Beyond the Basic Tee: Stylish Casual Tops for a Refined Summer Look

Ah, summer 🌞…we have a love-hate relationship. I love the longer days and slower pace, but I’m not a fan of heat, especially dressing for it. Trying to look put-together and stay comfortable when it’s HOT sometimes feels next to impossible. (And then there’s navigating the arctic-level air-conditioning in so many public spaces…)

Dresses are one option, but I just don’t feel like myself in a dress. (And believe me, I’ve tried…) Which leaves some sort of top-and-pants combo. While a tee shirt is a comfortable and practical choice, tees can get boring after a while, and don’t always look as “finished” as I’d like. So I’m always on the hunt for easy, casual summer tops that are comfortable, neat, and bra-friendly.

Casual linen shirt outfit

Susan B. wears a short-sleeved yellow linen shirt, white cargo pants, gold sandals.
My sizes: Shirt – Small, Pants – 28 (had them hemmed about 1″)

I recently ordered a couple of these short sleeve linen shirts from Quince, and really like them! They’re lightweight but not sheer, and not too long to wear un-tucked. This style is available in a bunch of other colors. And there’s a long-sleeve style available too.

The pants are the “Marcelle” style from Citizens of Humanity, and are a nice, lightweight alternative to white/off-white jeans. They have a gentle barrel-leg silhouette and run true-to-size.

Here are a few more casual tops (some on sale) that can keep you looking polished and put-together in summer heat.

Eileen Fisher band-collar linen shirt in Seafoam.

Eileen Fisher band collar linen top

My sister just picked up a couple of these shirts and really likes them. Several colors available, sizes XXS-3X, some colors available in Petites. (Some colors on sale as well.)

Madewell linen cap-sleeve shirt

This one just looks so cool & breezy (and has a matching skirt!). Other colors/prints available, sizes XX-Small to XX-Large (some sizes sold out).

Madewell linen cap sleeve shirt
Nordstrom striped poplin shirt blue white.

Nordstrom striped cotton poplin shirt

This crisp striped 100% cotton poplin shirt is included in the Anniversary Sale. Sizes Small to XX-Large still available.

Talbot’s cotton gauze top

The tie sleeves are a nice detail on this airy cotton gauze top. Other colors available also in Misses, Petite, Plus, and Plus Petite sizes.

Talbot's cotton gauze tie sleeve top
Chico's cotton blend diamond jacquard shirt.

Chico’s diamond jacquard shirt

I really like the subtle pattern on this cotton blend shirt! Sizes 00 (0/2) to 4 (20/22).

Banana Republic silk shirt

Yes, this one’s silk, but it’s loose & breezy enough to allow for plenty of air flow. This easy, elegant style is perfect for dressing up a bit. Sizes XXS-XXL, also in Petites.

Banana Republic Astral silk short sleeve shirt.

Incorporating lightweight casual alternatives to the traditional tee shirt into your wardrobe can elevate your summer style effortlessly. With these stylish options, staying cool and looking fabulous all summer long has never been easier.

See more of my Nordstrom Anniversary Sale picks here.

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  1. I’ve been eyeing the Quince linen shirt. Thanks for the review. This summer I’ve been living in the J Crew Bungalow popover. It does run large and the v is low so I tacked it a little to make it not as revealing.

  2. I bought the Quince silk sleeveless tank per your recommendation. Taking it to Croatia where it’s currently 90+ degrees; I think it’ll be great!

  3. Oh yes, these trousers and shirts will get you elegantly through a hot summer. Well spotted.

  4. I’ve been wearing Quince linen short sleeve shirts for a couple of years now and I agree, they are a great comfortable, dress-up/dress-down option. I have black, white, copper, and blue and look for new colors every year. Nothing beats linen when it is hot and humid.

  5. I bought the linen top from Quince and love it. The yellow on you is very pretty and I totally agree with you about summer. And our summers here in southern California go on forever.

  6. I recently purchased some items from Quince but I was disappointed in the quality of all four items. I was bummed as I really wanted to like that company!

  7. Great shirts. I usually wear mostly tees too, but it’s nice to have a few stylish options. I don’t usually like Eileen Fishers clothing as they are too boxy for me, but I’m going to check out that banded collar one. That yellow one you’re wearing looks fantastic.
    I love yellow but as a cool toned girl it would sadly make me look ill…

  8. I also recently got some of the Quince linen shirts and I think the price to quality ratio is great! It’s a nice weight linen but not see through and seems like it will hold up well. And the cut of the blouse is very flattering to this size 14P who doesn’t normally look good in button up shirts!

  9. Hi Susan – I love your blog! I think I’ll try the short sleeve linen shirt from Quince, as I’ve been thinking about trying that brand for a while. I cannot find the length of the shirt on their webpage – can you give me an idea of how long it is? Thanks!

  10. Thanks for trying that yellow Quince shirt! I’ve been wondering whether it would work for a Spring. I have it in driftwood and navy; they’re not quite Spring shades, but I make them work.