Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Michela
Sunshine all day, a fresh tan, & golden goddess vibes are upon us. Entering summer is always exciting, not just for the beach trips we hope to take but for the style sun we can have! I absolutely love revamping and building up my wardrobe again for summer. And I have the ULTIMATE guide for you to easily build your summer wardrobe, on a budget and designed for travel.
I’m going to get into the most important parts of a summer wardrobe and places I like to shop. Plus, I’ll get into the strategy you should have when going to build your summer wardrobe (so you’re not overspending!)
I’m also tying this guide in with travel because these are my absolute essentials for SUMMER VACATION! Everybody dreams of the perfect summer getaway and these are the essential pieces I’m packing into my suitcase.
Bonus! I’ve got even more information for you on my travel wardrobe essentials in my Girl Boss Packing Guide! It’s completely FREE for you to use alongside this post!
This post does contain affiliate links, where if you make a purchase through that link, at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission to help support this blog! If you would like to read my full disclosure, it is here.
The Most Important Components of a Summer Wardrobe
- Light & Airy Materials
- Hotter weather calls for sweat-proof weightless fabrics
- Sunny Color Palette
- For your mood & your photos, take inspiration from the bright surroundings to balance a bold and bright wardrobe.
- Natural-Material Neutrals
- Think straw, wicker, bamboo, wood… they are indicators of island naturalness, the tropical vibes a summer wardrobe should encapsulate
- Sun-Protecting Accessories
- Be conscious of that beaming sun by protecting your eyes and skin with sunnies & hats.
- Dainty, Glistening Jewelry
- Stick to light jewelry that complements your light & airy outfits – too chunky & there’s an imbalance.
Why are these the most important components to build your summer wardrobe?
To build a summer wardrobe, the biggest factor is going to be your comfortability with the weather. With the heat picking up, you want to reach for light and movable fabrics like linens, weightless satins, and cotton. You’ll want jewelry that doesn’t weigh you down and accessories to protect you from the sun.
With your color palette, now is the time to break out everything light and bright! Not only will dark colors attract the sun and make you hotter, but light and bright colors will reflect off the sun to give the illusion of a tan and the perfect summery aesthetic!
How do you start to build a summer wardrobe on a budget?
Start by assessing your current closet! See what fits right and what your favorite essential pieces are to you. Once you’ve found your favorite essentials you already have, build around THOSE!
I like to start by pulling things onto my clothing rack! I’m absolutely obsessed with having a clothing rack, both for aesthetics and functionality. I’ve linked a similar one to mine here.
- Compare what you want to purchase to what you already have.
- Make sure you can wear it at least 5 different times or ways, the more the better!
- Invest in essentials, don’t invest in trends. Once you nail down and fill those gaps in your essential items, then have fun by treating yourself to a few trendy pieces!
Those are basic shopping strategies that will help you build a summer wardrobe that you will get the most use out of and won’t break the bank! Always think about the essential pieces to invest in and the trendy pieces to spend less on.
Where I like to shop:
- Zara (Essentials)
- H&M (Essentials)
- Oh Polly (Swimwear)
- ASOS (Essentials & Trendy)
- Pretty Little Thing (Trendy)
- Topshop (Essentials & Trendy)
- Fashion Nova (Trendy & Swimwear)
Those are just SOME of the places I shop that I find to offer a good price to quality ratio in their clothing and accessories. As I said, consider the quality pieces you are investing in. Each of those stores has different levels of quality and price point and I consider that while I shop!
Dying to know what those summer clothing & accessory essentials are? I’ve got it all mapped out.
The Clothing Essentials
The White Top
The ultimate essential to building your summer wardrobe – in my opinion- is the white top!
I think every woman needs a myriad of white tops. Okay, maybe a myriad is too far & that’s just my obsession talking, but white tops are the perfect summer staple!
Firstly, white goes with everything. Throw on a pair of denim shorts, tie it into a crop paired with a mini skirt, layer a light white button-up over your bikini – the options are endless!
Secondly, white is going to highlight that summer bronzed-golden glow of all of you babes. It reflects so much more light which follows along with the entire light & airy concept of the perfect summer wardrobe.
Thirdly, there are so many different kinds of white top styles that there’s one to express every bit of your personality.
The white tee – amazing basic.
The linen white blouse – dainty and cute.
The structured white corset top – girl boss to the max.
The Denim Shorts
I have a love-hate relationship with shorts. I love them because it’s too hot for pants. But I hate them because it’s so hard to find the perfect pair – the perfect wash, the perfect length, the perfect tighter waist to looser thigh ratio.
But my favorite store has come in clutch and I swear by my Zara denim shorts. I literally don’t even have another pair, so I wear only these, and believe me I’ve worn them a million times!
I love the flattering high waist and the perfect length that doesn’t show your butt but isn’t so long that it makes your proportions look weird. Plus the wash & distress is perfectly natural and not overdone.
The Airy Sundress
Everyone loves a good summer sundress! They are cute and you can just throw them on if you don’t have time to style and you’ll still look put together. It also feels so light to face the hot and humid weather!
