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Wardrobe Oxygen: 2011 Summer Fashion Staples

By (view all posts by AlisonGary)
at 7:56AM Monday May 30, 2011
under Shop Smarter

I believe in purchasing classic pieces that can survive seasons and years; however I find that summer is a season where the trendy and more disposable fashion is a norm. Each year the length of shorts changes, the cut of the Capri pant, the height of the heels. Below are some tried and true summer wardrobe staples; pieces that withstand the test of time and always look chic:
Bermuda shorts. One year, culottes are en vogue, the next it's hot pants. It's hard to keep up with shorts trends--are they pleated? Cuffed? Fitted? Cargo?

One style that never seems to retire is the Bermuda short. In a crisp cotton twill, it is a summer classic. Pair with a cropped blazer and wedges for a summer suit look; keep it classic with a sleeveless cotton shirt and flat sandals; make them glam with an off-the-shoulder blouse and metallic wedges. I find that basic black and white are the most timeless choices (shades of tan and khaki, just like style of shorts seems to change each summer with the trends).

Sheath dresses. Sleeveless, skimming but not clinging your curves, ending around the knee, the sheath dress is a wardrobe classic. Knits like Ponte de Roma keep their shape all day, cotton and linen keep you cool on humid days, crepe and silk transition beautifully from the conference room to church to celebration.

I believe in owning an LBD (little black dress) and find that a sheath style is the most versatile and elegant; however summer is the time to enjoy brights and a sheath dress is a perfect silhouette to rock the red, be cool in cobalt, or gorgeous in green.

Flat leather sandals. Several years ago I purchased a pair of tan leather sandals from Lands End on clearance. They are a thong style, ankle strap, flat leather sole, quite minimal. Best $9.99 I have spent in a long time. They go with shorts, with dresses, with skirts, with pants. I can wear them to work or to take my daughter to the playground. They take up no space so are great for vacation or to tuck in your bag as a commuting shoe.

A pair of very simple flat sandals, either in a color close to your skin tone or in a muted metallic is a summer wardrobe classic (muted metallics are perfect neutrals for summer--they really show off freshly pedicured tootsies!). Choose quality, for these are shoes you will wear for years to come.

Peasant tops. Crinkly cotton gauze or lace-trimmed linen peasant tops are a feminine way to stay cool in the hot summer months. Pair with denim cutoffs for a very of-the-moment look, or with a denim pencil skirt or crisp tan trousers for a work-appropriate ensemble. This is a piece where I find simple white or ivory to be the most classic choice, though a summery color like coral, turquoise, or yellow could also be nice paired with white on the bottom.

Since peasant tops can be voluminous, pay attention to sleeve length and neckline. By having a neckline and sleeve length flattering to your specific figure, it will show your shape even under those folds of breezy fabric.

Pareos. No beach coverup is more chic than the pareo (also known as a sarong). Be it in the same color as your swimsuit, or a fabulous print, a pareo adds glam to your swimwear be you at the beach or your neighborhood pool. The side knot whittles a waist, the slit elongates the leg, but the entire look hides the tummy, the rear, and makes your suit suddenly appropriate for a beachside café. When I am on vacation at a resort, I love knotting the pareo behind my neck to make a halter dress--instant festive dinner attire!

Many swimwear companies sell pareos to coordinate with their suits; I have found the best ones on my vacations. At most any tropical locale, you will find vendors selling pareos in unique prints and color combinations for fabulous prices. Nothing better than style with a story!

Classic canvas tote. The classic canvas tote, made famous by brands such as L.L. Bean and Lands End is a summer staple. When I see one of these bags, I can immediately feel the salty breeze of the beach. These bags come in all sizes and styles; a small one is a great (and cheap) alternative to your daily purse; the medium can carry home all your purchases at the farmers market; the larger versions make for a wonderful beach bag or carry-on for your summer vacation flights.

I love the classic navy and natural; it gives a nautical look that is so on-trend this summer but classic no matter the year. However if you have a signature color in your wardrobe, don't hesitate to choose that for your bag. And for a bag this versatile and classic, I think it's worth it to splurge for custom monogramming!

Do you have any summer wardrobe classics in your wardrobe? What items do you feel are missing from this list?

Alison Gary has over ten years experience as a personal shopper, stylist, and visual merchandiser. Her blog Wardrobe Oxygen provides fashion advice to all women, regardless of age, size, budget, or lifestyle. She is a full-time working mother, blogger, wife, and frugal fashionista located in the Washington D.C. area.