How to do Smart Casual in a Hot Climate


I received this request from Rock the Silver about what to wear to look smart, but still be casual and comfortable in a hot environment like Texas, where she lives.

I live in a hot climate (Texas) and am looking for casual day time outfits that are a step up from running shorts and t-shirts.  We need some ideas for hot days with maybe a sweater or something thrown in for places with air conditioning. I was inspired to write because I posted a picture of what I thought was a cute casual outfit and my readers hated it! I knew baggy was bad in professional clothes, but I really thought it was OK for weekends. My readers disagree.

Smart Casual hot climate


I don’t live in Texas, but Melbourne Australia get’s pretty hot in the summer (into the 40s Celcius) so I understand what it’s like.

Now, Rock the Silver was looking at clothing that’s a ‘step up from sweats’ but I think that we can all do a bit better than that, without any extra effort.

What I prefer to wear in hot weather is dresses, made from cotton, or cotton jersey, they are a great wardrobe staple for a hot climate, no nasty waistband to dig in and add extra heat to your body.

Teamed with a pair of flat sandals, embellished or plain, but not clunky, you will quickly look stylish whilst keeping our cool and not looking over dressed.  Stay away from Nanna shoes or sandals when you’re rocking the silver.

Some long shorts slim shorts or cropped pants can be worn with a caftan or fitted jersey knit, again don’t forget accessories, a bracelet, necklace and some cute sandals will make a plain outfit smart.

What do you find looks great in hot weather but doesn’t make you overheat?


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  • This is good advice for springtime, maybe, or desert-like Texas. But what about places that get too hot AND HUMID to even wear sleeves?

    What kind of advice would you give for someone living in a 100+ F (38 C) climate that also has thick, swampy soupy humidity to deal with too?

  • Elizabeth,

    In a really hot climate I'd be suggesting the same sorts of styles, just without sleeves or much shorter sleeves (these are just some sample pics I could find).

    That's why I love dresses, they can be made from thin fabrics but still be stylish.

  • A significant portion of Texas IS hot and humid – not like in the movies. Thick, swampy and soupy are perfect descriptors!

  • Wow, lucky in a cold climate over here! I like the examples a lot for summer weather, thanks.

    – tall & slim anon

  • Thanks, Imogen, that's great. You've reinforced my decision to get a khaki shirt-dress – might try on a couple I saw at David Lawrence. If I get one that fits well, I think I'll probably live in it all summer!

  • Great suggestions! I grew up in AZ and they would work perfect. I think we should all strive for 10 steps up from sweats!!

  • Cotton dresses! And skirts with these chiffon shirts days we can find these, loose like a tunique and made of very thin fabric. Parts of my body where I suffer from heat: Thighs,so no leggins or shorts, nape of the neck, waist, so no pressure there. I always have a pashmina in my bag for if it gets cooler… and a bottle of water!

  • Thank you for the hot weather advice. I live in South Africa and I think we are in for a very hot summer, quite similar to Australia.
    Are shirt dresses still in style,and what are the summer colors that would work with a shirt dress for a 60 year old (me). My coloring is warm autumn.

  • I agree with your dress recommendation – I have an easy jersey dress which I've been reaching for a lot this year. But, since air-con is so unpredictable, i always take a cardi too!

  • Living in Atlanta, I'm always on the lookout for non-frumpy, non-skanky clothes to wear in hot humid months (June-October here). I like linen & cotton fabrics or knit dresses, preferably in a loose or empire style that fits/skims the body. I have a modest knee-length black linen halter dress that I pull out when it's unbearably hot. The black fabric is opaque enough that I can skip a bra (I'm an A-cup) but linen keeps me cool and it's cut in an A-line so I have a hint of shape without being constricted.

    I also find that woven fabrics are much cooler than knits in muggy weather. Also skip the jewelry & tuck a light sweater in your bag for the cold grocery stores & restaurants.

  • I like loose cotton skirts with sleeveless blouses and sandals myself. (I'm in Houston) Sometimes belting the blouse helps.

  • I visit TX often- family lives there. Avoid cotton knit!

    I wear linen separates, like those made by Flax or Cut Loose; no fiber is cooler than linen. Also like floaty light cotton skirts- nothing straight or tight. Skirts are cooler than pants.

    Agree about skipping cuff bracelets or heavy necklaces but a pair of earrings will elevate your look and won't make you warmer.

    (Word verification is "simmers"!)

  • Find a pair of bermuda or knee length walking shorts that are tailored but not too tight. Then buy them in all the basic colors and avoid denim. Collect sleeveless tops in thin, light fabrics (woven or knit in the silhouette of your preference). Thin cardigans are perfect for tucking in a bag in case of AC overdoses. Avoid anything with a tailored collar. Collect simple but fun sandals. I lived in Houston for 18 years, and am now in inland southern California where it gets hot, but NOTHING like Houston!!

  • Imogen, can you repost the photo showing smart casual in a hot climate. It’s not visible & we have a business event in Palm Springs, so I’d like to share it with some others. Thank you!

  • When we were living in a very hot climate, I preferred long maxi dresses (ankle length, not floor length) that I could tie to the back to give waist shaping, without having to wear a belt. I found that if I could keep the direct sun off my skin, it helped a lot to keep me cool and the fact that I was not wearing a belt allowed the wind to move under the dress and up, which was a life saver on those hot and humid days. In my handbag I also carried a little spray bottle with water and a Chinese style hand fan. Lightly spray water in the air in front of you and fan… Just note that this may be drying to some skin types and you may need extra moisturizer. And if it was very hot and there was a breeze – a few sprays of water onto the dress also helped to cool me down. Cotton, linen and viscose dresses is what I had. Oh, and don’t forget the baby powder under the breasts and where the bra would touch the body, as well as on the thighs (inner, outer, front and back) – the baby powder helps the skin to feel drier and cooler and smoother – not so hot, damp and clingy. Hope it helps! 😉

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