The Five Best: Stylish Items for Summer

May 22, 2023

I feel deeply unprepared for summer.  My 2022 summer wardrobe was maternity clothes.  My 2021 summer wardrobe was all size 4 dresses — like those are going to fit after working a stressful legislative session. ????  So what’s a girl to do?

Go back to basics, but with a twist.  I want pieces that hold onto the building blocks of summer with a little something extra.  These are those pieces.

A Unique Striped Top // We all love a good Breton striped tee.  It’s a summer classic.  But this tee from English Factory gives you more.  The turned up cuff and the gold button are fantastic details.  And did I mention the top costs less than $75?

Other unique stripe options include this striped frill detail top, this pink and red stripe tee, and for a moodier look, try this black and brown tee from Everlane.  For a short sleeve option, I love this t-shirt from Sezane with a graphic-script accent.

A Straw Bag // The ultimate summer staple — a great straw bag can go from work to weekend if it offers a classic shape, a bit of structure and a leather accent to lift the style.  The Loewe bag is the dream (it goes on my birthday list every summer), but there are many affordable options at play.  This Mango bag is a perfect option, and their larger size is nice too.  In the mid-price range, this Demellier bag gives you that structured for summer vibe for under-$300.

An Unexpected Sheath // I need three things in a summer work dress: 1) a sleeve — Michelle Obama arms, I do not possess; 2) color — I have all the black and navy I could ever need; and 3) a dress that can stand on its own — I might take off my jacket, and I need the dress to carry its own sartorial weight.

This dress from MM LaFleur in an elegant aloe hue is such a dress.  The pleated, slightly wrapped front gives it just enough to stand alone.  I also love this pale purple dress from Calvin Klein with a ruched sleeve detail.  Also, when I spotted this under-$50 whisper blue dress, I swore.  That’s how good it is.

Plus-size?  This Donna Morgan dress has a flutter fit (also in misses) for a more forgiving and breezier look.  I also love this crimson dolman sleeve dress from Alexia Admor.  Petite? This Midnight Teal dress from Nordstrom is a fun option for work.

An Eyelet Blouse // This Nic + Zoe blouse is the perfect work to weekend staple.  For the office, try it with a pair of wide leg trousers in a subtle navy and a navy flat.  For weekend, add a colorful, high waist short and a sandal.  The blouse is also available in plus-size.

For other eyelet shirts, I like this J.Crew top and this wrap front blouse from Elie Tahari.  Looking for a more relaxed option?  Anthro has a mixed media top with an eyelet sleeve and a jersey bodice.

A Colorful Driver // Unlike many women, those of us who work at law firms, corporate offices, and government jobs can’t always wear sandals to work, even on Fridays.  The solution for a casual shoe that screams summer is a colorful driver.  These Rothy’s drivers are the perfect option.  The pale pink is my first choice, but it’s sold out.  This subtle aquamarine is a very strong second choice.  Sizes 5-13 are available.

These raspberry suede drivers from Massimo Matteo are lovely.  These blue-green tasseled drivers are also nice.  I also like this orange pair.  And if you need a chic pair that isn’t bright, this gold pair from Eastland is a great place to start.

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  1. jules says:

    Honest question – why does MM La Fleur cost so much for a polyester dress? The items look like they have a flattering design, but its still just polyester…? I sweat so much (even in the AC) that I have to give up polyester because no matter what, it stinks so much in the armpits. I’ve been looking for dresses in other materials. (which is hard, almost everything in a decent price range is polyester. sometimes it’s the only option, and like…. LOFT kind of pricing I’m more OK with for polyester, esp during sales)

    • Jenn S. says:

      +1 Jules – I covet a ton of MM La Fleur cuts, but spending that much on polyester (especially as another person whose body chemistry does not love polyester) has held me back from taking the plunge more than once. I’ve managed to make polyester work for me, but same on the price point; LOFT or Lauren Ralph Lauren via Poshmark pricing is one thing, $200-300+ on a dress that is going to have the same problems? Pass.

      It IS gorgeous, though. I love the cut, drape, and color. Maybe if I can find it for a steal on Poshmark in a while.

      • Belle says:

        Oscar de la Renta and other designers are also making everything with poly-blend now, so I don’t even bother looking anymore.

        • Nadine says:

          ThredUp1 I live in Canada and for years MM Lafleur didn’t ship here, so everything I own that is MM Lafleur is second-hand (and hundreds of dollars cheaper). They stand up really well.

    • Kelly says:

      I bought MMLF pieces in 2016 – 2017 when I had a bank job with a conservative dress code, and those clothes from 2016-2017 held up to weekly wear like pretty much nothing I bought before or since. I get the hesitation about the price given that it’s polyester, especially as they’ve increased their prices pretty significantly in the last 2 years. But if I couldn’t wear jeans to work, I’d absolutely still be purchasing from them.

    • Katel says:

      Long time MM customer and the machine washability of their clothes is the selling point. The price point is higher but it has worn and washed well for me.

  2. Michelle says:

    All of these picks are amazing but had to share that I am fully obsessed with the Rothy’s driver. They’re most comfortable shoe by FAR and they just look so great. I got the neon pink (more casual workplace here lol) and I’ve never gotten so many compliments on a shoe in my life.

    • Christine S. says:

      Likewise obsessed with my Rothy’s Drivers! I have them in black and latte so far. They’re perfect if your feet are a little too wide to be comfortable in regular Rothy’s flats.

    • Michelle says:

      Omg that autocorrect typo – THEIR!

    • cait says:

      Are they comfortable for a lot of walking? Our honeymoon’s in a more fashionable city (Tokyo) and I don’t want to stick out like a sore tourist thumb.

  3. mxj says:

    LOVE that striped shirt with the unexpected cuff!

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