and few halter tops, I kind of need to be able to wear a bra….


Full skirts and bike shorts are great for bike riding. I like to safety pin my full skirts together at the front to keep them from flying up while riding. I saw a woman in Rome do this for riding a scooter. Then I can just take the safety pin out when I get to my destination. :)


I’ve always wondered where on earth people could wear “summer” sweaters. I’m very envious that you can consider cardis and jeans summer staples. That’s spring to me. Philly summers are nothing less than disgusting and my staples include any possible way of staying comfortable. I also think your Sorbetto will become a staple and I hope that in linen or double gauze it will help me find a way to look nicer in summer, which is nearly impossible here. Also, skirts with pockets are a staple. Even longer skirts help get some air and the pockets allow me to ditch the diaper bag and still chase kids. Summer here is more about survival than fashion. But I promise to try more sundresses in the hopes of beating the summer blues!


Hey, I love Philadelphia in the summer! Yes it’s humid and hot but it’s also lush and verdant, and you can escape to the shore if needs be!


Verdant? Not in my neighborhood unless you count the weeds. Lol. Plus, my shore days are limited now. Hubby tends to frown on me keeping a boyfriend with a shore house. ;) I had a look at your blog, Leah. I liked it. So fun to see what young people are doing.


Ha, where do you live? Because yes, the weeds, they kill everything. I have been working to defend my garden all spring. And I’m so glad you like my blog!


Oh my, sounds miserable. I used to live in New York, so I see where you’re coming from.

We have heat waves here in the summer, but it’s nothing like the east or southern US (not to mention many other places in the world). We usually just have a week or two of misery, it seems.


Anything in linen, really :)


Yes, linen is a magic fiber! I need more of it in my life.


Your Sorbetto is my summer staple for 2011…I’ve already made 3 and I can’t get enough! Thanks so much for sharing such a gorgeous pattern with us for free!


You are very welcome!


i live in the south, so my summer staples focus on keeping cool… i love sundresses, seersucker, drapey jersey skirts, lightweight denim shorts, & sleeveless ANYTHING. also, i just noticed that all my ~staples~ start with an S hahaha wow i’m a nerd.

i’m definitely the only girl out of my circle of comrades who prefers to keep her toes covered, however. i’m not really a flip-flop wearer… i prefer my (knock-off)keds. with socks.

and i always keep my cardigans out with my summer clothes – we really blast the a/c down here, and it gets cold!

btw, that stripey sundress – AMAZING. do want!


I totally forgot about seersucker! I loooooove seersucker. So easy to sew with too!


I love cardigans too–my problem is how do you store them?


Oh my gosh, I have been struggling with this forever! I have finally found a solution!

I used to roll my sweaters (rather than fold them) and store them on shelves in my closet, but they got very messy.

So I bought two collapsible fabric shoe organizers at Ikea. They are super cheap and hang from your closet rods. I roll my cardigans, and store them two per cubby, sorted by color. It is so easy to get them in and out now, and they stay organized and don’t fall on my head when I pull one out like before. It’s awesome!

Emily Flippin Maruna

I LOVE sundresses, but I also really like an a-line skirt with a cute t-shirt. I have one pair of hiking shorts and one pair of “city” shorts, but I’m much more comfortable in skirts and dresses. I pretty much always wear my Dansko heeled sandals, I actually just bought another pair of them in RED! Cardigans are a must in Portland in the summer. You just never know!


Oh yeah, comfy wedges / heeled shoes are so great. I am totally into comfortable shoes in summer with all the walking I do. I’ve heard good things about danskos!

amy k.

I love this list!

Like others, I’d add an A-line skirt and also a long (to the floor) flow-y skirt when I feel like being a big hippie, which is about 2 days a week.

also, in the last 3 years, linen wide-legged high-waisted trousers have been a favorite if mine—more so than shorts, which I have sewn, but never quite feel comfortable in.

I also love dresses that have super-thin straps so I can wear a fitted blouse over them and then the dress becomes a skirt.


Amy, yes! I had this black strappy jersey dress like that, and I loved it into the ground. I love it because you don’t have to worry about shirts that are too short (like some vintage ones tend to be).


Hi Sarai. My summer staples are very similar to yours with one exception and one addition. I tend to prefer cropped cotton trousers (pedal pushers/clam-diggers; call them what you will) as they suit my size better.
Also, living in England I always have a handy cotton scarf/wrap to hand, to keep warm, protect myself from sudden downpours or to act as an impromptu wind-break. Failing that the ever-glamourous anorak comes out. Mmmmmm ;-)
Thanks ever so for the Ginger pattern. I’ve made two skirts already and love the flattering shape.


