Although Minnesota is better known for its nine-month winters than its brief but intense summers, the hot season can't be ignored. Our legions of lakes and high humidity mean that we end up swimming and sweating our way through the summer.

For many people, summer is the time to let it all hang out -- literally. Just think about the last outdoor festival you attended: barely-there tank tops, T-shirts, cut-off jean shorts and plastic flip-flops surely abounded. The easier fabrics and fits that typically come with summer clothing options can make it easy to look sloppy and overly casual. So how can you stay cool and comfortable and still look pulled together and chic?

  • Bold accessories are key. Think oversized, round sunglasses; wide-brimmed straw hats; big beads; bold-printed scarves; woven yet structured handbags and clutches; wide belts worn at the waist; sky-high wedges; and platform, peep-toe pumps. Accessories are all you need to bring a simple outfit to the next level or transform a year-round outfit into a summer look.
  • Wear a dress. Dresses are the most important trend of the season and there is a flattering style for everyone, from halter to mini to empire-waist. If you're looking to appear thinner, for instance, try an empire-waist cut because it draws attention to the smallest part of a woman's body. Just be sure to keep the length at the knee or higher for the most up-to-date look.

  • Wear white or a neutral shade. You'll look fresh and sophisticated in lightweight fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk in separates and dresses. Pair with woven accents in metallic or black, and add a belt and wedges to give the look polish.
  • Try short shorts, if they flatter you. For a look that's more urbanite than country bumpkin, wear a looser, cuffed style. Pair them with a flowing top and a large, structured bag slung around your shoulder.
  • Put away the denim. With so many options for bottoms, and in the interest of staying cool, denim is practically obsolete until the weather cools down.

Dress for the occasion

Many people make the mistake of looking too casual at summer weddings and graduation parties. Here are some tips for dressing appropriately for some typical summertime occasions.

  • The workplace: Stay tailored with a blouse and pencil skirt with a wide belt, and add a long string of bold beads and peep-toe pumps. Or, try a tailored suit in a neutral color in cotton or linen. Stay away from low-cut necklines, and make sure to have a fresh pedicure if you're wearing open-toed shoes.
  • The summer wedding: First off, don't wear white - it competes with the bride. A dress fitted at the waist in a bright solid or print is ideal; it will make you look put-together yet festive. Just make sure to stay away from skimpy straps and low-cut necklines. After all, it's a family event.
  • The fashion show: This is your chance to grab the coolest dress out of your closet and your highest open-toed shoes. You're dressing for the fashion crowd, so it's good to stand out a little. Try a unique combination, such as a red-and-white print with yellow heels.
  • The pool: With plenty of lounge space, the pool is the place to wear your most fabulous bikini and bling it out with big sunglasses and bold, gold jewelry. After all, the point isn't really swimming, is it? Top it off with a semi-sheer cotton tunic if you're feeling body-conscious outside the pool.

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