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How to stay cool in the summer heat and look stylish

As temperatures rise, many people feel the urge to shed as much clothing as possible to cool down. While it’s true that fewer layers of clothing retain less heat, scientists and stylists say dressing properly for summer isn’t that simple.

Exposing more skin makes it easier for the sun to radiate heat directly into your body – and that increases your risk of sunburn. “So wearing nothing is not good. I wouldn’t recommend it,” says Larissa Marie Shepherd, assistant professor of fiber science at Cornell University.

And stylists say that going clothing-free doesn’t necessarily suit every style sense or comfort level.

“In the summer, there’s a trend of just not wearing clothes — it’s just too hot for clothes and we’re just wearing our skimpy shorts and our skimpy tops,” says Heather Newberger, a stylist who wrote the book “How to Date Your Wardrobe.” “But I don’t think the majority of Americans are comfortable with that.”

Rather, scientists and stylists agree, it is a matter of well-considered decisions regarding fabrics, fit and colors.

Scientists like Shepherd, who study fibers and fabrics at the molecular level, say linen is the coolest choice in summer heat. The natural fiber is breathable, wicking sweat away from the skin and allowing it to evaporate easily. But the stylists we spoke to are divided.

Linen is a great option, according to stylist Denise Caldwell. Newberger says she never recommends it unless a client specifically asks for it.

“Linen really keeps you cool — but it looks like a paper bag in five seconds,” Newberger said, noting linen’s tendency to wrinkle. But, she added, “there are people who are very comfortable in linen, so if you’re happy with that look, go for it.”

Newberger prefers lyocell, a fabric made from wood chips that is often sold under the brand name Tencel. She says this fabric stays cool like linen without wrinkling. She also recommends plissé, a pleated cotton fabric that is often thin and breathable.

“There’s already a built-in texture there that really adds dimension to your outfit,” she said. In the summer, a lightweight, textured fabric can “bring back that layering effect that can create so much dynamism in the winter when you have all this flexibility to wear sweaters, button-downs, jackets and vests and mix them all together.”

Caldwell, the other stylist, suggested choosing natural fibers, particularly bamboo, which stays cool similarly to linen. She also advised looking for alternatives to heavy fabrics like denim.

“Chambray is light and classy, ​​so it’s a good alternative for those who like to wear denim or jeans in the summer,” she said.

Loose-fitting clothing allows more air to circulate over your skin, which can cool you down and make you feel less clammy, scientists say.

“You don’t want something that’s going to cling to your body. You want something that’s light and airy,” Shepherd said. “If I’m just hanging out, I’d probably recommend something like a long-sleeved, loose-fitting linen shirt.”

The good news, say stylists, is that loose clothing is on trend – regardless of age and gender.

“We’re in a phase right now where plus size is the big thing. The coolest looks tend to be oversized,” Newberger said. “It’s a great time to try new things because there’s really less resistance when it comes to that kind of look.”

For example, she recommends “an oversized shirt made of organic fibers and wide-leg pants that allow air to pass through while providing sun protection.”

Caldwell stressed that loose does not mean poor fit. “It’s not about going up a size or buying something that’s extra large,” she said. “You can still get things that are tailored to your size.” She pointed to various sleeve shapes that are wider than traditional cuts, such as puff sleeves, balloon sleeves and flutter sleeves.

She also recommends flowing pieces like a maxi dress or a fit-and-flare dress. “The great thing is that it accentuates the waist, but is still flowy, so it doesn’t cling too tightly to the body. Because you need fabrics that don’t stick to the skin, but actually move with the body.”

Darker clothes absorb more solar heat than lighter ones, scientists say, which is why stylists recommend switching to lighter colors in summer.

“As a New Yorker, it’s a real bummer because the color we use most is black,” Newberger said. “But summer is made for cream.”

Caldwell suggested choosing light pastel shades. “And then white, nude, taupe or bone colors work well with different skin tones but are still within the light color range,” she said.

She also recommends cool shades of blue, but advises against fiery reds, which she says can make you feel psychologically hotter – a fashion tip that is supported by scientific research on the links between color and temperature perception.

The bottom line, stylists and scientists say, is that people need to choose a summer wardrobe that makes them feel comfortable in the heat and in their own skin. That may mean trying a new fabric or a loose-fitting garment, but it doesn’t mean you have to wear something that feels unnatural to you.

“People feel like they’re being forced into choices that they’re not comfortable with because of seasonal clothing,” Newberger said. “At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily about doing what you think is right, but taking the time to figure out what you want.”

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