An airy dress is essential to your summer wardrobe because it’s like an air filter for your body! It keeps you cool against hot and humid weather. Stick to linen fabrics like my favorite Zara dress (pictured above).
Tired of white? A sundress is a perfect opportunity to throw some color and pattern into your wardrobe as well!
The Silky Sundress
Honestly, everything about satin and the bright, shimmering quality of the fabric screams summer glow!
While the airy dress takes more of the comfy cake, the silky satin dress gives the instant appeal of luxury. Whether you style it casually or dressy (which it can easily go either way), it looks so put together.
It’s also the perfect fabric to catch the light under the midday sun or during tropical sunsets.
My satin dress is from Topshop and I found the exact one here!
An ultimate guide to build your summer wardrobe would be incomplete without breaking out the bikinis.
Everybody has a bomb bikini body & the diverse selection of prints and styles nowadays gets me so excited!
The style I prefer is usually a high leg bottom and a top with some kind of support. My favorite stores to shop for bikinis that aren’t too expensive are:
Zaful is one I know some people are wary of so I’m going to expand on that. The bikinis have been hit or miss to me. However, I’m still including it because some of my favorite and most used bikinis are from there! This one I’ve had since last year and I use it all the time:
I love that the bikinis are sets and you don’t have to pay separately. They are also SO affordable. The quality is not there compared to something like Oh Polly, but I think it functions well as a trendy “filler” store, where you can buy really affordable products to spice up your closet and add to your collection.
The One Piece Swimsuit
I always think a well-fitting one-piece swimsuit is essential. Everyone should feel confident enough to flaunt their stuff in a bikini – but we are all human.
I know I have my off days when I’m feeling kind of blah and don’t really feel great in my bikini.
Or maybe you’re going somewhere you don’t want to show as much skin, like around family or a beach club that you want to be comfortable at all day. Time to grab the one piece!
Plus ugly, unflattering one-pieces are a thing of the past! You can find super flattering, super gorgeous one-piece swimsuits.
My favorite is pictured above! It’s from Fashion Nova, so it doesn’t break the bank, but it is super flattering!
Side note on the Fashion Nova swimsuit: I do LOVE how it looks, but when I got it originally the straps were too long and not adjustable. I stitched them so it was an easy fix, but just keep that in mind. You’re paying for trendy with this one!
The Accessory Essentials
I always think when it comes to season-specific accessories, don’t spend too much money (as hard as it is!).
I’d always recommend more to invest in a classic purse you can wear year-round, but for summer accessories, stick to stores like Amazon, Target, and H&M that have budget-friendly but trendy pieces.
The Straw Hat
There are so many things I love about a straw hat!
It gives ultimate tropical vibes or sunny day strolling through Positano vibes – oops, maybe oddly specific. I think you know where my mind is at!
Straw hats are also perfect poolside or at the beach to help protect that delicate skin on your face!
I had so much trouble finding a straw hat I loved. I finally found the one pictured above at ASOS. They don’t have the exact same one but I found this one with a black band instead of the nude.
I’ve also linked this close Amazon option I found for under $20!
Honestly, I have never been good about wearing sunglasses. I lose them all the time, so I rarely buy them, and I’m not used to wearing them.
Therefore, I personally wouldn’t recommend investing in a pair of sunglasses. Tons do, and I wish I cared more about sunglasses because if I didn’t lose them all the time I may invest!
I usually opt for Target or Amazon for sunglasses. The SOJOS brand on Amazon is super inexpensive and has a lot of styles I personally would go for, from basic to trendy!
I find two types of sandals are all I need in my summer wardrobe – some dainty wedges and some neutral slip-ons.
The wedges are perfect pairs to your airy dresses. They are more comfortable than heels, and we are already uncomfortable enough in the hot weather!
Mine pictured is no longer available but I’ve linked similarly inspired items!
I wear my slip-on sandals ALL THE TIME – whether it’s to the beach, to the store, or to brunch. They go with absolutely anything and are the perfect “I want to look cute but I don’t want to risk being overdressed” shoe.
I couldn’t find my exact ones from Target but I’ve linked a similar pair, as well as linked similar pairs you can order off of Amazon!
The Light Jewelry
I love jewelry, but sometimes it’s a pain to travel with and keep organized! It’s also a concern for safety if you’re bringing expensive pieces.
For that reason, I wouldn’t travel with super expensive jewelry! Especially if you are looking to round out your summer wardrobe, don’t break the bank on this one.
During the summertime, I like to keep my jewelry a bit simpler and lighter. Chunky jewelry against your light and airy wardrobe might look imbalanced!
I like to shop for my less expensive jewelry mostly at H&M, Target, and Amazon.
I’ve linked some Amazon options since it’s so easy for anyone to order from there! These options are not really about quality, but adding trendy pieces to your collection on a budget, so keep that in mind!
By the way, this is my favorite travel jewelry holder! It flattens for packing ease and doesn’t cost too much. Linked below!
What are your summer wardrobe essentials? Share in a comment!
If this guide was helpful, share the love on Pinterest!
I know I cannot wait to start packing up my suitcase for a summer vacation! Let’s hope we can take one soon!