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My Summer Uniform: The 3-5 Pieces I Love Wearing That Makes Getting Dressed SO Easy

When I was an assistant prop stylist in New York as a 23-year-old, a pretty well-known photographer, Sang An, who I shot with a lot wore the same thing every day. He had a uniform – two actually, one for summer and one for winter, and he wore the exact same thing five days a week (he had 5 sets of the same outfit). He did it so he “didn’t have to think”. When you are a 23-year-old stylist during the day and a bartender at night living in New York, such adulting seemed so odd. Isn’t getting dressed supposed to be fun? A part of creative expression? A way to take low-risk creative risks?

Whenever I heard “capsule collection,” I thought it was what boring rich old people did. It just felt so grown up, full of zero “fun”, but also for most of my 20s I wore wacky thrift store clothes that included vintage teenage mutant ninja turtle teeshirts and “cotton bell-bottom chaps” – decidedly not two ingredients that are a part of anyone’s capsule collection. But like anything, the older you get the more you don’t need to try on as many types of partners/careers/styles because you get closer to what makes you happy and feels the most right for YOU. Truly a very adult thing. Or maybe I’ve just gotten boring stylistically, and that’s ok, too. I can shake it up for big “nights in the city” (spoken like a true country cliche mom) and splurge on a fancy dress here and there for special occasions. Or maybe it’s just a phase, a only-barely-post-pandemic-lifestyle? Or a seasonal thing when you live by a lake and don’t take any meetings from the chest down?

I know exactly what I “opt” to wear all summer. So while it wasn’t intentional I, too, have created a loose uniform of sorts. More like a formula that allows for change in colors, patterns, and styles. But the shape, fit and general vibe are consistent. This is based on years of trying other things only to be kinda uncomfortable in one way or another and always opting back to my formula.

The Formula

The formula is simple: short jean shorts (with varying amounts of holes and lengths), a blousey blouse (with varying amounts of pattern and color), and nude sandals or mules (with varying amounts of heel and traction). Maybe a T-shirt here and there but I’m so picky with t-shirts that I’m much more of a blouse lady.

Want proof? Here are 6 outfits I’ll be rotating all summer long:

Outfit #1: Long Sleeve Blouse + Jean Shorts + Sandals

Shorts | Blouse | Sandals

This formula was scientifically produced in a lab where the first question is – if it’s hot out, what body part wants to be exposed? The answer for me is always my legs (but might be different for you). So my shorts are short and no I’m not falling for the Bermuda short thing as I think it cuts off my legs and honestly makes me cringe – a decidedly uncomfortable emotional reaction that deems itself scientifically out of the running. I love a loose cotton or silk top that has a peephole or some sort of ruffle sleeve (but you’ll see I also love a white men’s button-up). These sandals are my newest ones that are SO CUTE, while being extremely transitional.

Outfit #2: Long Sleeve Blouse + Ripped Jean Shorts + Sandals

Button Up | Shorts | Sandals

With a more conservative top (a menswear-inspired white button-up) I bring out the even shorter ripped shorts. These are all different varieties of 501 Levis, but I’m sure other brands have good options. I like a little slouch in them. And the button-up acts as my swimsuit coverup, too.

Outfit #3: Short Sleeve Blouse + Shorts + Sandals

Blouse (similar)| Shorts | Sandals

To shake it up I often opt for white cut offs, with another blousey top. I rarely wear jewelry up here, but likely will start layering gold necklaces if I were to go in public.

Outfit #4: T-Shirt + Long Jean Shorts + Sandals

T-Shirt (similar) | Shorts | Sandals

This isn’t QUITE as typical, but this year I did get some slightly longer shorts with less holes, mostly so my FIL would stop making fun of how many holes I have in my pants. The t-shirt is from Lost and Found in LA and it’s super thin and comfy, which is great for layering on top.

Outfit #5: Short Sleeve Blouse + Jean Shorts + Heeled Clogs

Blouse | Shorts | Clogs

I suppose this is me getting fancier with heeled clogs and a patterned button-up. I’m very curious if/when I’ll go back to wearing shoes that have 3″ of wood on the heel – it now feels ABSURD to me, but admittedly I do feel good in them visually. I might wear them for Mother’s Day brunch and see how long I can handle a heel (these are super comfortable but after a year with no heels it just feels absurd that they even exist).

Outfit #6: Short Sleeve Blouse + Jean Shorts + Heeled Clogs

Blouse (similar) | Shorts | Clogs

A lot of the same – I know – thus the “formula”. But these shorts are my “not too short, not too long” option that I probably wear the most. And another cotton blouse that feels fun, comfy, and forgiving. I didn’t buy anything new for this post except the sandals, because I needed them, but wanted to round up some of my favorites out there in shorts, blouses, and shoes. But first, I have some guidelines for buying that have helped me purchase clothes I will wear again and again.

