If there is anything worse than dressing for searing temperatures, it is dressing for the thick, dense, soupy air they call humidity.
Katie Trotter: Keep it natural and simple as things hot up
If there is anything worse than dressing for searing temperatures, it is dressing for the thick, dense, soupy air they call humidity. Sleeves cling like a wet sail to a mast, trouser legs are plastered to the skin, collars sticky - you get the drift. All in all, by the time that most of us reach work we feel a little grim.
You see, the problem is that most employers don't relax their dress codes during the summer months, so what we have to do is get a lot more creative with a lot less. Obviously, let's start with the fabrics. It is a common misconception that lighter fabrics equate to cooler ones. In fact, it has to do with the weave of the fabric - the tighter the weave, the less airflow, so try to look for items made from natural fibres such as cotton, linen, muslin and silk (but beware, as silk tends to stain.) Denim, although normally made from cotton, has an extremely tight weave with no vents, so it will end up trapping the heat - I advise to avoid completely unless you have a very loose-fit denim that has been overly washed to the point of softening.
In general, try to find items that don't need to be layered. A dress is preferable to a top and bottom (again, due to ventilation and airflow) and in terms of shape, A-line is the most forgiving. Although you may not normally go for an empire or trapeze cut, they avoid any unnecessary fabric at the waistband and will suit most styles of top.
Things are (for once) much more difficult for men. First, they are often tied to a more rigid dress code in the workplace, one they can't deviate from too much. Then there are occasions such as weddings, dinners or evening work events that call for a jacket (not easy in scorching temperatures).
Most men rely on cotton for the bulk of their summer wardrobe, as it is light, breathable and a good deal cheaper than wool or linen - although unbeknown to most, it absorbs and retains sweat much more. If you can afford it, linen, like cotton, is made from a plant-based fibre (flax) and has the perfect combination of repelling moisture and heat. It's expensive but an investment - if looked after correctly, a good-quality linen suit should last a lifetime.
Shades of white are great for reflecting heat, but try going for a few patterned options, as they are often ideal for camouflaging perspiration spots often found on the back of a shirt. Can a man leave a shirt untucked? Well, this is somewhat debatable, but if you must, make sure the length of the shirt falls over the trouser by the right amount: about 9cm will work best. Too long and you will simply look out of date, too short and you run the risk of looking like an oversized tween, so please, handle the look with care.
Same goes for shorts: unless you work in a lumber yard or are spending time on a boat, they are rarely acceptable for public consumption. The simpler the shorts, the dressier they will look and, again, make sure that nothing rises more than 5cm above the knee.
The trouble with most summer outfits is that they're products of necessity, not of choice. So think about the details, the colour, patterns, prints and accessories - all things that will help you pull away from the hot and bothered looking people that surround you. Details such as a smart ankle sock worn with a simple shirt dress or a pockerchief neatly tucked in - in this kind of heat, the difference between style and function is minute, so make it count.
Read The National's Fashion blog here.