how to layer in the summer

Stay Cool Yet Chic: How to Layer in the Summer Heat

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Summer is right around the corner and that means it’s on! The heat that is. But if you live in a place like Texas, you’re probably like, “Um, tell me something I don’t know.” With soaring temperatures, you may want just to wear a sleeveless top and shorts, but then you find yourself chilly in air-conditioned stores or offices. Or maybe you don’t like the idea of wearing as little as possible, and personal comfort or body insecurities make you want to cover up. Whatever the reason, it’s helpful to know how to layer in the summer so you can remain comfortable and stylish all season long.

1. Start With a Thin Base Layer

Starting with a first layer is a great way to begin your summer layering journey. Not only does it keep you cool and comfortable, but it also adds some style to your outfit. 

And in warmer weather, no one wants to put on an outer layer over an already thick top, so it’s best to start with thin base layers. This way, you can adjust your outfit throughout the day without sacrificing style – or comfort. 

A white t-shirt, tank top, sleeveless top, or short-sleeve button-up is a classic choice for a base layer. These tops are versatile and can be dressed up or down – perfect for a minimalist wardrobe. For summer months, choose these wardrobe staples in a thin cotton material as these are perfect for keeping your body temperature regulated while still providing sun protection.

So basically, skip the wool! (Though surprisingly, merino wool can actually keep you cool in the warm weather.)

button-down (similar) | pants | top | purse | sandals (similar)

2. Opt for Lightweight Fabrics

When it comes to adding that extra layer in the summer, it’s important to choose the right fabrics. You don’t want to be weighed down by heavy fabrics or uncomfortable materials, of course!

Instead, opt for lightweight, breathable fabrics that are perfect for the summer season. Cotton and linen are great options. Not only will they help keep you cool, but they will also absorb moisture and prevent sweat from building up.

Try to avoid synthetic fabrics as much as possible. While they may seem like a good option and they tend to be a little cheaper, most actually trap heat and make you feel hotter in the long run. 

And lastly, keep your specific climate and body heat in mind as well. For heavier outerwear like a denim jacket, it may be too stifling for some but be a nice addition to summer outfits for others. 

3. Experiment With Different Lengths

​Summer layering is all about balancing style and comfort, and playing with different lengths is the perfect way to achieve both. Try pairing a cropped tank with high-waisted shorts for a chic yet functional look. If you’re feeling daring, try a midi-length skirt with a shorter top for an unexpected twist.

Or you could wear an oversized linen button-down over a crop top (like *moi*). Experiment with longer jackets or vests over shorter dresses or rompers. You’ll not only add visual interest to your outfit but you’ll also create a cooling effect by allowing for airflow.

4. Try an Additional Layer

​When it comes to layering this time of year, the right layers add some dimension to your outfit without overheating. This additional piece should be light enough to breathe but heavy enough to provide some extra coverage.

A great option for your summer wardrobe is an open chunky knit, kimono/duster, light cardigan, or lightweight shirt in linen. As mentioned earlier, look for materials like linen or cotton blends because these will help keep you cool.

Another great idea for an additional layer is a lightweight denim or chambray shirt. You can wear it open over your base layer or tie it around your waist for a casual, layered look. Plus, if the temperature drops in the evening, you can button it up for some extra warmth. A sleeveless vest is a good way to layer in the hot weather because it keeps your arms free from extra fabric.

The key to a successful additional layer is to keep it light and breathable! Avoid heavy fabrics or long sleeves, and opt for pieces that add dimension without adding too much heat to your outfit. Pro tip: Another way to add dimension to your outfit is with texture. Lean into linen and knits!

I’m biased, not because I created linen or anything, but because this is what I wear the majority of the time, but oversized linen button-down shirts make for the perfect top layer. These summer staples are perfect for your spring wardrobe as well, making it a good investment. The natural fibers keep you cool, you can find them in different colors, and the overall look for your outfit is chic! 

If you’re wondering what type of wardrobe staples you need, I created a free checklist for you (and more) that you can get by signing up here!

5. Don’t Forget Your Accessory Layer

An accessory may not add coverage, but it does add style! This layer is all about adding a pop of color or texture to your outfit, without adding too much extra warmth.

Here are some ideas for your summer layering:

  • Scarves: Cotton or silk scarves can be tied around your neck or worn as a headband for a fun accessory.
  • Jewelry: Layering necklaces and bracelets can add an easy-going, effortless touch to your summer look.
  • Sunglasses: Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun, but they also add a cool factor to any outfit.
  • Hats: A straw hat not only keeps the sun out of your eyes but also adds a beachy vibe to your look.
  • Belts: Wear a belt over a loose summer dress or a flowy blouse to cinch in your waist.
  • Bandanas: Tie a colorful bandana around your neck or wrist for a fun and functional accessory.
  • Bag: A woven tote, canvas bag, or straw bag can add a pop of texture and practicality to any summer outfit.
  • Hair Accessories: Keep your hair out of your face with a stylish headband or tortoiseshell hair clip.
  • Nail Polish: Coordinate your nail polish with your outfit for an extra pop of color.

Now that you know how to layer in the summer, you may be dreaming up your next summer outfit idea. Let me help! Up Next: 31 Cute Summer Outfits You’ll Want to Wear All Season Long


Founder and editor of My Chic Obsession, Carolyn is your trusted fashion maven. Carolyn's drive to help others achieve a classic and timeless wardrobe fuels her posts, making a go-to resource for style seekers worldwide. Beyond the wardrobe, she resides in the heartland of the Midwest, dreaming up new ideas and raising her two lively boys - her biggest fashion critics.