SOME TIPS:

For Jean Shorts:

I like to size up to wear with swimsuits, but I like it to be more fitted when I wear with blouses, so I often have two sizes of the same short. They do stretch out a bit but not a ton (as Levi’s are 100% cotton).

For Blouses:

I like anything that doesn’t need to be ironed, has some sweet detailing (like ruffle or necktie), and usually a pattern. This allows me to be a mom and run around with kids without worrying about ruining or staining a shirt. I also wrote a more in-depth post last year about my blouse formula. Man, I am VERY scientific about my clothes.

For Shoes (And Other Accessories):

I like them to look/feel more utilitarian with no fussy heel or shine. Just leather, straps, and full function. I also wear Havaianas and Tkees for flip-flops and love a basic straw gardening hat with a tie for the beach (I’m done trying to find a floppy hat that doesn’t lose its shape in a few weeks). This year I bought this and this. Lastly, for sunglasses I’m big on the classic Rayban Wayfarer and aviators (or knock-off versions that are way less expensive) and most of you know I love this tanning lotion (forever, like I’ve tried everyone and it is my favorite) and for light makeup I love this easy lipstick and this sunscreen/foundation combo.

I have to say having a sort of uniform DOES make it so you don’t have to think as much. So if you like this look and want to create your own, here are some picks to get started:

1. 501 Original Women’s Shorts | 2. High-Rise Denim Shorts | 3. Denim Mom Short | 4. Slouchy Boyfriend Short | 5. Mom Ultra High Shorts | 6. High-Rise Denim Short | 7. High-Rise Bermuda Jean Short | 8. 3″ Sky High Rise Shorts | 9. High-Rise Mom Shorts

1. Babydoll Collar Cotton Shirt | 2. Babydoll Collar Blouse | 3. Jeanne Blouse | 4. Maeve Blouse | 5. Printed Flowy Shirt | 6. Wide-Cut Blouse | 7. Ruffled Collar Cotton Denim Shirt | 8. Ariste Top | 9. Harmony Lace Peasant Blouse

1. Ruffled Cotton Top | 2. Ruffle Short Sleeve Linen Top | 3. Carla Highneck Shirt | 4.  Carla Highneck Shirt | 5. Flutter Short Sleeve Eyelet Top | 6. Brett S/S Bohemian Blouse | 7. The Scallop Cedar Top | 8. Ruffle Sleeveless Eyelet Blouse | 9. Marianne B Ruffle Sleeve Shirt

1. The Organic Cotton Box-Cut Tee | 2. Vintage Tee | 3. Whisper Cotton Rib-Crewneck Tee | 4. The Crop Tee | 5. Short Sleeve Shrunken Boxy T-Shirt | 6. The Crop Tee Embroidered

1. Marlo Clogs | 2. Heeled Clogs | 3. Dagny Clogs | 4. Ayanna Clog |5. Cognac Clog | 6. Old School Heel Clogs

1. Agile Blush | 2. Martie Sandals | 3. Colorblock Sandal | 4. Gia Platform Sandals | 5. 2-Strap Sandals | 6. Robin Platform Sandal

I feel like a summer uniform or “formula” is easier than a fall, winter, or spring uniform mostly because the kids are out and I’m with them so much. It’s like play clothes that I feel kinda cute in and make me feel stylish enough, while being incredibly comfortable and casual. But that’s just me. So, I am curious, do you have a summer uniform and if so, what’s your criteria? xx

Opener Image Credit: Photos by Veronica Crawford | From: My “Casual, Comfortable, Cool” Spring Weekend Wardrobe

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20 days ago

I am really into dresses for summer — I love the easy of choosing one single garment. I like loose ones with a little elastic at the waist to give some shape. I have maybe 5 in various solids and patterns and they are definitely what I reach for most!

Rachel
20 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

My mother always said to me “A Dress is an outfit!” and she’s so right. I’m the same – I wear midi dresses constantly – sleeveless in summer, long sleeved in winter in pretty patterns for playtime, blousy, silky ones for going out and more conservative ones for work. It makes getting dressed beyond simple – just add cute flats, a jacket and a scarf you are done! Oh and it’s soooooo comfy!

Suzanne
20 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

I love dresses, too. While my formula is often like Emily’s, I also go through periods where I just want something without a waistband, and I have several sundresses that are perfect. Plus, dresses have the added benefit of making you feel so put together without thinking about coordinating items.

