Is a uniform all it’s cracked up to be? After a long winter, many of us just want to revel in the sunshine, sand, and seawater (or lake water or pool water; whichever is preferred). And while getting dressed can be fun, getting too hung up on what to wear is a waste of precious time. In this case, a loose formula can come in handy.
The internet is littered with Spring/Summer 2023 trend reports, but with so much information out there, it can be difficult to decipher which items are the easiest to wear and will give you a good return on your investment.
To help you assemble a fresh lineup for summer, we spoke to seven fashion experts about the pieces they deem essential for summer. Their suggestions add up to a mix of simple and statement pieces—the makings of a well-balanced wardrobe. We’ve included their exact recommendations and supplemented them with affordable and inclusive size options wherever necessary.
See and shop them ahead.
A Breezy Dress
The shining star of a summer wardrobe is always a dress, Rita Nakouzi, the creative director at The RealReal, tells Byrdie. She recommends an A-line cotton dress that can be dressed up or down. Practically speaking, the silhouette will offer airflow, while the fabric has an absorbent quality in the event that you do start to sweat. Though, you can’t go wrong with a loose silk dress, either. Laurel Pantin, who is the editor-at-large of the Austin-based luxury boutique ByGeorge, recently wrote about Asceno’s Valencia Maxi Dress in her newsletter, Earl Earl, and deemed it a great LBD for every day.
For something roomier, we also love Banana Republic’s Rhyah Poplin style, which comes in mini and maxi versions.
A Woven Tote
“Woven totes are the perfect option for an on-the-go summer day with their carry-all shape and easy-going feel,” says Amelia Ansink, the senior accessories strategist at trend forecasting agency Fashion Snoops. She points out that natural materials like raffia and rattan offer an element of artisan craft onto otherwise-simple totes. The most intriguing result is perhaps the merging of the crescent silhouette and weaving techniques, which Ansink calls “a creative mix of newness and tradition” and is exemplified in Staud’s rattan moon bag. “Construction incorporations of leather pockets and slouchy shapes speak to the functionality of these totes and further cements them as essential summer staples,” she says.
For under $150, we also love Sézane’s Nano Farrow Bucket.
“We are really crediting [an] interest in glass materials to the uptick in minimalism [and to a] draw to a coastal lifestyle,” adds Fashion Snoops Accessories Director Anush Mirbegian. “We may get to manifest [this] in a vacation, but seaside living is very much a fantasy due to the astronomical cost of real estate.” The simplicity of Isshi’s Droplet Beaded Necklace really lends itself to summer accessorizing, since it can be worn with a pared-back slip dress or a bold printed jumpsuit.
If you’re looking for something even bolder, Ansink recommends a crafty glass pendant, like this flower silhouette by Brooke Callahan. Set on cord chokers, this type of necklace gives off a distinct ’90s vibe and makes for a great option for a beach day thanks to its waterproof capability.
A Little White Tank
Celebrity fashion stylists Danielle and Alix have a pretty simple go-to for summer: a white tank top. “We [wear] little white tanks with everything in the summer—over a bathing suit for the beach or with a trouser for dinner dressed up with layered necklaces. The options are limitless,” they say. Their favorites are Gooseberry’s Rib Crop and The Picot tank top from Cou Cou, a pointelle iteration. Though, if you’re super serious about making the basic part of your summer uniform, they recommend this bundle of white tanks by Hanes.
If glass baubles are too precious for you, maybe try something sculptural. “In summer, I gravitate to more simple, sculptural jewelry to elevate my simple silhouettes,” Nakouzi says. She loves Elsa Peretti’s Sevillana Cuff in sterling silver and jade, while Mirbegian highlights pieces with graphic oceanic inspiration. She references seashell jewelry, which is a consistent summer go-to, as well as pieces with a more “industrial take” or less polish, like this Caroline Ohrt necklace, made from an upcycled stainless steel chain and vintage pearls.
A reliable pair of jeans is essential to a summer capsule wardrobe, and for weekend trips where suitcase space is limited, you’ll need one pair to take you from day to night. “We love the look of denim with a bikini for the beach or styled with a dressier top and heels for night,” Danielle and Alix say. “Our favorites are a great-fitting pair of vintage Levi’s [or] Good American’s Good ’90s Weightless Jeans.”
Flip-flops might seem like the most obvious and unremarkable go-to shoes for summer, but there’s still room to trade up. Enter: The Row’s Ginza leather-and-suede flip-flops. “I was late to the party for these flip flops, as I only bought them last year,” Net-a-Porter’s Market Director Libby Page says of the style, which was released in 2021. “I wanted to be sure that they would stand the test of time. I wore them every day last summer, whether that was with a wide-leg pant or a long-line short, and plan to do the same this season.”
For a similar option under $100, we love this pair by Hari Mari.
Amid the pandemic, “digital lavender" was named by trend forecasting website WGSN—along with its sister company Coloro—as 2023’s color of the year. Its shorter wavelength, it pointed out, would breed calmness and serenity. Though, it’s worth pointing out that blue light, which comes from digital screens and emits short wavelengths, has been proven in the science community to have energizing effects. To that point, Mirbegian sees lavender as the color complement to futuristic, shield-like eyewear, a trend she expects to be prominent this summer. “[It renders] classic eyewear shapes, like rectangles and wayfarers, with a more futuristic tilt,” she says.
A Pair of Levi's 501 Jeans
If you find yourself gravitating toward denim pants, another classic addition is a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans. The style has been popular since the ’50s, seen on the likes of Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe and on bikers, rock-n-roll musicians, actresses, and even supermodels (think Winona Ryder and Cindy Crawford) as the decades went on. So, timelessness is practically guaranteed. But we love that the brand creates new takes on the straight-leg, slightly relaxed cut, namely with the above mixed-wash panels iteration. If contrast doesn’t tickle your fancy, Levi’s also offers black, ecru, blue, distressed, pinstripe, and tie-dye washes to suit many preferences and wardrobe needs.
While platforms have been long-beloved thanks to their cushiony support and iconic retro feel, designers have added tactile detailing and utility-forward silhouettes to their collections that will make for the perfect shoes to round out many of your summer looks. “Take the Blumarine x Suicoke’s [sky-high wedges] for example,” says Fashion Snoops’ Accessories Analyst Charlotte Delumpa-Alexander. “[They] seamlessly blend Blumarine’s signature Y2K glitz with Suicoke’s ultra lightweight foam soles and adjustable velcro straps.” Other examples include styles of the jelly variety, which you can wear in the city and to the beach with ease. Just give them a quick rinse when they get full of dirt or sand, and they’ll be good as new.
For a leather option under $150, Delumpa-Alexander recommends Vagabond’s Courtney sandals.