In an informal poll on my Facebook page, I asked readers to share what they find most challenging about warm weather style. A sizable number of those who responded mentioned that they aren’t comfortable going sleeveless. Whether or not you’re comfortable with sleeveless styles, I think it’s always good to have a few lightweight tops with sleeves in your warm weather wardrobe.
First though, let me just say that I think we should be free to wear what’s comfortable and appropriate at whatever age without shame. If you are more comfortable in sleeveless tops and shorts (or short skirts or bikinis) then wear them with joy and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Age is not a “flaw.” That said, “comfort” is the operative word here, and some of us are just more comfortable with a bit more coverage. That’s OK too.
I always include at least one linen shirt in my warm weather travel wardrobes. They’re great for those venues (like churches and temples) that require shoulders to be covered. They also provide some sun protection, and can ward off the chill of overly-air-conditioned interiors.
Lightweight Tops With Sleeves
It’s been my experience that sleeveless tops are relatively easy to find, but styles with a little more arm coverage (especially in breathable, lightweight fabrics) are a bit more elusive. For this roundup, I’ve looked for wear-now-wear-later styles in mostly natural fibers (cotton, linen). And yes, they’re all washable!
When it comes to knits, I find an elbow-sleeve length is the happy medium between covered and cool.
Linen is the coolest and most breathable fabric and that includes linen knits. I purchased this navy striped Vince tee last year and wore it often. It’s held up very well (wash cold, line dry) and I’ll be wearing it again once the weather warms up. Sizes XX-Small to 3X. (Probably best for Winters, but I tend to cheat a bit when it comes to navy. I’ll wear it underneath a lighter colored jacket or sweater.)
This cotton boatneck tee has a longer cut and is available in several colors. Sizes 00(0/2) to 4(20/22). (Springs: Flame Scarlet, maybe Tropical Jade. Winters: Bahamian Pink, maybe Poolside Blue, White, Black. Summers: maybe Poolside Blue. Autumns, maybe Flame Scarlet, best for Vivid Autumn.)
Another cotton elbow-sleeve tee. It’s available in a bunch of colors and one floral in Misses, Petite and Tall sizes. I like this Orchid color for you Winters!
Slub cotton tends to be lighter and cooler than Pima, so would be my recommendation for a 3/4 sleeve style. This one has a v-neck, and is available in 4 colors, sizes 00(0/2) to 4(20/22).
Woven shirts & tops
I’ll start with this cotton gauze top as it’s the most t-shirt-adjacent. It’s available in 2 striped colorways, both good for Summers. Sizes XX-Small to XX-Large.
This linen-blend boatneck blouse has pretty (but subtle) embroidery on the sleeves. You could easily dress this up for an evening out. Also available in a bright blue color, both good for Winters. Sizes Regular XXS-XXL and Petites.
Here’s a simple v-neck cotton gauze blouse with sleeves that can be worn long or pushed up. Autumns, I haven’t forgotten you; this sage green should work for most. Sizes XX-Small to XX-Large.
I love the subtle stripe detail on this cotton v-neck popover, and have two sizes on order to try. Available in X-Small to XX-Large. This ivory color is best for Springs & Autumns.
Here’s a classic cotton gauze shirt in a summery blue-and-white stripe. (And yes, great for Summers!) It’s available in sizes 00-24. Several more colors HERE.
I usually roll up the sleeves on my shirts, so appreciate a tab sleeve to keep them in place. This linen shirt is available in a few colors in Misses, Petite and Tall sizes.
Chico’s has a bunch of no-iron linen shirts, and I have last year’s version of this one.
The button-back on this no-iron linen tunic is a fun detail. It’s available in Navy and this Poolside Blue (both probably good for Winters) in sizes 00(0/2) to 4(20/22).
I have a soft spot for paisley prints, and this this one is really fun! This linen shirt is available in Regular, Petite & Long sizes. (Lots of other colors/patterns too…)
Susan thank you for your reflections on age and dressing. I live in the southeast. It’s hot, humid and full of mosquitoes. By July and August you do not care what you are wearing you just don’t want clothes touching your body. Then there’s the overly air conditioned buildings. So being able to shed clothes is a help too. Linen shirts are a staple because I can roll the sleeves up or down and linen absorbs sweat.
Great choice. I have invested heavily in breatheable, ligt-weight tops and shirts with long sleeves or 3/4 for summer. And as summer doesn’t last very long in the Netherlands, they are still in excellent condition.
Thanks! Slub knit shirts are also great for layering in transition season. I enjoy your blog so much.
Thanks for showing us a variety of options. I’ll be interesting in your decision on the subtle striped v-neck top. But for the puffed sleeves I would have ordered the cotton gauze blouse featured above it. I just will not purchase anything with puffed sleeves, ruffles or flounces. Between what I feel is little-girl styling and the dreaded drop sleeve I’m not finding much to like this season.
Susan, this is a wonderful collection of easy care, easy wear summer tops. Thanks for doing the hard work for us!
Hi Susan—Finding statement tops to wear solo when the weather is steamy is a challenge, especially when so many have frills and ruffles galore. Do you find Chico’s tops a bit long? I’m 5’ with a short torso, long legs and when I look at the length I hesitate to purchase. I believe I heard Chico’s used to carry petite tops but no longer do so. That’s unfortunate.
Yes, their tops are a bit long for most Petites. Options are to tuck or half-tuck, or have hemmed. I do wear their no-iron linen shirts, and just leave the bottom 2 buttons unbuttoned, or wear them as a lightweight topper over a tank top.
Thank you for sharing an excellent collection of tops. I am enjoying the comments you include regarding seasonal colors.
Love these options. Perfect for upgraded summer looks.
Thanks for these options. A linen or gauze top is comfy but an upgrade from a plain tee.
Thank you Susan. This is helpful for me as I need to ‘upgrade’ from my many short sleeve cotton t-shirts. I want to be cool on hot summer days but also want some coverage and a dressier look.
I love and appreciate how you add sizes to the clothing descriptions. It prevents frustration when looking up an item and find it is not offered in my size.
You must have been reading my mind! Soft, light blouses with sleeves are what I’ve been dreaming about. Perfect selection!
Well, it’s snowing right now where I live. I may never wear short sleeves or linen.
I receive your blog post notification by email, with a “latest finds” section at the bottom. In it, you show a beautiful Nic+Zoe tunic blouse. I own that blouse and wanted to give a shout out to these longer, a-line tunic blouses from Nic+Zoe. They are soft cotton, wash very well, have full-length sleeves, and a beautiful shape created by strategic gussets and seams. I stumbled on one in Nordstrom and have purchased several more since.
“Age is not a ‘flaw'”… I love that! We’re obviously on the same wavelength as my Friday blog post was entitled “Age isn’t something to be ashamed of”.