Clothes that keep you cool and chic: A guide to dressing for the summer heat

Opt for loose fits and lightweight layers as temperatures rise

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The UAE summer is known for its relentless heat, and this year has been alarmingly blistering around the world – whether or not we ever get used to it remains a hot topic of conversation.

While most of us try and limit outdoor time to a mad dash between an air-conditioned building and car, even these brief moments are enough to wreck havoc on hair, make-up and outfits.

As the mercury continues to rise, however, there are a few style tricks to keeping your cool.

Hang loose

This may sound obvious, but loose clothing really is key to surviving the heat. One look at the voluminous cut of the Emirati national dress tells us everything we need to know about how to stay looking sharp as the heat takes hold.

Just as the abaya and kandura are cut to flow around the body rather than stick to it, look for pieces that echo this languid approach. Try oversized T-shirts and loose tracksuit pants.

UAE brand The Giving Movement has a selection of roomy tracksuit bottoms with a comfortable drawstring waist; adidas has a range of retro-style boxy T-shirts; and Harvey Nichols has plenty of billowing T-shirts, such as American Vintage. Just tuck in half the tee to avoid looking too bulky.

Shorts, too, are a good way to look pulled together in the heat.

To keep things elegant, opt for longer, Bermuda-style cuts, that can be paired with a T-shirt or breezy shirt. Easy to dress up or down, shorts can be worn during the day with laid-back sandals (check out Habibi at Sauce), or dressed up for the evening with snazzier footwear.

While most jeans are all but unwearable in this heat, wide-cut skater styles can actually help keep you cool. Designed to be extra roomy, the full cut means the denim stands away from the skin, creating a buffer against the worst of the heat. These are best worn with unbuttoned shirts and a snug-fitting vest top.

A T-shirt dress is another way to keep things comfortable, especially worn one or two sizes bigger, as it offers a relaxed cover-up with zero effort. Look to H&M's version with horizontal stripes and a turtlenecked one by The Giving Movement, which is available in a wide selection of colours.

Of course, nothing beats a cotton dress to keep things cool, and Farm Rio at Net-a-Porter has a tiered version in contrasting bands of florals that is utterly charming.

Zara offers a simple button-front dress with a smocked top that is made from a linen blend, that will keep the wearer cool all day.

Linen has something of a bad reputation for creasing too heavily, but there is a good reason why the fashion-conscious Italians remain devoted to linen. While the fabric quickly loses its just-pressed look, ironically, as the humidity rises, linen comes into its own. The extra moisture in the air causes the creases to soften and fall out, resulting in a relaxed, artfully shabby look.


Opting for lightweight layers, best seen as breezy pyjama-style matching sets, is a foolproof way to stay cool. In addition to the comfortable cut of these boxy pieces, the head-to-toe look gives instant snap minus the planning.

Sauce has a good option by Sisi, in an abstract floral pattern and a different colour for top and bottom, while Zara carries an embellished set in olive green that is elegant and easy-going.

The added bonus of such matching sets is they can easily be worn with other pieces, effectively giving three outfits for the price of one, making them ideal for holiday wardrobes.

Bring a dash of polish to a summery look by adding a boyfriend shirt. Worn oversized and with sleeves rolled up, a good shirt will instantly elevate a beachy dress or shorts to something more considered.

If the women's department of your favourite store lacks decent options, head to the men's section as these will all come up oversized for women. The range at Next, for example, has some great striped shirts that have contrasting pockets for a little twist.

A white shirt is a classic and something every man and woman should have in their wardrobe. However, that does not mean it has to be tailored. Net-a-Porter offers an enviable selection of white shirts, including an extra-roomy style by Alexander Wang, that comes with a dash of crystal around the cuff. This dressy flourish means it will look as laid-back (worn open over shorts) as it does elegant (worn semi-tucked into a long, form-fitting jersey skirt).

Finally, an easy way to add flair to a summer look is by adding a kimono-style jacket. Perfect for layering over a simple, straight-cut dress, or even as a beach wrap, this lightweight item is not only great at covering up the shoulders when needed, but will also inject a dash of bohemia to any outfit.

Updated: July 25, 2023, 10:31 AM