Summer simplicity: 4 easy neutral outfit ideas to try

Summer is officially here, and weather seems to be running the gamut from cool to mild to OMG-it’s-SO-HOT 🥵, depending on where you live. So I’ve put together a few easy neutral outfits for summer, to take some of the fuss out of getting dressed, no matter what your thermometer reads.

I always find summer to be the most challenging season to dress for. Trying to navigate between heat and air-conditioning (or intermittently cool coastal weather) usually means lightweight layers, or even changing clothes mid-day. In coastal Southern California, it’s still cool enough for a light jacket most mornings, but warm enough for short sleeves by noon.

Summer can be a good time to have some fun with our outfits, and bust out the color and pattern. But for those days you want to keep things simple and uncomplicated, a neutral look is hard to beat.

Cool & coastal

Susan B. wears a casual caramel and white outfit with a utility jacket, striped tee, fisherman sandals.
Jacket | Necklace | Tee | Bag (Similar) | Jeans | Bracelets | Sandals
My sizes: Jacket – Petite Small, Tee – Small, Jeans – 28 Petite

I wore this out to run errands last week and was quite pleased with it. I love these little organic cotton tees from Everlane, and usually purchase a couple of colors each year.

A light utility jacket is a practical and perfect choice for our Marine Layer Mornings. The jacket is mostly sold out in this color, though a few sizes are still available, and there are other colors including a warm brown.

Someone recently asked for suggestions about what to pack for a visit to Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s a charming beach town and artists’ community just south of Monterey, California. I was reminded when we visited a couple of years ago that it can be quite chilly, even at the height of summer.

Yes, you absolutely WILL want to have a sweater and jacket on hand! I’d recommend either a lightweight cashmere or linen sweater like this one. You want something that’s warm, but that won’t be sweltering should the sun decide to make an afternoon appearance. And keep the fit relaxed enough to comfortably layer a tee underneath.

I’d recommend slip-on shoes that are sturdy enough for walking on rocks or gravel. (Slip-on, in case you decide to have a wade in the ocean. Be warned, that water is COLD!)

(By the way, the summer sweater + jacket recommendation would also hold for San Francisco, coastal points north, and south to Santa Barbara.)

The heat is on

I hear you…it’s HOT where you are! Here are a couple of simple, neutral summer outfit ideas in breezy linen and cotton pieces.

Here’s a wafty poplin dress that won’t cling to you anywhere. It’s a little crisper than linen, and won’t wrinkle as much. It’s also available in a green stripe, and white and navy solids. (And here’s a linen maxi dress that also looks pretty good, and is available in Petites!)

Yes, you could also go with sandals, but for those who like or need some toe coverage, these cutout espadrilles will provide some ventilation. Statement earrings are a great jewelry choice for hot weather, as they don’t require much skin contact.

If you don’t wear dresses, or like to mix it up, loose-fitting and breathable separates are another way to stay cool. White and navy are the quintessential summer neutral combo. Here’s a more relaxed iteration with a linen top and cotton gauze pants. The shirt is available in several colors, size XX-Small to 3X. Pants are also available in black or white, in Classic, Petite & Tall sizes.

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  1. Whenever I see a post like this, it reminds me of things I already have and I go shopping in my closet to put together a new outfit! Thank you!

  2. I just want to say that I love EVERYTHING about the outfit with the striped dress. Maybe not the perfume, and the bag is not my style, but I really love the dress, shoes, and earrings.

  3. I really liked your outfit that you are wearing (great photo), and I like all of the other outfits as well. These clothing items are all things that I would wear right now, it is definitely in the style I gravitate towards (I just don’t look good in the puffy sleeves we see in the stores now)! I’m saving this post for future shopping reference.

  4. Maxi dresses are my favourites when it is hot hot hot. Luckily we went down from 30 degrees to 25 so we are fine in the Netherlands. Rain during the night. Perfect.
    Love your safari jacket.

  5. Love your hair in this picture Susan! Also, the neutral look is fabulous. This would be a perfect January – April look for me here in southwest Florida. Thank you for sharing your sizes. It really helps me in ordering to see a petite woman modeling these clothes.

  6. We’ll be wearing wool sweaters, puffer jackets, and boots in San Francisco until September. Add a couple of layers and a warm hat for outdoor evening activities. Seriously.

  7. So much good content. Love your ideas. Really appreciate the shoe ideas. A brand I’m loving is Taos. Great foot bed with great arches for we older folk. I love your styles.

  8. In July 2010, we took a vacation I titled “Westward Ho!” in my Google labels for keeping track of all the planning. I had a voice teachers conference in Salt Lake City, and my husband met me there and we drove town to Zion, over to Vegas, spent some time at Juno Lake, did a wine trip in Paso Robles, and then drove up to San Francisco to meet my BILs, who owned a wine bar in Berkeley at the time. On the way to SF, we got out in Carmel and MAN WE WERE COLD! We had to stop and buy jackets just to walk around. And when we got to San Francisco, I had to buy a HAT.

    Mark Twain wasn’t joking when he said that the coldest winter he ever experienced was July in San Francisco!