Cruel Summer

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No season betrays the planning misdeeds of winter like mid-spring. How to beat back the curse of the sweat-stained dress

I’ve dreaded summers for as long as I can remember. Even when I was young and at my physical peak, I lived in foggy San Francisco, so summers were a non-issue. My pale Bay Area skin was not something you’d want to flaunt, and the rest of the city was as sun-deprived as I was. When the Fahrenheit reached 62-plus, the city seemed to prematurely bloom and collectively reach into its archives, pulling out vintage summer paraphernalia. The new goosebumped skin on the street was downright scary. No golden tan legs, no glistening shoulders; instead, the city read like a teeth whitening chart, with varying degrees of dusty and dull skin tones that ran the gamut from ivory to khaki.

Fast-forward 15 years and I am now an Angeleno. I live in a town where summer is eternal. It is always sunny here, and we all dress the part. Tank tops are par for the course, and shorts are a basic go-to item in the morning. But as June, July, and August descend, the Southland is whipped into a frenzy of summer lovin’ and people go for it with gusto. There are more drives to the beach, summer festivals, and poolside scenes. Convertible tops come down and skirt lengths go up. Randy Newman’s “I love L.A.” can be heard blaring in the background, and there is a feint smell of Coppertone and coconut in the air. New York hot may substitute certain unsavory fragrances for the ones listed above, but the style challenges are basically the same.

Many of my summer wardrobes have been wasted on white v-neck tees, denim cutoffs, and one faded bikini, a symptom of poor planning on my part. The hot weather arrives before I have time to shop correctly and so I hastily chop legs off pants or pull old cotton dresses from the rear of my closet. There’s nothing wrong with a casual approach to summer dressing, but too many times I’ve worn a dress which I later discovered was not cut out for warmer weather… its infamous under-breast sweat narcs on me. Every year, I swear to do better next time, taking an oath to tone-up, shop-up, and do summer right.

My resolution this year is to take this spring season to plan for the heat, and inspiration is plentiful. Summer 2012 is all about travel. Even though the chances of an exotic trip are slim to none this year, I think having a destination in mind will help in styling my wardrobe. Think Marakesh! Think Majorca! The palettes of exotic locales are a wonderful muse. I can’t wait for tunics and caftans in bold prints…or colorful embroidery on cottons and gold delicate jewelry on tanned skin. Another trend this season poised to be great for the summer is folkloric patterns and prints: there are so many to choose from, from Guatemalan to Aztec. Plus, there’s pompom necklaces and piñata bright palettes for denim (warmer weather seems to bring out the Bohemian in all of us).

This season, I’d also like to channel the ultimate summer muse: Jackie O. I envision her wearing Lily Pulitzer at her summer home with Jack and the kiddies at her side. Her staples were simple cotton shifts and cropped trousers. She had restraint and elegance, opting for pops of color in a simple and flat leather sandle, or a Louis Vuitton scarf. And then of course, there were her sunglasses.

In case all of my plans are roadblocked by my screaming children, lack of funds, or the inability to lose these last 12 pounds of baby weight on my midsection I think the biggest key to summer lovin’ myself is personal grooming. I solemnly swear to groom like never before this summer. Leg waxing, brow plucking, hair cutting and dying, manis and pedis. I swear to religiously exfoliate and over-moisturize, because, even if your clothes aren’t up to snuff, there is nothing as intoxicating as a woman who looks clean and shiny. Even on a day when you feel more ugly duckling than Miss Universe, a good dose of grooming can add self-esteem by the boatload.

Will you let summer sneak up on you or will you shop specifically for the season? With planning and preparation, the heat won’t be as cruel as in summers past. Perfect 10, here I come.

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