It’s time for a refresh: the wardrobe basics I’m updating now

With summer just around the corner (or already here, for many of you) it’s a good time to take stock of and perhaps update the wardrobe basics we’ll be relying on for the next few months.

Susan B's summer wardrobe basics: linen tops & sweaters, relaxed jeans, linen pants.

Building a cohesive wardrobe around a core of practical, simple basics makes it easier to get more wear from what’s in your closet. But even “timeless” pieces can look dated after a few seasons, or just plain worn out. I’m not advocating chasing trends, but rather making adjustments here and there that can keep us looking modern and current.

The summer wardrobe basics I’m updating now

My summer wardrobe is mostly casual and relatively simple. For the last couple of summers, we didn’t really go out much, so I didn’t add or change a lot, except for replacing the occasional worn out piece here and there.

And I’m still not looking to revamp my wardrobe, just tweak around the edges a bit. Here are a few summer wardrobe basics I’ve added:


While many of you have said that it’s too hot where you live to wear jeans in the summer, our climate is milder/drier and I do wear jeans pretty much year-round.

Summer wardrobe basics: Susan B. wears a green long cardigan, striped linen tee, relaxed fit Mother jeans, leopard sandals.

I’ve always sung the praises of slim straight leg jeans, and still think they’re a classic and versatile style. But silhouettes have been moving toward lately toward longer, looser fits. I’ve been quite drawn to some of these styles, which look fresh to my eye now. After trying several, this one stuck the landing.

earrings (c/o) | cardigan | top | necklace (c/o) | jeans | sandals (similar)

These are Mother “The Ditcher” jeans. They are listed as a cropped length, but hit me just below the ankle. They’re also one of the few higher rise styles that aren’t too high for my short waist. They’re comfortable and even though the denim is described as rigid, they aren’t stiff and have a little bit of give.

I’m wearing size 28 here. They’re a little loose in the waist/hips, and I’ve ordered the next size down to compare. Will let you know which I keep.

These are available in a bunch of colors/washes, sizes 23-34.

I’ve had these sandals for a couple of years, and they’re still favorites.

More relaxed leg jean styles

Non-denim pants

For those days when it’s just too warm for denim, relaxed linen pants are my go-to. I still have a couple of Eileen Fisher pairs from a few seasons back that are in good shape, but they’re in darker colors. I wanted something light and fresh-looking, so went with these.

J.Crew linen seaside pant in stripe.

This striped one is final sale, but I’m happy with my purchase. (Several other colors available, not final sale.) I sized up to a Petite Medium for a roomier fit. It’s available in Misses (sizes XX-Small to 3X), Petite and Tall sizes. The stripe is subtle and low contrast, the white is a soft, not stark white.

Layering tees

When wearing more volume on the bottom, my tops need to be shorter and/or more fitted. Most of my tees were beginning to look a bit the worse for wear. I love linen knits, and have had good luck finding linen tees and tanks this season.

Detail: Susan B. wears an ivory blazer, green linen tee, and French Kande necklaces.

This linen tee is a bit spendy, but is IMO is worth a splurge. It has a flattering shape (including darts at the bust!) and the fabric is soft but not super sheer. Several colors available HERE and HERE.

Vince navy striped elbow sleeve linen tee

The top I’m wearing in the top photo is this one. The fabric is substantial, and it’s well-made. I love the slim elbow sleeves which are flattering and layer easily under a sweater or jacket. It’s also available in a light blue stripe, sizes XX-Small to X-Large. Both colors in Plus here.

I’m wearing the Small, which is plenty roomy. If you prefer a snug fit I’d suggest to size down.

J.Crew relaxed fit linen crewneck tee pink.

I’m also quite liking these relaxed fit linen tees from J.Crew, which are a more budget-friendly option. They’re available in several colors, sizes XX-Small to 3X. (I find the X-Small is plenty roomy.) There’s also a v-neck option if you prefer.

And I also picked up a couple of these linen “muscle” tanks to layer under sweaters and jackets or wear alone. The shoulders are wide enough to prevent bra strap peek-a-boo. Available in sizes XX-Small to 3X.

A few of you have asked about washing linen knits. I’ve had good luck with washing in a lingerie bag on the delicate cycle (cold water!), then hanging to try or reshaping and drying flat.

Lightweight shirts

A breezy button-front shirt provides multiple styling options. You can wear it buttoned as a stand-alone, or wear it open as a lightweight topper over another layer.

Susan B. wears a striped top and white jeans, holds a Cult Gaia Ark bag.

top | bag | jeans | sandals

This top is available in several colors, sizes X-Small to X-Large. I’m 5’1″ so it hits as tunic length on me, but on someone taller would probably be standard shirt length. I like the roll tab sleeves, which keeps them up.

Everlane relaxed linen shirt iced coffee grid

I’ve been on the hunt for a linen shirt in a warm light neutral, and recently found this one from Everlane. It runs large; I found size 2 gave me a relaxed but not too oversized fit. Here’s a styling tip for you Petites:

This shirt comes in several colors, sizes 00-16. Here’s a short sleeve option too. Linen is great to travel with, as it’s lighter and dries more quickly than cotton.

