Inviting darks into summer

Few things occupy the small but intense wardrobe-scan section of my brain than the spring/summer closet transition. (I am aware, given the state of the world, of the vacuity of this pastime, but when awake at 4 a.m., the matter arises.)

For me, pastels are Other Women's Colours. I'm happy in navy, black, chocolate and shot of Klein blue or freesia pink. So, I keep darks in the rotation unless it's jungle-hot; more on that later.  

Strategy One: Lighten and brighten

A black summer dress is a different bird than a fall/winter version; it accords with the season through its weight and detail. I just unpacked a black linen gauze dress and thought, Looking forward to wearing you!

An example: the Philipa by PartTwo, made of washable 50% cotton/50% lyocell; a touch of eyelet takes it into summer. (If you dislike eyelet, hunt for a dress with some sheer sections and less coverage than a winter style.) The sleeve length is much better than the weensy cap.  

A similar dress, by Madewell (but only available to US shoppers, grrr) is of cotton gauze:

Accessories for a summer black dress:

Part Two's dress with Camper "Casa Mirta" slides: punchy yellow  is a fantastic summer shoe, goes with everything.

Bag: Issey Miyake's shades-of-grey metallic "BaoBao" prism tote is an iconic bag, and priced accordingly at $US 595 at Nordstrom, but I have seen them offered for less, on resale sites.  

Other choices: A graphic summery print like the one on Fossil's "Carmen" shopper, about $CDN 285:

My go-to is a natural straw, but it needs to be well-finished or it abrades fabric. BtB Los Angeles (at Nordstrom) make a casual black and natural tote; price, $US 78:

Strategy two: Black linen with white bottom

Below, two very different black linen tops: J. Crew's relaxed linen v-neck tee, and Boden's smocked linen "Carrie" top. Both will look terrific with white jeans or trousers, skirt or shorts. 

I have the J. Crew tee in a few colours, and like it very much, especially for travel. The linen knit hand-washes easily (cold water, baby shampoo or dark-clothing detergent like Woolite Darks) and air-dries quickly.

Accessories: A long necklace breaks up that black without turning up the temperature.

Left: Ultralight:Turquoise boho raffia and leather pendant, from Etsy seller AlmaBohoCollection; price, $US 15.  

Top right: Mod: Emily Kidson 34 in. red chain necklace of red formica, walnut and oxidised silver; price, £225 at Polka Dot Gallery, Brighton, UK. The mix of materials is original and fresh.

Bottom right: George Jensen silver and pink moonstone "Annual Heritage" (2006) pendant; price $US 245 at Samantha Howard Vintage. A classic, graceful Jensen design.

The raffia pendant is strictly summer; the Kidson and Jensen pieces will add interest to a simple top all year round.

Strategy three: They only come out at night

Should three conditions converge, black droops: high heat, humidity, and blazing sun. I mean, there is a reason why whites are the custom on the court.  

But once the sun has set, black no longer makes you look overheated; it's cool.  

I'd like to wear this for a late-night dinner al fresco: Veronique Miljkovitch "Whilow" sheer linen gauze top. (Price, $CDN 145.) The all-important details—raw edges and contrast stitching—take this from generic to chic.

Photo: Veronique Miljkovitch

Miljkovitch is among my very favourite designers. Everything I have bought has returned both value and pleasure year after year. The well-stocked web site has occasional sales, worth watching for.


Ms. Liz said…
I have become a fan of dark colours in summer. A post you did last spring about eyelet in black (instead of the usual white) had me looking at dark colours with a fresh eye, I ended up purchasing a dress that had some black eyelet on the bottom (subdued - not little house on the prairie) flounce. It was my favourite purchase last spring and so comfortable to wear.
Laura J said…
Your post made me chuckle! I too use closet/capsule wardrobe thoughts at 3am..better than fretting about things I cannot influence…that aside, however I realise I am slipping back into darks for warmer weather.. I unpacked the linens and truly I have tried but I seem to have a lot of black and navy linen with a few bright shirts. I’m packing for a short domestic trip…and guess what? The pile is black/white with touches of cobalt and intense green…!
LauraH said…
While I may veer more towards green/turquoise/coral than you do, I appreciate your strategies for negotiating the fraught spring-to-summer transition. Every year seems to require more thought than the last as temperatures bounce around with amazing speed. No sooner have I adjusted to high 20s than we drop down to low teens again. Must admit I find it hard to accept the need to switch to July's clothes in May!

