Style Travel

Travel Tips – Dressing for Hot Weather

Recently I’ve been receiving messages from future Southeast Asia travelers about what to wear when traveling in the region (including a lucky reader who is spending an entire month being luxuriously pampered in Bali!). I have to admit that I am slightly gratified whenever I receive a question, because I myself spent the last few days before we left freaking out about what to wear. I had a bunch of shorts and t-shirts all packed, but then when I thought about the stifling heat we experienced last time we were in Thailand, I began to reconsider.

I made an emergency last minute trip to the mall and found a few items from various stores. Then as I was walking out, I saw the perfect light casual dress for Bali on a storefront mannequin. A mannequin that to my slight dismay…belonged to the teenage store Hollister. However, the dress seemed to be light and airy, and the perfect length for my short self. So I braved the booming music and sneering teenagers at the cashier and ended up finding a great dress that was perfect for Bali. And now, I’m convinced that light and airy dresses are one of the best items for hot and humid weather! I’ve added quite a few to my closet since then, and here are some of my current picks:

Screen shot 2013-12-31 at 12.55.54 PM

From left to right: Dolce Vita ($220), Helmut Lang  ($275), Tory Burch ($495)

I absolutely abhor being hot (I’d much rather be cold), so I’m very sensitive about finding the lightest possible items for hot, humid climates like Bali or Singapore. Here are my tips for dressing in hot weather, especially if you’re traveling on holiday:

1) The best items to buy: dresses. There’s no beating dresses for their ease of getting dressed and how light and airy they can be. A loose dress is the absolute best item to wear in my opinion – followed closely by skirt + top and then shorts + top. Even shorts however can be slightly uncomfortable, especially if you are sweating around the waistband.

2) Natural fabrics in light colors. Cotton and linen are key. No polyester, please – you will regret it when the sun is beaming down and none of the heat or sweat feels like it’s escaping. Also I know it’s a natural fabric but no silk, it doesn’t do well in heat + humidity.

A synthetic fabric that I heard does decently in heat is rayon (especially the bamboo blends) but I haven’t tried that out for myself.

3) Loose, loose, and loose. The more fabric that clings to your body = the more fabric that can get sweaty, chafe, and generally stifle you. In my heart of hearts I really wanted to buy some major trapeze tent like dresses, but Mr. Feather was balking so I compromised with some loose dresses with slightly defined waists.

4) Slip it on! This is a personal preference but I far prefer items that easily slip on over your head than ones you have to button/zip/etc when on holiday. For some reason something soft with entirely no buttons/metal is so much more comfortable for me when I’m super hot and slightly uncomfortable. It’s like how I would never wear jeans if just lounging around the house – elastic waists only please!

Here are some of my picks that satisfy all four of the requirements above:

From Marc by MJTheoryASOS and J.Crew.

Enjoy and please share your favorite hot weather holiday items!


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  • Lara
    June 7, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I’ve haven’t traveled to Bali yet, but this is also really good advice for traveling to desert climates like Egypt, Dubai, and Oman (except for maybe have a longer length dress). Especially the part about wearing natural fabrics and a loose cut. I learned the hard way after I only packed jeans once and was so uncomfortable. Ps. Your watch does look good on your arm even though you’re petite. I haven’t tried one on myself yet, but I’m really tempted

    • Katherine
      June 7, 2013 at 11:32 am

      I really want to visit all of those places – I hear you on the longer dress. Yes jeans can be so uncomfortable in the heat – I need to buy some boyfriend cuts, maybe they will be better. Please try on the watch, you might find that it’s not so bad on your arm! The gold versions actually seemed quite a bit larger, especially the ones with leather straps because they didn’t fit as flexibly around the wrist.

      • Lara
        June 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm

        I’ll go try on the watch this weekend. It looks great on you and that has really tempted me.
        Not many people say they want to visit Oman! If you ever go, I highly recommend the Chedi Muscat. I read your review about the Chedi Club at Bali, and the Chedi Muscat has a different atmosphere but is wonderful and romantic as well.

  • Marlene @ chocolatecookiesandcandies
    June 7, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I remember growing up in Borneo, jeans wasn’t something I’d wear. And definitely not skinny jeans because it feels like I’m being boiled alive from inside out! I tend to stick to silk or cotton dresses too. And shorts as long as the fabric isn’t thick (like denim).

    • Katherine
      June 7, 2013 at 3:43 pm

      I always forget you grew up there! Maybe your experience with the heat and skinny jeans is why you rock the boyfriend jeans so well 🙂

  • Naaj Rona
    June 7, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    This blog post is perfect. I love loose fabrics during summer. dresses, skirts, shorts, anything that wont make me sweat.