Annie K
20 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

Yes, but what dresses!?

Beth D.
19 days ago
Reply to  Annie K

Dear Annie K, that’s up to you. Everybody likes something different. You have to wear what works best for you. For example, do you want something that covers your bra straps? Do you want a dress with a defined waistline, or do you want straight or swing dresses? I like swing dresses on other women; on me, dresses without waistlines make me look huge. I prefer fit-and-flair dresses. I used to buy tshirt dresses with elastic waists and beautiful full skirts, but the company I bought them from is no longer in business.

Rachel
18 days ago
Reply to  Annie K

I always find something I like at Uniqlo – yes they are fast fashion (sort of) but I find they wash so well and you can wear for years and years.

Susan
20 days ago

Give me Muji’s shorts, a t-shirt (probably my husband’s) and my peach Converse. Also, might want to fix *sandles* in the first graphic.

Suzanne
20 days ago
Reply to  Susan

I love Muji, but mostly shop there for stationary. I have one of their skirts, and I’ve been wearing it for years. I love there simple basics. I’ll have to check out their shorts.

Christie
20 days ago

My pandemic era “uniform” is so different than pre-pandemic. Last spring/summer and this spring I’ve been wearing a tank top or a one piece swimsuit with Old Navy running shorts (so comfortable!), a short sleeve polo dress for zoom calls (which I never would have worn before, but are so comfortable, seeing a theme here?!), or a Lily Pulitzer patterned summer dress (am at the ocean and am loving all the bright colors, and again, comfortable LOL). The dresses I will wear a one piece swimsuit under. If it gets cold I’ll throw on a neon colored cropped sweatshirt. Pre-pandemic I stayed away from bright colors and dressed up most of the time. It’s going to be reaaaally hard to go back to office-wear lol. I don’t even wear a bra most of the time (!!!) so had to laugh at your comment about heels, as those are out the window for me as well. Comfort is key!

Karla
20 days ago

Lol I’m pretty basic and love having a simplified wardrobe. In the winter it’s jeans with a tshirt and cardigan sweatshirt or leggings with an oversized button down shirt. In the summer it’s white shorts with a tshirt. Most of my tshirts are vintage/thrifted coffee themed or dark blue or green. For my feet I have a growing collection of sneakers -vans, skechers, converse- that I wear year round.

JaneD
20 days ago

Get your $650 blouse/cutoff Jean shorts/sandals “play clothes”! Get your The Great/Rachel Comey/Jenni Kane bumming around with the kids in the yard outfit! It’s a capsule collection that lasts so it’s actually a bargain. Investment piece! Quality over quantity!

We are poor and our pants don’t fit. My old navy capsule collection has to last. It doesn’t look The Great on a size 16 either. Quality over size 10-14? Nope.

I’ll just be over here…excluded from this conversation. The point is find what works for you in your budget and move forward in ease and sustainability? Excellent super easy advice to follow. Opportunity abounds.

I’m sorry. I love you. Truly.

Eliot
20 days ago
Reply to  JaneD

I’m a bit surprised by this reaction. There are a couple of expensive blouses here, but there are also a couple of Target blouses, and she’s wearing Levi’s throughout. It actually seems like a reasonably replicable formula, at most budgets. It’s not the ideal silhouette for my body either, but it was fun to consider.

Lashley
20 days ago
Reply to  Eliot

Emily gets unending requests for info on her wardrobe, so she posts about her wardrobe. If she posts too many things at a lower price point, she gets flak for supporting fast fashion and its negative environmental impact. If she posts more expensive things, she gets comments like this, even though thought clearly went into selecting a mixed range of items. If it’s not for you, don’t engage the post. We know the team analyzes engagement on these posts, so if enough people aren’t feeling it, that will show on their end.

Lashley
20 days ago

My best shorts tip is to measure the waist and rise of shorts you like, then take your tape measure to the Men’s section of the thrift store and see what you can find! (The women’s section is usually too hard to sort through – so much low rise and stretch “denim.”) I also buy the Madewell Central shirt as a blousey option that doesn’t have a puffy sleeve – finding a cotton or natural fiber one can be the tricky part. I love your sandal options! I’ve been getting the same pair of Birkenstock’s re-soled every couple of years, but you’re inspiring me to level up! 🖤

Rusty
20 days ago
Reply to  Lashley

I betcha those pretty sandals are nowhere as comfy as your Burkis!!!

Rusty
20 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

* Birkis

Lashley
20 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

You’re right and my feet get VERY upset if I wear unsupportive shoes for too long, but I wouldn’t mind another option for outdoor coffee shop trips and the like!

