Best fabrics to wear in hot weather, according to experts
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Best fabrics to wear in hot weather, according to experts

Aug 09, 2023

The height of summer always brings to the fashion forefront colorful outfits and lightweight, breathable fabrics to withstand the heat. So when it comes to finding the proper garments for warmer weather, the right fabric can make or break down your plans, especially when it's searing hot outside.

While white tank tops may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ubiquitous summer wardrobe pieces, there are other cooling fabrics you can embrace during humid, hot weather. Shop TODAY talked to experts to spill the must-have textiles and material combinations that will keep you dry and avoid breaking out into a sweat the moment you step outside of your home.

Best fabrics for hot weather | Fabrics to avoid during hot weather | Fabric pros and cons | Features to look for | Breathable shirts | Breathable bottoms | Breathable dresses | Meet the experts

According to Billy Draddy, EVP and creative director of Summit Golf Brands, one of the best options to wear in hot temperatures — regardless of material — is a light-colored fabric. "Dark colors absorb light from the sun and the heat that comes along with it."

Material-wise, a man-made fiber like nylon will keep you feeling pleasant. "Cotton will keep you cooler but once you start sweating, whether it be working out or while out in extremely warm temperatures, fabrics made out of man-made fibers will keep you more comfortable," he adds. "These fabrics are also hydrophobic so they don’t absorb your sweat."

Also, if you can keep a dry fabric up against your skin, you'll inevitably remain cooler. "Water is a conductor of temperature and just like when you jump in the pool at the end of the summer and you feel the cool breeze up against your skin, the same thing happens in reverse with the heat," Draddy mentions. "If you have a wet shirt on and high, high temperatures, you will feel even hotter than the outside temperature."

According to Draddy, you should avoid wearing dark-colored fabrics and natural fibers such as wool, silk and cashmere on hotter days. "These fabrics can trap heat and moisture and are not ideal for warmer temperatures," says Jaime King, fashion designer for Maurices.

Fabrics with high contents of polyester and acrylic can also trap heat, according to King. "Both fabrics retain heat easily and will aid in increased perspiration during the high-temperature months."

As a fashion expert and designer, Suzanne Vinnik breaks down the pros and cons of the most ubiquitous materials on the market.

One factor to keep in mind is the fabric's texture. "Think about if you were going to warm up something with your hand. You wouldn’t just put your fingertips down; you would put the full surface area of your hand down on what you were trying to warm," says Draddy. "So, the opposite is true when you’re trying to stay cool. The less surface area that's hitting your skin, the cooler you will feel. Textured knits, although indeterminable to the naked eye, have less of the fabric sitting up against your skin and therefore will keep you cooler."

The silhouette of a piece also plays an element in the fabric's comfort. "The best thing you can do to keep cool is to find clothes that are cut away from the body, especially when dealing with humidity," mentions Vinnik. When it comes to her designs, she focuses on varying lengths that cut away from the body and hemlines that create ventilation.

"During the summertime, you’ll find a lot of loose dolman sleeve capes and tops, kaftans and summer dresses that are not clingy to the body," she adds.

With a relaxed fit and lightweight material, this cotton shirt is the perfect addition to your summer wardrobe. The front button details add a sophisticated feel that you can either dress up or down. It's a shirt that combines the softness of cotton and the flexibility of a button-down.

Short sleeves are a must-have piece in your closet during elevated temperatures. This Quince tee features moisture-wicking and anti-odor properties and is made from recycled polyester and Flowknit fabric. The simplicity of this T-shirt is top-notch and hangs loosely on most body frames.

Whether you're at the beach or by the pool, this linen cover-up will keep you fresh even during the hottest days. You can pair it with shorts or keep it simple with a pair of strappy sandals. It also has side pockets to store your phone while giving your skin a breather from the heat.

If you're planning outdoor activities, this tee will keep you dry and ready to move around in the heat. The top is made with ICONIC+ Technology that helps control odor and offers a flattering fit. This shirt doesn't wrinkle and is ideal for workout days when you need a little bit more breathing room.

Let the breeze refresh your skin with this linen tank. The piece comes in five neutral hues and is made from 100% European flax that feels soft and relaxed. The boxy and cropped length gives it a loose fit that matches perfectly with shorts and jeans. You can use it as a pajama top or casual shirt for summer hangouts, too.

For everyday wear, keep a collection of short-sleeved light-colored T-shirts in your drawer. This one is classic and simple enough to match your bolder and brighter bottoms. The garment is also made with dyed organic cotton for an extra sustainable touch.

This tank gets a fun twist thanks to the ruffle details on the hem and sleeves. With a smocked design and fitted bodice, this Quince top should feel comfortable and chic. You can pair it with shorts, pants, skirts and denim — plus you'll feel dry and fresh since this one is made from 100% linen fabric.

