It’s one of summer’s cruel ironies: The season for sassy sandals, spaghetti strap tops and flirty dresses is also the season for soaring temperatures, sweaty pits and sticky clothes.
It’s hard to bring sexy back with a sweaty back.
Standbys like lighter fabrics and looser clothes, combined with a few creatively employed drug store items, can keep you looking and feeling cool, even as the mercury skyrockets.
Maintaining up to the minute – and comfortable – summer style is as much about anticipating the heat as packing provisions for the unexpected, says Suze Yalof Schwartz, fashion editor at large at Glamour.
One of the most obvious ways to keep cool is sticking to breathable fabrics like 100 percent cotton, and choosing less body-hugging fashions that let in air.
“Loose-fitting clothing in a light color cotton definitely keeps you much cooler than synthetics,” says Schwartz, who named satin, silk and even cotton jersey among the worst choices.
If you’re stuck with heavier fabrics, Schwartz says to look for answers in your medicine cabinet or under your sink.
Baby wipes, for one, are multipurpose summer savers: They can clean up sticky underarms, dab a glowing neck or back and even wipe grime from your feet after a day walking around in sandals.
“Throw them in the freezer, put them in your bag, use them on your face and throw them in the garbage,” she says.
Another keep-cool tool may already be tucked in your purse – pantyliners.
“If you’re wearing something that’s tighter, a lot of people actually put really thin pads in the armpits” to absorb sweat, she says. Men who can overcome their squeamishness may also avoid sweat rings in the office this way.
Blotting powder is a must for melting makeup, Schwartz says; try Sephora for Nars’ Perfecting Powder Sheets or Benefit Cosmetics’ Get Even double-duty blotting powder.
Schwartz says a small misting bottle of plain water – oils or fragrances can stain – or even a little battery operated fan can also give a subtle blast of cool.
Pack your wipes, fan, mister and pads into a Tory Burch tote, toss in a travel sized deodorant and a bottle of Febreeze fabric freshener for emergencies and your summer style survival pack is complete.
Later, dump your clothes into the wash with a cap full of WIN High Performance Sport Detergent: the official licensed laundry detergent of the U.S. Olympic Team is specially formulated to eliminate embedded sweat and odors.
That covers what to do once the sweat hits. But how to curtail it?
“We saw them all over the runways for the fall, you saw it in the ‘Sex in the City’ movie – the short brim hat,” Schwartz says, of the classic Panama hat. “You’re going to be seeing a lot of them this summer, and you can find them anywhere from Target to Eric Javits.”
Large-brimmed, floppy hats remain a summer staple and offer ample shade with dramatic flourish. But Schwartz warns not to teeter into Kentucky Derby territory.
“You want to keep it streamlined; don’t wear one that’s overly decorated,” she says. “Keep it simple.”
Schwartz recommends ditching flip flops in the office for a wooden-heeled sandal – “We’re not opposed to showing your toes” – or one of the stylish new gladiator sandals that are in for the season.
Canvas slip ons are a good choice for full coverage that’s still breathable, and may keep you from feeling tempted to slide off your shoes, says Cindy Post Senning, a director of the Vermont-based Emily Post Institute, which specializes in etiquette.
Senning says sudden flushes of heat during the summer months often lead people to forget their manners: Low cut shirts for women or even no shirts for men are among the more common offenses.
And then there’s the head mopping issue.
“If you know you perspire a lot, I think you should keep a hankie or some tissues,” says Senning, who believes in turning away from companions to wipe, especially during a meal, and never wiping with a sleeve.
“You can kind of dab at your forehead in a way that isn’t like washing your whole face,” she says. “You can try to do it with some decorum.”
Where others may be too revealing or casual during the summer months, fuller figured women often fall back on the high coverage fashions they’ve worn through the winter – a recipe for heat when temperatures are high, says Monif Clarke, whose New York-based line, Monif C. Plus Sizes, specializes in flirty dresses made in larger sizes.
A berry colored mini dress with plunging neckline and peek-a-boo shoulder cut outs offers daring women queen-sized options for cool style; a cascading maxi dress gives as much coverage as it reveals.
“For those customers that might feel uncomfortable with their arms out, a lightweight pashmina around their arms or a cropped denim jacket – if it’s a more casual occasion – are ways you can work with that sort of outfit,” Clarke says.