  • Kira
    June 8, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Love the dress! Very airy indeed 😉 Is buttom of the dress lines? What size are you wearing?
    Thank you

    • Katherine
      June 8, 2013 at 11:14 am

      Hi Kira I’m wearing an XS but keep in mind I am 5’1/5’2 so quite short! The bottom is some embroidery 🙂

      • Anonymous
        June 8, 2013 at 12:16 pm

        Thanks Katherine. I meant to ask if the buttom of the dress is lined.

        • Katherine
          June 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

          Yes the bottom half is lined which I really appreciated since a lot of these thin summer dresses are not lined on the bottom! The top isn’t lined but I found with a nude bra and since it’s a little loose it doesn’t show. I hope that helps Kira!

  • Kitty
    June 8, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    thanks so much for this post. The timing is impeccable. I’m moving to Bangkok in 6 weeks and at a lost of what I need to buy here in the states before I go. How did you find clothes shopping in Thailand and Bali when you visited. I’m sure I can find cheaper clothes locally that would be suitable for the weather, but I feel US quality is better (though not often made in the US!).

    • Katherine
      June 9, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      You know, I didn’t have the best luck in Thailand but I’m sure it is because I’m not familiar with the brands (And there are sooo many shops, it’s a bit overwhelming if you don’t have specific brands/shops you’re looking for). Also the styles were different than what I am accustomed to here in the US.

      For Bali I have heard that while the clothes are cheaper (street market, etc) the quality can greatly vary. My husband bought some clothes in Bali but it was in a very well known shop and the prices were the same as US prices for comparable quality.

      However, if you are moving to Bangkok, I think you will be able to find lots of great clothes there, you will have the time to be patient and find the best shops. Some of my friends who live locally get many clothes made custom for them with fabulous fabric and great construction so I think you can probably do the same. Good luck with your move!

  • Anonymous
    June 9, 2013 at 12:39 am

    Hello Katherine! I was reading some of your other blog posts and wanted to ask. It seemed to be a good idea to ask on the most recent blogpost~

    Today I ventured into my local Hermes store to inquire about the prices of their bolide~ They told me $7,600 (American) roughly with sales tax included. I got home to research and was confused on all the sizes I found at TPF. I’m wondering if you could do an enlightening post on the bolide sizes? Is the $7,600 price a normal price in the US? If not, how does it compare?

    As usual, love your posts! I did not know Hollister made such cute dresses~ If only we had one here! Thank you:)!

    • Katherine
      June 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Hi there – I only have one size of the Bolide so I’m not sure if I can do a comparison size post, I’d love to get the larger size one day though and if I do I can try and do a post 🙂

      $7600 including tax sounds like pretty much on par with US prices – can I ask where your local store is located?

      • Anonymous
        June 11, 2013 at 1:41 am

        Hi Katherine! My store is located on the island of Guam, an American territory. Hehe one day then:)! That’s good to know! Do you know how many sizes are there? My SA didn’t really know; they only have one bolide in stock I suppose that’s why~

  • rinny
    June 9, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    These are really great tips! I agree that I also prefer loose dresses in the summer. I hate the feeling of clothing sticking to me when I start to sweat…

  • Eva
    June 10, 2013 at 3:44 am

    Loved this post Katherine, especially since I live in Southern Europe where it can get pretty hot during the summer. Staying away from synthetic fabrics is the key as well as wearing loose clothes. Apart from dressing appropriately though, people visting very warm countries shouldn’t forget to wear sunscreen during the day, sunglasses and a hat to protect their skin and hair from the sun.

  • Chic 'n Cheap Living
    June 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Rayon is definitely a cool fabric too! I have a favorite Rachel Pally convertible maxi dress in rayon and it is perfect. Uniqlo is another place for great tunics and there seem to be fewer teenyboppers there 🙂
    Maxis or loose cut pants are great for places where a longer cut may be required as well. I’m hunting down a few more Splendid LA maxi dresses for this purpose!

    Chic ‘n Cheap Living

  • Joanna
    June 10, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Thanks for the tips, Katherine! I’d love to be able to wear dresses all day and night when in a hot/humid place, but it’s just not practical when you’re doing very active things.. I’m still trying to find that perfect combo of top & short that is light weight and easy to move in!

    • Katherine
      June 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      J.Crew had some great ones this season, including pull ones that looked quite nice!

  • latkesanddimsum
    June 11, 2013 at 8:41 am

    I so agree with these tips, having survived (barely) almost a year in Hong Kong.

    For this season, I am loving the striped J Crew linen tees. The knits are very breathable while the stripes help hide wrinkling in the fabric. The non-striped (v-neck) versions have too deep of “V” in the necks (especially for petite people). Your trip to Bali looks so relaxing (good for you!). 🙂

    • Katherine
      June 11, 2013 at 9:41 pm

      I saw those linen tees! THank you for the recommendation 🙂

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