Roberta Davis
20 days ago

I don’t like to have too many clothes. I found that I wear the same few things every week, even when I was working. I have several pairs of shorts and tops that can mix and match. Same in the winter, except jeans then. I think I am highly influenced by a lady I worked for as a “summer girl” in Chicago when I was in high school. I love her method and wish I could get all the way there. Twice a year she went clothes shopping and bought 5 casual outfits and one fancy outfit for going out to dinner. At the end of the season, she gave the clothes to her cleaning lady and went shopping again for the next season. That’s all she had! But everything was new and in style. And she recycled to someone who could really use it!

Rusty
20 days ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Wow! What a great role model! It’s big picture thinking.😊

Beth D.
19 days ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I’m just the opposite. I have clothes that are older than some adults. I only buy clothes that I love, almost always in classic styles that don’t go in and out of style. When I have to replace something, I buy the same style because I like it. A lot of people would find that boring, but it’s what I enjoy.

Rusty
20 days ago

I wear denim shorts and cotton shorts, mid length and cotton t-shirts or short sleeved blouses.
I’ve definitely been influenced by my intrigue into long, puffy sleeved blouses/peasant tops and when I get to go thrift shopping with my best friend, that’s on my list – the expensive, quality, lightly pre-worn ones I can afford.
(We’ve been able to shop in-person for well over a year due to eradicating Covid… so grateful to our govt.)

I used to buy mid-price shorts, but truly, the ones at Aussie Kmart are BETTER!! They last and last and wash so well.

Great effort is made to buy fabrics that do not create micro-plastics (the stuff that ends up in the ocean…when your so-called ‘sports’ and ‘fleece’ fabrics get thin or worn, the bits are already micro and in the ocean). 🌏

Aussie Kmart supports fair trade manufacturing and organic cotton. Although I won’t (yet) buy their tees coz they don’t last. Me thinks it’s what it’s made from and how it’s made that’s important, not whether it’s brand new or has a big price tag.

Kristin
20 days ago

I have the exact same summer uniform as you, and it’s probably because we have similar body types. I have big boobs, short waist and long legs. Always want the blouse to minimize the boobs, and short shorts to show off my legs. 🙂 I do mix it up with a lot of summer dresses too.

Patty
20 days ago

I wear pretty much the same as you do. But I also have a few cotton t-shirt style dresses for hot days.

Rusty
20 days ago

Your swimsuit post is on Cup of Jo!!! 😊

Annie
20 days ago

I definitely have a uniform for every season, too. One of the things the pandemic has really taught me is that I don’t need as much of each uniform item as I imagined. I’m a teacher whose school was open all through the pandemic, and because I wanted to wear things that I could wash easily at home, I literally alternated between two cute cotton dresses all fall/spring, and two cute heavier cotton ones all winter. Guess what: no one noticed! I didn’t get sick of them! It saved me time every morning! It has really made me rethink my future clothing needs and my shopping habits.

I suppose Emily is in the business of being photographed and therefore maybe thinks she needs more clothes, but how many patterned peasant blouses or pairs of denim shorts does anyone really need?

Suzanne
20 days ago

This is my summer style, too. Of course, I will solid color Bermuda shorts, too. But denim cutoffs have been my signature for 30 years. I do a lot of tees, but especially if I’m going to be outside, I like a loose long sleeved top. Liberty prints are my favorite, so I have quite a few from J. Crew. Lately, I’ve been using EBay or Poshmark to find items from brands I know my size, and I just bought a Liberty x J. Crew peasant top, so I’m adding pieces to this great formula. I love your sandals, too. I’m trying to decide on a pair to add for this summer. I’ve been gravitating to my Tevas for practicality, but I’d love something that combines fashion and comfort. Yours may be the ones. I, too, wonder if I’ll be wearing any of 3” heels, ever! I’ll see how the next 6 months go, but I might start selling them off, regardless of their beauty. Time to reclaim the space in my closet for clothes I really love and wear.

Peggy
20 days ago

It’s easy, cheaper, and better for the planet to buy thrift store jeans – doesn’t matter the leg style – and cut them off.

Rusty
19 days ago
Reply to  Peggy

Oooh, yes! And then you get to customize your preferred length!

Aimee
20 days ago

I’m curious how your style will change up north. It’s a lot cooler here and I rarely see people wearing shorts everyday. I guess we’ll see a different living and a different clothing style with the move!