Lightweight cardigans

Evenings here can cool down quite a bit (especially when the marine layer rolls in). And many businesses or public spaces here in Southern California seem to feel the need to keep air conditioning set at Arctic levels. I get chilled quite easily, so usually have a sweater with me even on the warmest days.

Susan B. wears a beige linen cardigan, red stripe Breton tee, straight leg jeans and flat slide sandals.

earrings (similar) | cardigan | necklace | tee | bracelets (similar) | jeans (similar) | sandals

I’ve been wearing this cardigan or the green one at the top of the post almost daily for the past couple of weeks. I’m wearing the X-Small in the Khaki color. I love this cardigan; I can throw it on over just about anything and it works. Offered in sizes X-Small to 3X (I’m wearing the X-Small) through smaller sizes sold out in some colors. (Hey, J.Crew, this one’s worth re-stocking!!)

Are you looking to update any of your summer wardrobe basics?

More summer wardrobe basics…

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  1. Susan, those jeans do look perfect, I may have to try them. I live in a hot humid climate but do wear jeans when I go into places of businesses as they are freezing. The wider leg makes than cooler as well. Every summer I have to update T-shirts. I’m hard on my clothes-especially in the summer and basics wear out fast. This year I’ve become obsessed with button up shirts and looking to replace some linen shirts from past years. Not a lot of luck yet. The styles I loved aren’t being made anymore. Button shirts are great because you can roll the sleeves up when it’s hot unroll when you get in the air condition.

  2. Linen is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth. It can be washed in the washer and dried in the dryer with everything else and it will last just as long as it would if itchad been hand washed(no matter what the care label tells you). Depending on quality, it may need a bit of help from the steam iron to regain its shape, but thats easily done. The only natural fiber that excels linen in this regard is hemp, but its still not widely available.

    1. This is what I did with a linen T-shirt that I found too scratchy. It softened up nicely. I’m still wary about shrinkage with other linen items, so I use cold water and air drying.

  3. I ordered the striped linen pants this weekend from JCrew! The stripe will be a nice change from solid colors.
    I purchased a pair of loose jeans from Banana Republic a few weeks ago and I like them a lot! It’s fun to mix things up a bit!

  4. Boden makes a nice linen shirt, not too spendy. If between sizes, my advice is to size down as I find them roomy (not oversized) and broad across the shoulders. I think they look best with the sleeves rolled up.

  5. I’m curious, are the striped linen pants opaque? I really hate see-through on pants or blouses.

    1. They aren’t completely opaque, but are more so than most unlined light colored linen pants I’ve seen. I wouldn’t wear dark underwear with them, but they aren’t sheer.

  6. The J Crew linen tops come in gorgeous colors! Are they cut straight to the grain of the fabric? I have found J Crew pieces to be thin and well, cheaply made in past seasons.

    1. Yes, they are cut straight with the grain. I do think the quality of these has improved over past seasons.

  7. I love the bright green T and you had me on “it has darts”! My, I even considered ordering it from the USA for a moment. Darts in T-shirts. Heaven for busty ladies. But as I clicked through I couldn’t find/see it. The models haven’t got a bust, so it isn’t showing in the photos. Never mind, I am not going to order from the USA. Came to my senses again.
    And that striped shirt is so lovely.

  8. Great picks as always Susan. I saw the J Jill orange tiered dress in person & the fabric was gorgeous. Photos do not do it justice. Eager for it to arrive! Thanks for the link to the Nordstrom tees. – they look longer. I am very long waisted & they look like the fit wil work for men popped in to J Crew this weekend as I was on a mission to refresh my warm white tees & the selection was limited and all very short for me. I found a couple at Madewell that worked & need to order online.

    1. Thanks, Diane! I ordered that dress myself, and just received it, and yes, it’s a keeper! Look for some styling posts soon…

  9. I have the Everlane linen workwear shirt with the short sleeves in the midnight floral. I like it, but it’s a little low cut for me (I’m 5’2″)– unlike the long sleeved version, the buttons don’t go all the way up. It’s also pretty stiff, so I plan to wear it as a light summer jacket. (Love the print.)

    Also, I’m curious– I keep looking at these shirts online and it really looks like the windowpane is a lighter weight than the others. What’s your experience? Is your shirt stiff?

    1. Hi Pam, I haven’t tried the other colors, so can’t compare, but it’s not stiff at all (not like “handkerchief linen”), and once it’s washed I’m pretty sure it will soften up even more.

  10. I have two pair of Mother jeans and love them. Both have stretch and I ordered my normal size. I really liked the “Ditcher” you modeled today. Do they run true to size.

    1. Hi Kathy, I’d say yes, they do run TTS. I’m usually a 28 and that’s what I’m wearing here. I’ve ordered 27’s just for comparison but haven’t received them yet.

  11. Just a comment on longevity of clothing.
    My experience tells me that much comes down to the type of washing machine used. We got rid of our agitator top loader in favour of a front loader. Massive difference…….much gentler in the clothes. Only downside is the length of time the cycle takes, but well worth it in the longrun.