Update Your Summer Wardrobe in 5 Steps

By: Allison Wachtel

Bringing your summer wardrobe up to date is almost as easy breezy as summer itself.
Bringing your summer wardrobe up to date is almost as easy breezy as summer itself.
Smith Collection/Getty Images

It happens every year: The days get longer, the leaves get greener and all of a sudden, that cozy wine-colored sweater that was a staple during the winter months gets pushed further back in your closet. Summer is here, and your wardrobe is aching for a spunky new look.

One of the major challenges the fashion-forward face, however, is cost. In 2010, the average consumer in the United States spent $1,700 on apparel and services per year. With the median household income at $50,054 and declining as of 2011, consumers are also becoming increasingly savvy with their spending. And when you're trying to stay stylish for less, rising temperatures don't help: With summer figures in the United States reaching the highest they've been since record keeping began in 1895, looking fresh during the year's hottest months can be a tall (and sweaty) order.


However, if there's one thing fashion does well, it's rising to a challenge. Changing seasons don't mean you need to completely overhaul your wardrobe; in fact, quite the opposite. From the anatomy of a versatile wardrobe to bargain hunting; from strategic shopping to making trends work, read on for our top five tips on updating your closet for summer.

5: Take Inventory

Whether you're aiming for a small-scale wardrobe update or a head-to-toe overhaul, don't skip the all-important first step of taking stock of what you already have. Not only will it help you integrate new items strategically into your existing inventory, but your closet's current contents can also provide time- and money-saving insights into your style preferences.

That means it's time to make a mess. Don't just rifle through your closet; instead, clear some space and lay everything out so you can see it. If you have a hefty wardrobe, you might want to do this in batches; just be sure to keep similar items together.


The goal here is twofold: First, if you're going to maximize the versatility of your wardrobe, you need to see what you have. An all-occasion closet should include a few key staples -- for example, a great pair of jeans that you can dress up or down whether it's January or July. These staples should be stylish, but not trendy; you're aiming for longevity, not the runway. Even more importantly, they should fit. Even if an item isn't aligned with the style of the moment, if it fits well, it will always look good. Figure out what you have, and if you're low on the classics (think linen pants and sundresses), put them on the shopping list.

Second, dumping your clothing out onto your bed can help you reincorporate pieces you might have forgotten about. If your closet is jam-packed, you could easily overlook a great shirt or that perfect pair of linen pants you bought last season. Don't let your existing wardrobe go to waste.

Take this opportunity to clean out your closet as well. If your town endures summer temperatures that consistently hover above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) or your office doesn't have air conditioning, it's a safe bet that you won't need that cashmere sweater this summer. Pack up the items that you know you won't use for a while, and take this opportunity to throw away or donate items that are stained, fraying, or just don't fit.

Now that you know your starting point, it's time to figure out your destination. Read on for some tips on strategic (and painless) shopping.

4: Know Your Body Type

Knowing what fits your body best makes updating your wardrobe easy.
Knowing what fits your body best makes updating your wardrobe easy.
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Even if you no longer enjoy the summer vacations of your student years, summer is supposed to be the season of relaxation. However, its skimpier fashions can make shopping trips stressful. Let's face it: Not everyone is comfortable in skintight skinny jeans and crop tops. Instead of wasting time and emotional fortitude trying on every trend that's splashed across the summer magazines, do some research to figure out which styles are best for your body.

If you're uncomfortable with your midsection, for example, you might be surprised at how many options you have for summer styles. For women, flowing bohemian-inspired tops look pretty and on-trend without seeming like you're trying to cover anything up. Men can take advantage of the slimming powers of tailored button-down shirts; in a lightweight material like linen or cotton, these styles help you look and stay cool.


If you don't know off the top of your head what looks good, use your closet inventory to help figure it out. Start by taking a look at what you decided not to keep. Is there a common theme among the items you decided to dump or donate? You might notice that you only kept tailored pieces or that anything sleeveless got axed. These are important guidelines to remember as you hit the stores: Trends may be enticing, but don't waste your time -- or money -- on anything that you know will just end up in a pile on the floor in a few months.

Never let it be said, however, that we're anti-trend. Keep reading for tips on integrating the pieces of the moment into your wardrobe -- without going broke.