LESLIE OTTO
20 days ago

Hi Emily – I know you are more and more interested in some of the newer information out there about healthier ways to decorate and live. I might suggest looking into what’s happening in the area of modern day shoes and are our feet. I hate to be a Debbie Downer but frankly, what has been fashionable as footwear for the last few centuries has been, maybe, half as bad as the horrific practice of foot binding. The brown sandals you have aren’t to bad but the clogs…. oh my. First look at the front of the shoe, the toe box. Then look at your actual toes. Are they any where near the same shape. Almost all the shoes women wear now days have a much narrower toe box than their actual toes smooshing and smashing all those toes up together (and the clogs aren’t near as bad as many dressier shoes). Now your toes can’t spread out to stabilize you. Next, anything with a heel, not only alters the function of the foot itself, but throws the rest of the body’s alignment out of wack. The body is pitched forwards which shortens the back of the leg (tight calves… Read more »

Cindy
20 days ago

I love this post! Mostly, because I haven’t worn jean shorts since I was 22. I opt for mostly “fancy” shorts (flat front shorts) or athletic shorts. Maybe I should give them another try? Jean shorts always make me feel like my thighs are too exposed but perhaps not! Hmmm. Something to think about. Love the blousy tops. I’m a dress summer person or kaftan/swimsuit cover up gal.

Cheryl
20 days ago

I pulled out my shorts recently just to see if they fit and nope, they do not. In the thigh area I’m proud to say my new quad muscles are fighting for space but the waist is just too small. I don’t need this kind of buzzkill to start my summer so I’ll be over here in a dress, free flowing a half inch off my body, recording nothing of my nuanced changes.
And flats. Allllways flats.

Pat
20 days ago

Hmmm…should be ok in Oregon for about a week this summer with luck. And the sandals with sox, a Northwest staple😂😂😂

Hannah
20 days ago

I love this uniform but am struggling with my summer clothing since my last baby as I ended up with really awful varicose veins (both painful and glamorous) and swollen ankles that aren’t improving even though the baby is now 2.5 so… until I am brave enough to have surgery, any ideas on leg-hiding summer wear?? I’m stuck!

Rusty
19 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

Maybe try some lightweight, flowy maxi-dresses?!?

SarahT
19 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

Wide leg flowy lightweight linen or cotton pants can be comfortable and breezy in the Summer. Cute,too! Good luck!

HH
19 days ago
Reply to  Hannah

Athleta has some easy to wear, lightweight pants like their Brooklyn pant – which I have. Other ideas: linen or chambray pants, and Old Navy has had some lightweight, wider leg pants. I picked up a pair last year and wore them with a boxy tee, tucked in the front, and Birks.

Beth
19 days ago

My family makes fun of me (and my students too- I teach 5th graders and they notice EVERYTHING), but I’ve developed a bit of a uniform for work-wear. I literally have the same exact same pair of dress pants in 4 different colors (I’ve always struggled to find dress pants that are comfortable and flattering, and these are both). Tops vary a bit more, but I have the same slightly elevated tee in 4 colors and otherwise I wear a floral blouse or striped blouse like 90% of the time. I have 2 pairs of riding boots (for winter- the only footwear I wear or I get too cold here in upstate NY), 2 pairs of sandals, and 2 pairs of loafer flats (1 black and one tan/brown of each). As I tell my mom, I’m really picky about clothes and I like what I like!

Julie S
19 days ago

I was just thinking this morning of how predictable, even boring, my summer “uniform” is, and yet how at ease I’ve become with it. I’m about to turn 38 and my daughters are 5 and 8 – and I’ve settled into AEO jean shorts with simple colorful tees in a current silhouette (mostly solids/heathered with a couple striped ones) as my go to summer clothing. I just re-bought the same simple flat sandals I’ve worn for the past 3 years. This is my everyday work/life wear as a stay at home mom and keeper of the estate, but I do (also predictably) like to wear a patterned flowy dress on Sundays when I am not in task mode and can enjoy that feminine, graceful vibe more. I’m with ya on having shorts be short! Here’s to knowing our own style and liking it.

Michelle
17 days ago

Surprised you didn’t link to Nisolo’s new flat form. It’s gorgeous and their ethical practices make you feel good. Their clogs are divine as are their AMA slide. Their leather and assembly is top quality. https://nisolo.com/collections/womens-shoes-and-accessories/products/womens-go-to-flatform-leather-sandal-almond

Also a huge fan of Joe’s Jeans cutoffs for their stretch

16 days ago

I’m in on the “capsule-like” wardrobe idea. It was great while teaching and now as a stay home Mom artist I’m basically wearing adventure Mom/art/gardening outfits (tshirt/jeans or hiking pants ) or off-duty at home dresses.

Natty
14 days ago

Boring. And as I personally get older, I find I enjoy more and more expressing my evolving personality through my sartorial choices.

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