It’s one thing to sit by a shady pool drinking iced tea all day when temperatures soar, but it’s quite another to look polished, professional and pulled together in hot weather conditions. Believe it or not, it’s possible to be cool, calm and collected instead of a sweltering, sticky mess in extreme heat. I learned how to dress for these conditions while living in Asia and Africa for a large part of my life.

Here are some suggestions as we in the Northern Hemisphere head into summer:

  • Fabrications: Look for items made of lightweight natural fibers like cotton, linen, muslin and silk. Fabric blends with a high content of natural fiber are just as good. To my surprise, I’ve found that super thin, man-made, gauzy, mesh-like fabrics work well too.
  • Colours: Shades of white are great for reflecting heat, but dark colours and patterned items are ideal for camouflaging perspiration spots. Your choice may depend on whether your day is like Cape Town’s dry, windy summer, or Singapore’s unbelievable, year-round tropical humidity.
  • Sleeveless: Some people find it cooler to cover up from the sun in lightweight fabrics, while others prefer to wear garments with less coverage. I’ve found that as long as I use sunblock, going sleeveless is hands down the coolest solution.
  • Breezy dresses: A sleeveless, flowing, knee-length, knit or woven, A-line dress that’s fitted on top and flared at the bottom is very ventilating. Nothing too tight or clingy, just tailored in the right places and super airy.
  • A-line skirts: A knee-length skirt that floats away from the body is cooler than a pencil skirt. Add a sleeveless top and its built-in air conditioning.
  • Walk shorts: Shorts that end around the knee, or a little shorter, are not nearly as cool as skirts and dresses but at a push they’ll work too.
  • Voluminous tops: You might not like the sound of this but trapeze tops, empire cuts and banded tops in both knits and wovens are brilliant in the heat. Forget about defining your waist when you’re desperate and stick to a strong shoulder line instead. Add a short streamlined bottom and you’re in business.
  • Single layer: Find items that look good worn on their own, sans a cami, cardi or second layer. If the neckline gapes, have it altered so that you’re happy with the amount of cleavage exposed.
  • Sandals: Open shoes like thong sandals and gladiators with fewer straps are ideal.
  • Practical hairstyle: Opt for a do that works in heat and humidity. Keeping it shorter is the obvious answer, but tying back longer hair in flattening ways is another solution.
  • Frequent showers: It really helps to come home and start again. Cleaning up and popping on a fresh set of clothes works wonders.
  • Slower pace: Instead of rushing around, take your time and don’t be desperate to hurry everything along. It sounds ridiculous and I was dubious about this suggestion at first, but it makes a huge difference.

I do pretty well in the heat if I dress accordingly, take multiple showers and keep my hair super short. My main challenge is combating frosty air conditioned interiors when I’m dressed for the 90 degrees plus outside. Layering flimsy clothing with cardigans, lightweight jackets and scarves is not sufficient when it’s 68 degrees indoors. My exposed feet freeze which makes me instantly cold. What I usually end up doing is dressing for cooler temperatures when I’m going to spend time in AC and taking my sweaty chances when I venture outdoors. I guess I’d rather feel too warm than too cold.

Over to you. What have I left out? How do you manage your style and wardrobe in extreme heat?