Summer Style Essentials: What Are You Wearing Right Now?

Real Style on 06.20.11
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Photo: Boden USA

I was flipping through fashion magazines last week at the pool (my life is hard, I know) and reading various Summer Essentials lists. Every magazine has one -- ten things you absolutely must have right now! Heading the list for Summer 2011: platform sandals, the crochet bikini, and a cute summer jacket.

I cannot imagine any of those things working in my closet.

My typical summer day goes like this: I get up early and go running; after my run, I change into my swimsuit and toss on something in the way of a coverup, either a maxi dress that has seen better days or a very thin long sleeved J. Crew tee from maybe three or four years ago and a jersey knit skirt. When we're done swimming, I shower and get dressed, in an outfit that is appropriate for little league or karate class or whatever else it is that we have on the schedule for the evening. Whatever I wear has to be machine washable (because the baseball field is dirty) and lightweight (because it's hovering near 100 degrees every day just now and 5:00 pm is the hottest part of the day) and cut so that I can climb the bleachers at the baseball field or karate gym without flashing anyone.

Not one of those outfits includes anything from the Must Have for Summer lists.

It won't surprise anyone if I say that fashion magazine editors rarely think about moms when they write those Must Have lists -- particularly the ones for summer. Wrangling kids in the summer consists of lots of time spent outdoors -- at the park or the playground or the pool -- and requires a wardrobe that can withstand sunscreen and sweat and repeated launderings. So yes, that pretty silk sheath dress really would be lovely for an afternoon of shopping and cocktails, but it's not the best choice if you're facing a day of popsicles and Playmobil.

So how do you dress approprately for summer and not fall into the trap of just spending your days in your running shorts? Choose pieces that you don't mind wearing -- and possibly wearing out. I pick up a couple of inexpensive cotton dresses at the beginning of each summer; they're great for outings to the park and the ball field. When they start to fade from all the laundering, I shift them from day dress to swimsuit coverup.  Still cute, and still appropriate if I need to run into the grocery on the way home from the pool, but not something I mind getting sunscreen on. Or sweating in.

But let's get back to those fashion magazines for a moment. Nowhere in their pages did I see suggestions for repurposing last summer's $20 sundress as a swimsuit coverup -- which is disappointing, honestly, but not surprising. And while I realize that there are women in the world who actually can wear a cute jacket and platform sandals in the summer (because they work in offices with carpeted hallways and very cold AC, for example), there are also lots of women who are looking for something more practical to wear from now to Labor Day.

So what's on that list of go-to pieces? What are you really wearing, right now, this summer? A cute jacket and platform espadrilles and a crochet bikini? Or something else? Let's hear what you're wearing -- or what you're looking for to round out your summer closet.

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