I bet our weather is similar to yours. Scarves always come in handy here too!


what a lovely post! i really like the idea of staples in general, so i was delighted by what you wrote. (: that first photo is amazing – i love that sundress! is it handmade?

my top 5:
– pretty shorts: patterned or uni-coloured in bright colours
– sun dresses: i want to extend my collection of those! i want them in various colours and patterns (: how lovely would a sundress with sewing-machine print look?
– lightweight cardigans: another one of my favourites, but i want more! i just ordered a yellow one with a pretty flower embroidery.
– wide-legged pants: i’d love to get a pair of marlene pants! or even some sailor pants? so lovely… could be jeans or a more lightweight fabric.
+ pretty sandals, a floppy hat, summer bags… i love summer! (:


i actually meant the second photo, that striped dress. (:


I wish I could say it was handmade. :) Kenn bought it for my birthday some years ago!

We call it The Hot Air Balloon dress because we went on a hot air balloon ride around my birthday and thought it would be the perfect dress for that. Turns out, hot air balloon rides involve getting up at 4 in the morning, helping with lift off, and cold morning air, so I ended up in jeans. But the dress still makes me think of it. :)


up in vancouver bc, i love a light summer jacket – though i’m having a hard time finding a good pattern for one. maybe i should get some light cardis instead…


Maybe you could find a cute vintage pattern? Light jackets are always a tough one.

Alicia C.

I live in San Francisco and have found a combination of the following to be quite sufficient and cute even in foggy weather: jeans that can easily be rolled up, 3/4-length sleeve cardis, tank tops (lightweight & drapey like Sorbetto or ribbed & tight), t-shirts, and calf-length flowy skirts (leggings underneath on foggy days).


I remember when I lived in SF and was walking around downtown in August… and people were wearing coats. I never got used to San Francisco summers!


Mine is pretty much like yours except mine contains lots of skirts and t shirts and lots of swimsuits!


Can’t forget the swimsuits! I definitely want to make a new suit this year.


I’m a skirt gal in the summer. I just can’t wear shorts because they always ride up at the inner thigh and I end up yanking down a big wad of fabric every 3 steps. I’ve been wondering lately if this is a fit thing, or just a by-product of my body shape. Does anyone here know if the ride-up problem can be solved by fit? — I yearn for the cute shorty sailor-style shorts of the past year!


It’s hard to say, but I find that looser fitting shorts tend to ride up more for me. It may have to do with the slope of the seam at the inner thigh. I think it does depend on your body shape though.

Courtney Ostaff

I’m significantly overweight, so my summer staples include:

Scooters, usually knee length. When you’re fat, and you walk a lot, chafing on your thighs becomes a major issue. Scooters solve this problem. In plus sizes, Lands’ End makes some very nice ones, as does Ulla Popken. I prefer twill and denim.

Button-up, sleeveless 100% cotton or rayon challis camp shirts. When you’re overweight, people tend to think you’re sloppy, so it behooves you to dress up a little. Camp shirts are a nice compromise, and don’t cling unpleasantly. If you get them without a t-shirt hem, that’s better.

Wide legged pants in double-gauze 100% cotton, or linen/rayon pants. I got a couple of pairs of beautiful white and black double-gauze pants at Old Navy last summer, and wore them plenty. Sometimes, it’s so hot that you actually want some shade between you and the sun. Also, you can dress them up or down. I purchased some stretch, cotton gauze at to make myself a couple more pairs this summer. I have some pairs of very-wide-legged elastic waist pants in stretch jersey for fall and spring.

Maxi dresses in lightweight woven 100% cotton or rayon challis. Preferably with bra-friendly straps, in an empress or princess seamed style. Combined with a lace cardigan, it covers flab nicely while still staying cool. Great for days with no shaving. I usually wear bike shorts or spanx underneath.

6-gore ankle-length skirts in seer-sucker cotton/double-gauze cotton/rayon challis/linen-rayon with elastic waists. Easy, breezy, comfy, and a little dressy. I usually wear bike shorts or spanx underneath.

Lace cardigans, usually in black or white. They dress you up a little without adding heat or bulk.

Twin sets with camis underneath. The matchy-matchy dresses up a little, but in a lightweight knit or gauzy woven fabric, it’s comfy, too. I have a gray set with short sleeves that I wear often.

Ballet slippers in denim, brown suede, and black patent leather. I also wear sneakers, and a pair of khaki fabric Mary Janes with good tread from Lands’ End. I have a cheap pair of 1.5″ heels cork-soled sandals with multicolored sequins from Target that are fun and go with anything. I don’t like to fuss with my toenails, so I generally keep them covered.


Everything you listed sounds so cool and breezy.

I love lace cardigans! I knitted quite a few of them some years back, and they are absolutely perfect for summer.

Ballet flats are awesome, but I find it so challenging to find a comfortable pair. Maybe I just have problem feet, but I find that few of them have enough arch support for me. Hmm.

Courtney Ostaff

Ballet slippers are not great for walking a lot of the time, but you can find pseudo-slippers that have great padding. I picked up a denim pair from somewhere recently (totally can’t remember where) that have a ton of padding in the sole. The other thing that I’ve been known to do is pick up some gel insoles and slide those in. They make a world of difference!!


