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Female model in an orange printed dress by Cath Kidston, setting table with two girls in coordinating outfits

What to Wear in Summer – Your Summer Outfit Guide

Summer is finally here, and we can enjoy more of our favourite outdoor activities, from hosting picnics to long, leisurely strolls in the park with our family.

But if there’s one thing we know about British summers, it’s that they’re unpredictable. You could wake up gently to the sun streaming through your windows only to find the rain pouring down by the time you leave for work.

Here, we have a no-fuss guide on how to dress in summer, no matter what the weather throws at you.

What to wear in the summer: the essentials

We need to wear fewer layers in the summer, but that doesn’t mean we should throw on one layer and be done. Having light, airy layers is the key to dressing for the great British summer.

Your essential summer wardrobe should contain the following:

  • Midi shirt dresses
  • Short-sleeved tea dresses
  • Light wrap dresses
  • Short and long-sleeved blouses
  • Slip dresses
  • Shorts in varying lengths
  • A multi-tasking sarong
  • Light, airy skirts in different lengths
  • A lightweight mac
  • A cotton jacket
  • A few pairs of sandals
  • Colourful trainers
  • Playsuits and a light-weight jumpsuit
  • An oversized button-up shirt
  • Wide-legged trousers
  • Tank tops in a range of styles and colours

With all of these items in your summer wardrobe, you can mix and match to create an endless number of breezy summer looks that are as comfortable as they are stylish.

Female model in a pomegranate printed tea dress with a black collar by Cath Kidston, smiling and leaning against a table
Female model wearing a patchwork printed summer dress by Cath Kidston, with a pomegranate printed crossbody bag

How to dress in the summer: mix and match

Your summer outfits will depend on the activity you’re planning that day. If you’re having lunch with friends or a picnic in the park, a floaty floral dress is the perfect option. Take your lightweight raincoat with you to the park – because you never know when there’s going to be an unexpected downpour. Pop it in your tote bag for ease.

Depending on the venue for your lunch, you could either pair your dress with trainers for a laidback vibe, or your dressiest sandals for a more put-together look. Pick out a print shoulder bag to dress your outfit up or down as needed.

If you’re heading somewhere warmer for a summer holiday, pairing your tank tops with a floaty skirt or relaxed shorts will be ideal. Save your summery dresses for the evenings – if you’re an explorer during the day, you’ll thank us for that. And a backpack paired with a shorts-and-tank outfit makes for a stylish explorer look. For those special evening outings, wear your slip dress for a summery dressed-up vibe.

If you’re out for the long haul on home turf, taking an embroidered jacket means you can throw on an extra layer if it gets a touch chillier in the evening. We know from the past month or so that this is definitely still a possibility.

What to wear on a hot day

Most of the summertime is lovely and warm, but every year we get a handful of heatwave days. How should you dress for the heat to ensure you don’t get too hot?

Light, breathable fabrics will be essential here. Cotton and linen are the gold standard, so you’ll be pleased to know that many of the dresses, skirts, and tops in our summer collections are made from cotton.

Silk and satin are great choices too – both feel comfortably cool to the touch and will wick away any excess moisture on a humid day.

Nobody wants a big, bulky bag adding weight on a desperately hot day – pop your essentials in a small crossbody bag and sling it over your body for a hands-free, light option.

Sideways shot of a female model wearing a floral printed, puff-sleeved dress by Cath Kidston, with a matching sun hat
Sideways shot of a female model wearing a floral summer dress by Cath Kidston, with a tote bag in a contrasting print

How to dress in the summer: colours and patterns

It’s well known that black and other dark colours aren’t the best choices for a hot day because they absorb heat from the sun.

We’re inclined to get more bold with our colour choices in the summer – bright, happy hues epitomise our sunny summer mood. Who doesn’t feel joyful in a fun red dress?

We also love leaning into timeless floral dresses, which match our beautifully blooming surroundings. For a standout option that’s floaty enough to manage the summer heat, we love our Ruffle Ditsy Tea Dress design, available on a blue dress.

It’s not just floral prints that look good in summer. This is the perfect opportunity to have fun with your fashion, so why not try out our delectable Pomegranate print or vibrant Patchwork design? If you like smaller ditsy prints, our Marble Hearts print is ideal – available across several styles, including our pink dresses.

Our Summer Birds print is a beautifully delicate design that’ll look as good on a countryside walk as it will at a summer wedding. It’s the perfect choice if you’re dipping your toe into pattern and print for the first time.

If you’re a print pro and a ‘90s kid, you’ll LOVE our Matilda collection. Featuring dresses, bags and accessories, the prints have been lovingly hand-painted to bring Roald Dahl's iconic character and story to life.

Dressing for the British summer can be tricky. One minute the sun might be blazing and warming your skin and the next, it’s wet and windy. Having options to layer your outfits will be the key to seeing the season through – and don’t forget that summer is the ideal time to experiment with your clothing.