Get maximum sun protection with this polo shirt that offers UPF 50+ protection and a sensitive fabric composition. The mix of cotton and viscose provides a gentle feel that people with sensitive skin will appreciate.

Linen is one of the most breathable fabrics for hot weather conditions. This shirt is made from 100% linen material and features a versatile cut that fits effortlessly. You can easily pair this with shorts, jeans and skirts for an elegant look. The shirt is slightly oversized and comes in three different colors to keep in your wardrobe rotation.

Shorts are pretty much required for extra steamy days. This one in particular is made from 100% linen fabric that feels gentle on the skin. It comes in three colorways and features an elasticized band for a comfortable fit. Whether you wear them at the beach or for lounging, these shorts have a baggy silhouette that will feel super breathable.

For the woman that doesn't want to quit long pants during summer, this wide-leg option is a must-have. These cargo pants feature a linen blend material and two side pockets with a baggy silhouette for extra movement when walking around. The high-rise waist exudes elegance and you can easily pair it with crop tops.

With a laidback aesthetic and comfortable fit, these linen shorts are a wardrobe staple to keep available at all times. The shorts are made from 100% European flax and breathable fabric that is heat-regulating and soft. Also, it features side pockets and a drawstring for easy adjustment.

If you're going to be out in the sun for a long period of time, these shorts are perfect to protect your skin. These are made from a FreeDry technology that is moisture-wicking and features UPF 50+ sun protection. The material is lightweight and easy to pull on for added comfort. Also, it comes in four different colors for an added pop of color.

This style is designed for ladies on the move. The shorts are made from a Softstreme fabric technology that features a smooth "peach-fuzz" texture. Plus, the four-way stretch will give you that extra flexibility while still adjusting the shorts with its shock-cord string. It also comes with pockets for accessible storage and comfort.

A maxi dress is a great staple to wear for work, date night, vacation and more. It's a casual piece to wear on many occasions and you can elevate it or dress it down with casual accessories. The long silhouette shapes well and offers a flirty vibe with a relaxed fit.

"The fabric of the dress is very comfortable. I am able to wear the dress and look fabulous whether I wear sneakers or dressy sandals," said one shopper.

Get all-day comfort with this dress featuring raglan sleeves and a V-neckline that gives a more feminine touch. This shift dress is a great option for a last-minute one-and-done outfit and pairs well with cowboy boots.

"I absolutely love this dress. It feels fancy and elegant and just a bit playful. I wore it with pearl earrings and cute sandals to a nice restaurant," said one shopper.

With a flowy silhouette and soft build, this midi dress is perfect for casual days under the sun. The piece provides an easy fit and is made from an airy cotton material that features fun details. It comes with a relaxed flounce hem and front buttons that give a sophisticated feel.

Look chic while stretching on the mat with this flexible exercise dress. This style features a removable bra and compressive shorts with pockets that are snug to your body and offer support. Despite the short length, this dress will give you coverage while working out. The slim fit and stretchy material is moisture-wicking and will keep you dry while working out.

For a more elegant choice, opt for a linen-blend dress like this one from MOTF. The A-line silhouette and belted detail add a feminine taste to the design. It comes with a zipper for a more fitted construction and features a midi length that goes well with stilettos. What makes this dress acceptable for hot weather is the combination of linen and polyester.

Slip dresses are easy to wear and a breathable option for days when you feel a bit uninspired. This can be dressed up with wedges or a pair of white sneakers for a casual date. With adjustable straps and a V-neck cut, you can play around with different style choices. Also, it's a flattering cut without being tight on the body.

Look effortless, chic and professional in this button-down dress made from a cotton fabric. Its edgy design can be paired with heels or loafers, plus it comes with two spacious front pockets for ample storage. This is also a great option for warm days at the office.

This slip-on style is easy to don and a great alternative when you need to look elegant yet comfortable. It features a plunged neckline, elastic trims and ruched details that stretch out. You'll feel comfortable in this dress throughout hot weather and it fits for most occasions and events.

Whether you're playing tennis or running errands, this exercise dress is flexible and ideal for low-impact activities. It features all the necessary components to survive the heat including moisture-wicking properties, UPF 40+ sun protection, a built-in biker short for comfort and a ball pocket to store supplies for pickleball or other sports.

Jannely is the SEO Writer for Shop TODAY.

Best fabrics for hot weather | Fabrics to avoid during hot weather | Fabric pros and cons | Features to look for | Breathable shirts | Breathable bottoms | Breathable dresses | Meet the experts Fabric pros and cons | Rayon:Linen:Cotton:Silk:Modal: Merino wool:Chambray:Polyester:Nylon:Jaime KingBilly DraddySuzanne Vinnik