3: Accent With Trends

Trends may be impractical sometimes (neon yellow handbags?) especially when they only last a season. However, that doesn't mean you should ban them from your closet. In fact, incorporating a few trendy pieces is one of the quickest and easiest ways to update a stale or out-of-season wardrobe.

While it might be fun to completely revamp your style according with the trends of each season, it would also be time-consuming and wildly expensive. Save your dough for the classics -- a great fitting black dress, a dark blazer, a cute and comfy pair of shoes -- and choose less expensive versions of more up-to-the-minute styles. That way, if you hate those tangerine-colored ballet flats in two weeks, you won't feel too bad pawning them off on a friend or younger sibling. And who knows -- the converse has been known to happen as well. If you end up absolutely loving the statement necklace you found for a painless $10, you know a similar, higher-end version is a good investment.


Overall, think of trendy pieces as the caramel sauce on top of your style sundae. They're there to add a little extra flair to something that's already great, but no one wants to just eat a bowl of caramel sauce. Weaving trends into an outfit you already like can kick it up to a brighter, bolder, level.

Speaking of bright, summer wouldn't be summer without some heavy-duty color. Read on to find out how to update your wardrobe with some rich, bold hues.

2: Bring On the Color

Bright summer weather means bright colors.
Bright summer weather means bright colors.
Jordan Siemens/Getty Images

If you've ever watched the trends change from season to season, you know that fashion is a fickle beast. However, one thing it almost always does is reflect -- and respect -- the weather. Style has dictated some pretty uncomfortable trends (think teetering platform heels or Madonna's infamous Gaultier cone bra), but fashionistas everywhere can rest easy with the assurance that long sleeves will indeed not be a must-have until fall.

Color trends also tend to reflect the corresponding seasons. While fall and winter gloom inspire deep and muted palettes, summer's sunshine and vibrant foliage portend bright colors on the runways. And adding a splash of color to an outfit is one of the easiest ways to spruce it up for the summer months.


If your goal is a fresh but understated look, reach for colorful accessories: A basic, classic outfit is a cinch to punch up with a splashy scarf or bright-colored shoes. You'll maintain versatility while still bringing seasonal notes to your ensemble. If you work in an office with a dress code, this technique also allows you to maintain a professional look while keeping your wardrobe updated. For a slightly bolder take, try choosing a bold, rich hue for a single component of your outfit -- think pants or a shirt. More daring dressers might even go head-to-toe color for a truly summery statement.

So what colors should you look for? A good rule of thumb is to think about the colors you might see on a tropical vacation. Fads change from year to year, but bright, saturated jewel tones are always reliable. For a truly expert and in-depth look at color trends, industry fashion reports like Pantone's offer specific guidelines on the season's trends . Timid about brights? While pastels are typically relegated to spring styles, they can also be subtle but effective summer accents .

1: Take Your Closet Online

If you're used to stores of the brick-and-mortar variety, online shopping might sound like risky business. Maybe the fabric on a blouse ends up being scratchier than you were expecting, or that pretty teal color is actually more muddy chartreuse -- and with no dressing room, how will you know if anything fits?

These are understandable concerns -- after all, no one wants to open up a great new pair of shoes only to find that their idea of a size seven is vastly different from the online vendor's. However, online shopping can also be a great tool for updating your wardrobe for summer.


One of the biggest perks of online shopping is the vast range of products it offers. While you can certainly order designer pieces with corresponding eye-popping price tags, the virtual mall you'll find on the Internet is far more expansive than any in your neighborhood, which means tons of bargains -- and you won't need a foot massage afterward! In addition to providing access to a wide variety of retailers, online shopping also allows shoppers to easily compare prices on similar or even identical products from different vendors.

Additionally, the online versions of many brick-and-mortar stores offer lower prices to begin with: No sales associates or store maintenance mean lower overhead costs, which often translates to friendlier price tags. While shipping fees can bring those costs up, many retailers offer frequent discounts or waive shipping costs to drive sales. If you do end up running out to the mall, browse your favorite retailers' online stores first and take note of pricing to be sure you're getting the best deals.

Read on for lots more information on summer trends, shopping tips and how to get your wardrobe ready for any season.

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More Great Links

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