In a week-long series, we are discussing how to stay cool during hot weather travel. Today’s weather where I live is hot – 104ºF/40ºC – and today’s post is all about clothes to wear for travel in extreme heat. Like shoes, clothes can make the difference between a great day of travel and a day that can’t end soon enough. When temperatures rise, the right clothes matter even more. Fabric, fit, and (my) style need to combine to make the garment worthy of my closet AND my suitcase, so let’s start there.
Fabric: For me, natural fabrics are the best. I like the way they drape, wear, and wash better than synthetics. Rayon (and it derivatives of lyocell, modal, and viscose) is my favorite since it is lightweight, easy to layer, and fluid. Lightweight wool, like cashmere and merino, make great investments when purchased in classic colors and styles. Cotton is a great option, but can be hot depending on the weave and it usually wrinkles badly. I don’t know about you, but I DO NOT iron when I travel.
Finally, the one concession to synthetic material I make is polyester crepe. Extremely lightweight, crepe is perfect for hot weather and travel. It washes/dries quickly and unpacks with nary a wrinkle! It’s worth noting that the polyesters of today are NOT the slick, flammable polyesters of yesteryear. Summing this up, all my clothes allow for air flow, even in the hottest conditions, and this is due to fabric and…..
Fit: This is crucial to comfort. Think drapey, breezy, free-flowing silhouettes. Now, I don’t mean loose, I mean fluid. Fashion of the past two years or so has been showing some shapeless forms like this and this. The fluid, more relaxed silhouette is great, IF you have the figure of a runway model. On most people, these clothes can render you instant garden gnome, unless they are tailored to your shape. That is why tailoring is key. The right proportions make all the difference.
Fit can also mean appropriate for the location and activity. As important as comfort is when traveling, so is respecting local traditions. I would not be caught dead visiting a conservative country wearing shorts or sleeveless tops, even if others do. Long sleeve blouses in gauzy fabrics are perfect for maintaining comfort and cultural awareness. I think that this and this straddle the line between appropriate and comfortable. When it comes to hot weather activity, remember breathable and loose. Tromping through Daintree Rainforest in clunky wedges, white short shorts, and a two-sizes too small tee shirt has got to be uncomfortable! True story: a girl of about 25 wore that exact outfit to take a jungle walk. She complained the whole time I was within earshot. Luckily, I was shod appropriately and was able to get away from her quickly. It is possible to be cool, comfortable, and stylish with a little thought. On the topic of style……
Style: A personal matter, style is different from fashion. This is a topic for which I will stand on my soapbox. Fashion is trend, season, and now. Style is innate, personal, and lasting. We are force-fed fashion through runways, magazines, and celebrity. Style is what we choose for ourselves, developed over time, and made up of what suits our lives. When it comes to hot weather style, I get really honked off that most blogs show shorts and tank tops. While, I am not averse to these I don’t endorse them for travel (or street wear) unless you are on the beach. There are so many other stylish choices that I just can’t get behind the look and don’t get me started on zoris (flip flops)!!!
Stylish hot weather clothes can be as easy as 1-2-3.
- Dress. A well-cut dress of a lightweight fabric, solid or print that suits your figure and activity.
- Shoes. Comfortable flats, wedges, or sandals that keep your feet comfortable and work with the terrain (pavement, cobblestones, or grass).
- Bag. Large enough to hold your necessities and small enough to be comfortable, the right bag completes your travel ensemble.
If you want to dress in separates, consider a lightweight top over a skirt, cropped pants, or dressy shorts.
Some of my favorite hot weather outfits in my closet are:
- A crepe wrap dress from Loft, which I had tailored for length. Sadly, it is no longer available, but this one looks promising. So far, I’ve worn the Loft dress with espadrille wedges and flat black sandals but I think it would look good with slides, trainers or even ballet slippers.
- My rayon shift from Old Navy (in black) is one of the most versatile pieces in my closet. I wear it alone, under a blouse, or over a tee. I had it tailored to make the hem even, since I don’t like the high-low on anything. I’ve worn this with white trainers, these Tory Burch ballet flats, and my Lucky Basel booties. Be aware, this runs true to size, but is on the shorter side (in front), so I got the small size in tall length to allow for hemming.
- I have this split-neck crepe blouse in 5 colors/prints. Solid black and white from Banana Republic and 3 prints from Pleione, including the above at Nordstrom. Sadly, these workhorses are no longer available, but this (available in 5 colors) looks comparable. If you don’t like your arms, check out this, available in white and indigo. Only two colors, but both really versatile. I wear these a LOT with jeans, chinos, trousers as a blouse and over a shift dress with a wide belt, making a blouse/skirt combination look.
Just a few closing notes:
- Always take a top layer, even to the hottest places. Between frigid airplanes, ocean breezes, unexpected cold fronts and nighttime temperature dips having a wrap or light jacket is NEVER a waste of packing space.
- I don’t differentiate between a regular wardrobe and travel wardrobe. 98% of my travel pieces are my regular wear-at-home clothes. The remaining 2% are tactical garments, like water resistant pants that can be worn for hiking or over base layers for cold-weather adventuring. My point is: consider shopping your own wardrobe before buying something specific for travel.
- Contrary to what you may think, keeping your skin covered does keep you cooler. Think light, breathable layers in light colors. Think nomadic tribes in the desert. It works, so next time you are going on walkabout on a sunny hot day consider a shirt like this.
- Travel packing for the heat boils down (see what I did there?) to the same tenet that applies to any other type of packing. Pack versatile pieces that you love which work together to make a variety of outfits and are easy to clean on the road.
For more travel outfit ideas from one of my favorite blogs, head on over to unefemme.net. Susan has great style and always provides a great variety of stylish pieces. Unlike me, she is not shy about getting in front of the camera, so you can see her wardrobe in action.
What do you think? Do you agree with these hot weather wardrobe tips? Let me know in the comments!
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