20 Summer Fashion Basics

Favorite Straw Hats Here and Here

Summer is in the air and since this feels like the first real summer since COVID started, the season feels even more sweet than usual. With Chicago feeling somewhat like an arctic tundra for almost half of the year, summer is a season the Larkin Family does NOT take for granted.

You’ll find us on family outings around the city or adventuring during our travels pretty much 24/7 when it’s warm out. Having so many outings to dress for in sweltering temperatures, I find a strong, well-thought-out summer wardrobe to be imperative. The key phrase for a good summer wardrobe is “cute but comfortable.” (With two kids under six, the comfortable part is especially important!)

Think pretty dresses and tops with loose silhouettes that are made from light and airy materials; stylish shoes that you can also walk for miles in. It’s also important to have a foundation of great basics so you can mix and match to get the most out of your clothing investments. Isn’t it the worst when you spend a lot on a cute piece then can only think of one way to style it? With a capsule of great basics, you’ll also have more easy options to style statement pieces.

Below you’ll find my master list of summer basics that will keep you cool, yet stylish all summer long. 

20 Summer Fashion Basics

  • White sneakers: A comfortable pair of white sneakers will take you miles (literally) in your capsule wardrobe. It’s also my favorite way to dress down a dress or midi skirt if you want to create a super casual look. I personally love the white Veja Campo sneakers. 
  • White t-shirt: The ultimate wardrobe staple for any time of year in my book. There are, however, a lot of options out there! I prefer one that’s a little bit longer so I can easily tuck into any bottoms, but a cropped one works if you trend towards high waisted pants/shorts/skirts. I also like one that’s not too starchy and one that’s not too boxy but not too tight. 
  • Boyfriend or mom jeans: You’ll find me wearing jeans all summer, especially at night. Styles that aren’t skin tight such as boyfriend or mom jeans are ideal for summer because they create a bit of breathability. 
  • T-shirt dress: One of my favorite go-to summer looks because it’s as comfy as wearing pajamas. 
  • Wicker bag: A small, crossbody tan/brown wicker bag is a preppy summer staple, for sure. Other key words you can Google to find what you are looking for are “straw bag,” “raffia bag” and “rattan bag.”
  • Stylish flip flops: No, not the rubber kind you find at the dollar store that pinch your toes! A comfortable, neutral, leather pair is perfect basic sandal for summer that you can wear to the beach/pool or out and about. 
  • Flat sandals: For a sandal that’s a bit more elevated than flip flops, I love a good, flat no-thong sandal in a neutral shade like brown or tan. I find that pairs with just one wide 3-4 inch band across the foot are the most comfortable. 
  • Linen pants: Loose linen pants are the most comfortable and breezy summer pant option. You can dress them up with heels and a cute top for dinner, pair them with a tee and sneakers during the day or wear them with a button up as a beach cover up. 
  • Maxi dress: This is such a weakness for me. Nothing is easier to throw on and look great instantly, and nothing is more comfortable! A solid white, black or blue is great ,but I also love a solid pastel, stripe or neutral floral, too! 
  • Midi skirt: Along the same lines of a maxi dress, a midi skirt is one of my go-to’s on the hottest of days where I know I will be outside for long periods. I love flowy ones that billow in the breeze but linen a-line ones are chic as well. 
  • Brown leather tote: A staple that you can wear 365 days of the year. If you have to go into the office, have kids or simply have a lot to carry during a summer outing, a leather tote will be your best friend. I find brown feels a bit more summer appropriate, but black is a good option too. 
  • The perfect denim shorts: When I say perfect, I mean perfect. I think we all have multiple pairs of denim that sit dormant in our closet because they don’t fit right or they’re too long, too short, etc. Order a bunch of different pairs to learn what fit is best for you. The right ones will be your summer savior. 
  • Denim skirt: I am constantly reaching for my denim mini skirts! I love how breathable they are compared to denim shorts or jeans.
  • Denim jacket: I feel like it always gets chillier than you expect on summer nights—especially if you’re near the water! If you want a classic denim jacket that will never go out of style, avoid an oversized fit, cropped hemline and rips/distressing and opt for a classic medium blue shade. 
  • Striped tee: Almost just as much of a staple as a white tee. I love a navy stripe for a preppier look. A black stripe is a nice neutral and a red stripe is a fun pop of color. 
  • High-waisted cotton/linen shorts: Denim shorts are a great go-to when the dress code is super casual, but if you want something that feels a bit more polished, high waisted shorts made from cotton or linen are a great option. Try searching “paper bag shorts” or “belted shorts” also.
  • White button-up: What can’t you do with a white button-up? Look for a relaxed fit in cotton or linen for maximum breathability. Roll the sleeves up and tuck into virtually any pair of bottoms, wear as a beach cover up or even use as a light jacket on semi-chilly nights. Another fun way to transform this basic is by unbuttoning the bottom 2-3 buttons and knotting the ends together to make a cropped shirt. 
  • Straw hat: We all love a big floppy straw hat, but the packable ones are, in my opinion, the most versatile and the comfiest. Straw hats also provide a solid amount of sun protection!
  • White tank top: You can keep this item super basic in style, but personally I like a white tank that has an interesting detail on it, like a ruffled sleeve, a square neckline, ribbed texture, etc. At the end of the day, a white top goes with basically anything. 
  • Classic sunglasses: There are so many sunglasses that seem to go in an out of style in the blink of an eye. Aren’t aviators “cheugy” now, as the kids say? Styles that always feel classic are “Clubmaster” and “Wayfarer” in a brown tortoiseshell print. Bonus points for the fact that they pair well with essentially any outfit!