How to Make Cute Outfits In the Summer When You Can’t Layer

How to make outfits cute when it's crazy hot

I’ve been asked a LOT how to have interesting and cute outfits in the summer when it’s too hot to layer and you can’t work with as many pieces.  Summer style doesn’t have to be hard, IF you have the right pieces!  I find I need to change my outfit strategy the most in the summer compared to all other seasons, and once I do, summer style becomes pretty effortless.  Today I’m sharing how I approach my summer wardrobe and summer style to keep outfits interesting and feel put together–while keeping cool!

I wrote about this over 6 years ago (THAT IS CRAZY TO THINK!!!) and the advice still holds true now!  Today’s post is kind of updating and adding onto the previous post.  Check out my original post HERE

Shirts with Special Detail to make outfits cute in summer

1. Find pieces with special details.  When it’s too hot to add extra clothing for more visual interest, wearing pieces that have special details is super helpful.  The details provide visual interest without having to pile on more pieces.

For tops and dresses, this includes tops of any shape or material that have things like eyelet, a wrap, lace, pleats, puffed sleeves, peplum, decorative buttons, a really great drape, knots, twists, ties, bows, etc.

For shorts and skirts, details might be a paper bag waist, cute buttons, scalloped hems, or pleats (for skirts).

Outfits with a Pop of Color for Summer

2. Add color.  A splash of color somewhere in your outfit instantly livens things up.  And, it is so, so easy to incorporate color in the summer when the days are bright, sunny, and cheery!  Add a few colored tops and colored bottoms to the mix, and it’ll totally transform your wardrobe.


Adding a print to make your summer outfit interesting

3. Utilize prints and statement pieces.  Prints, like color, make outfits so much more interesting.  You don’t have to try any harder than wearing a plain top, but it totally looks like you tried harder. #winning 🙌🏽  Great prints for summer are stripes (always 🤓), floral, gingham, polka dots, and Ikat, to name a few.


Accessories to liven up your Summer outfits

4. Complete outfits with accessories.  In fall, winter, and spring style, I talk a lot about using completer pieces to change up outfits.  Come spring, as people are looking ahead to summer, inevitably the question arises, “What do you do when it’s too hot to wear completer pieces?”  The answer?  Accessories!  In Part 5 of the Building a Remixable Wardrobe Series I show how numerous examples of how to use accessories to change up your outfits.  Accessories really can make or break an outfit and can be kind of magical!  They don’t require lots adding layers, so they’re great to rely on to complete outfits and mix them up when it’s too hot for layers.

As for types of accessories to use, I’ll go in order of my least preferred in the summer to most preferred.  And I’ll share why.

Scarves – You can totally use lightweight scarves in the summer to add some print to your outfit.  Where I live, summers vary but it *can* get quite hot, so scarves are out for me in the summer.  No matter how lightweight it is, scarves just keep me hot.  But, if your summers are cooler, a pretty printed scarf adds great visual interest to a plain tee.

Hats – Hats are SO cute in summer outfits!  And I love them when it’s sunny at the beach or at the park.  BUT, as a thing I need to wear all day long besides at a beach/park to complete outfits?  That’s not me–hats make my head sweat, haha!  However, if you love hats, more power to ya.  I wish that were me because they make outfits look so cute!  Consider baseball hats, fedoras, and floppy hats for summer.

Statement Necklaces – If you’ve been around PMT you KNOW I love using statement necklaces to zhush up outfits.  But, on extremely hot and humid days, even statement necklaces might feel like too much.  If weather permits, they’re definitely in my arsenal, though!

Pendant Necklaces – To me, these are a more tolerable option to statement necklaces.  They’re usually not as bulky and therefore don’t stick to as much of my skin when it’s hot.  😀  My favorites for summer are my dear Mushka pendant, a white pendant, and a turquoise pendant.

Lightweight Leather Earrings – You all know I’m a die hard fan of Nickel & Suede earrings, and they are especially wonderful in the summer!  My preferred accessory in the summer is earrings, specifically statement earrings to, well, make a statement.  😛  And I would NOT be able to do that if it weren’t for Nickel & Suede earrings.  They are SOOOOO lightweight and comfy to wear!  I actually stopped wearing statement earrings for a couple of years because they were too heavy for my ears.  Nickel & Suede got me back into earrings, and now I can’t stop!

And yes, they offer sterling silver hooks by request.  Earrings come in several sizes.  I almost always wear M.  N&S has a billion styles, which you can see HERE.  You can shop my favorites by swiping through and clicking items in the widget below.

BTW if you’re wondering what the difference is between N&S and knockoffs…first, let me say I definitely think they are better quality…and also I’m clearly biased. 😆 However, lots of PMTers have shared that N&S are much better.  The leather is thicker and better quality, the edges NEVER curl the way that cheaper versions do, and they don’t twist around awkwardly.  Of course, do what works with your budget, but just wanted to share the differences people shared in case you were wondering.

For more info about my favorite accessories, check out My Most Used, Most Versatile, Go-To Accessories.


Printed or colored shoes to liven up a Summer Outfit

5. Make it pop with colorful or printed shoes.  Shoes are like the punctuation mark for your outfit.  You can totally add a fun twist or make an outfit pop with your shoe choice.  Instead of defaulting to flip flops, add sandals in a fun color, with details like a twist or knot or embellishments, or a print.

For more tips on dressing in the summer, check out my original post Dressing Cute In the Heat

Shop Fun Summer Pieces

Below are some pieces that have special details, a little color, or are worn in this post.  Swipe through to see them all, and click an item to shop!

Special Tops

Dresses & Bottoms

Accessories and Shoes


Summer Starter Kit Wardrobe Guide Now Available
Want more summer style help? If you’re starting from close to nothing, the Summer Starter Kit Wardrobe Guide will help you pare down what you need to create a solid foundation for a mix and match summer wardrobe.  Check out the Summer Starter Kit Wardrobe Guide HERE!

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