1. Definitely sundresses! My favorite one right now is red jersey with little flowers and it’s not me-made but thrifted. I have others I like a lot, too.

2. Polka dots – although that’s more of a general obsession. They’re cute and go with practically everything, right?

3. Linen trousers – I’m more of a skirts&dresses girl but when it’s hot&sweaty outside, white or navy linen trousers are awesome.

4. Shrugs – I only own two (one red, one black) but in summer, I usually prefer them to cardigans.

5. Cute shoes (not me-made but essential!). Right now I’m in love with wedge-y peep-toes…


Polka dots! Yes! I am obsessed too, especially a white ground with black dots, which seems harder to find. But dots and stripes are both awesome.


That’s a really great list! I really like that sundress you’re wearing – the stripes are so pretty! I am also a fellow cardigan addict!!

My summer essentials are here:

Sarah :)


Thanks! Everyone seems to love that dress (me included!)

Pip pip

Bright colours for everything!
My staples are a red cardi.
shorts of various shades and styles (I love having at least one pair of formal looking loose shorts, that look like a skirt, you can wear them on the really hot days, and still get away with when it cools off in the evening to pair with tights). A tee or tank is a must (but in truth I’m not a fan- damn practicality). A shirt dress or tunic (I wore my last tunic/shirt dress to death). The fabric is perfect for the weather and it can be accessorized so much!


I have this awesome dress that has a wide, snug waistband and an underlayer in the top that actually supports so much like a bra that I! don’t have to worry about one underneath it (and I’m a 36 DD)! …Although fashion tape helps if I bend over instead of doing the lady-squat. The deep cut in the back still keeps me cool, and the full skirt aids .. ahem…air flow without feeling hot or weighty.
Shawl or cropped cardigan for cool (mosquito ridden) evenings.
I hate most shorts because of some serious spider veins, and pedal pushers make me look stumpy because I’m so short. Long live skirts and open shoes!
Wicking workout tops and shorts do wonders as underlayers if I am concerned about modesty and sweatiness at the same time. These fabrics come in nicely cut garments now, too.

and… silk anyone?


Ah, summer. It is only about 60 days here in the mountains. And, those 60 have cool evenings and mornings. So………

1. Sundresses….and lots of ’em!
2. Cotton pants in tan or brown or black. Linen in the same colors for going to town or a show.
3. T-shirts
4. Shorts
5. A hoodie or sweater for those morning walks with the dogs.


My summer staples are a lot like my staples the rest of the year:
1. Lightweight Jeans – I’ve never been much of a shorts girl, so I’ve got a stash of super lightweight jeans for when the temperatures go up.
2. T Shirts – I love a good t shirt with a sleeve that hits midway between the shoulder and elbow.
3. Tank Tops – I’ll admit, I wear the colored Hanes mens’ ‘wifebeaters’ under t shirts and when it’s really hot I tend to take the t shirt off. They’re my favorite length for shirts (really long) and they’ve got a lot of stretch, which is a plus because I’m buxom. The only problem is that some of the colors are rather sheer and some bra can peek out around the armholes a bit. I actually just bought the Nutmeg pattern to make myself a bralette to cover my actual bra for a bit more modesty under them.
4. Ankle Boots – I’m a boot girl through and through, but the knee-high and mid-calf ones don’t cut it in warm weather.
5. Light jackets – I have a not-so-minor obsession with jackets. I love them. Luckily, around here it likes to be 50 degrees in the morning and 80 degrees in the afternoon, so I get plenty of opportunity to wear them.


Love this post!

Ok, my ‘big five’:
1. Skirts, love ’em wide for looks and biking
2. Cardigans in all colors, shapes and styles
3. Shirts with ‘sleeves’ that just cover the shoulder edge and lots of decoltée
4. Sandals, sandals, sandals!
5. extra-large and super-wide shawls for lovely summer nights

And year round: natural fibres only, no acrilyc etc.


Sundresses galore, and little cardigans for the office. Hate that a/c! When I lived in Austin, I’d still carry around a cardi just in case, and now I’m a wimp when it comes to New England weather, even though I grew up with it :) Tanks, skirts, keds and sandals that are easy on & off. I’ll slip into shorts around the house & patio garden, but I just don’t feel confident wearing them out…weird, as I’ll wear short-ish skirts. Bobby pins & hair bands, as I’m trying to grow out my pixie & want my hair off my face. Fabrics: cotton, linen, silk…anything light & breezy, striped, bold patterns, white.

Oh, and once I whip up a Sorbetto or three, that will certainly be on the list!


It’s odd, but I think a lot of people feel that way about shorts (in contrast to short skirts)! I actually feel the opposite. I don’t wear short skirts, but I’m fine with shorts.

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