Off to check out some of your suggestions, thanks.
I've also experienced insomnia from too much bad news; the violent and senseless invasion of Ukraine (which recalls the Marx brothers'"Fredonia goes to war", and closer by, the racist murder of African-American people grocery shopping in Buffalo, just across the river from Ontario's "Golden Horseshoe". The latter violent act was also a personal trigger as I was writing a graduate history exam at Université de Montréal as an equally fanatic gunman killed 14 women at the Engineering school a couple of buildings away. His hatred was misogynist rather than racist and supremacist.

So I also fell into the escape of fantasy shopping (without credit card at hand) and got back to sleep.

JCrew used to be common in Montréal but I no longer see it; is it in an shops? My summer ideal is forest green or a rich red (organic cotton v-neck t-shirt bought at Simons); I love black but have too much ...and my small black cat, Livia.
Jane said…
lagatta, my heart hurts for you! My husband I were just talking about that Montreal shooting.
Give your petit chat noir a little pat from me. -Lily
Duchesse said…
Ms Liz: Have you noticed another thing, that once women were horrified to show bare legs that were not tanned and now no one seems to care about that? I saw many women in shorts and skirts, with utterly untanned legs, no matter what their natural skin colour.

Laura J: Your travel capsule is same as mine; black or navy especially on the bottom half is so much more forgiving when on transit. Bon voyage!

Laura H: Last weekend we had 34C RealFeel and today. 9C. It's nuts!

lagatta: Violent acts are on our minds, certainly, and add to stress. J. Crew closed its handful of Canadian stores in early '21. The majority of their business is done via their web site.
Ms. Liz said…
Duchesse, I have noticed that women are enjoying untanned legs and not giving a hoot about the lack of a tan - myself included. I used to start a leg self tanning regimen in late April (back in the working day) and now that just seems like so much work.
Kamchick said…
I am another fan of 'darks' for summer. My 'go to' pick is espresso - like it better than black for me, but love black on those whom it truly suits. I like to put it with cream for contrast..avoiding pure white - just better for my colouring. I am a sexist, so really enjoy the hunt for natural fabrics in my favourite many lovely linen, hemp cotton blends these days.
Tom said…
I'm with you on the dark colors. Monoprix (I practice my French on the site!) has some great dark dresses in linen--like this one: i won't be in Paris this summer (yet again), but will be in Brazil (home country of son-in=law). It's a challenge to pack for the trip--we're going through several climates from south to north. So far, everything in my suitcase is black, but I'm adding some chambray! e
Duchesse said…
e/Tom: What a fascinating adventure! Your trip reminds me of something else to consider, the intensity of light. You will need that chambray or a few other pale pieces, which you might enjoy finding there.There is a psychology to colour and place that extends beyond temperature.

Look at what local people wear, not to "fit in", but to be comfortable.
Leslie M said…
All of my of my summer bottoms are black, navy or denim. I often think I’ll find white or pale pink to liven the palette but never do. I purchased a lightweight denim dress and recently a black cotton gauze dress (hasn’t arrived yet) for spring and summer; Xirena’s Cate dress. I am worried about the black dress because it is cotton gauze. I remember that from my youth to be a fabric that would stretch out with wear and eventually (inevitably) look terrible. I hope that is no longer the case. It is very popular right now, The linen gauze top you showed from Miljkovitch looks to be more ethereal than the cotton that I remember. I loved that site by the way. I was not familiar with the brand but was so impressed with the knee length dresses and cuts for a woman’s body. I’ll check frequently for sales; really interesting draping and necklines and hems - the clothes look fun!
Allison said…
Nothing to do with dark tops…just wondering if others did not receive e mail notification of this week’s post? I get it every Tuesday but this week it didn’t show up so I hunted it down. I have been a subscriber for quite awhile with no problems. I read on the BLOGGER help area that this happens occasionally. It says I am still subscribed ( and yes I checked the junk files)
Duchesse, any advice? Is this just a blip? Servers slow? I do love black linen during the warmer days, it looks very chic in a Holly Golightly way. Also those wrinkles are not as obvious.
Duchesse said…
Leslie M: Cotton gauze or linen gauze is wonderful stuff, usually cuts are loose to not cause stress at the seams. Some of it that I've bought is too transparent to wear without a slip, which defeats the purpose, so I have it now in tops. And as I am sure know, wash on delicate in mesh bag. Veronique's clothes are indeed interesting, casual but elegant. I have every piece I've ever bought except one dress which I 'outgrew'.

Allison: I am surprised you still got notifications via Blogger, because Google longer supports the RSS feed, FeedBurner, that delivered PdesP to inboxes. There are 3 ways that I know of to get delivery or notification:

1. Sign up on Bloglovin'.
Just before the summer break at the end of last June (when FeedBurner would soon become defunct) I advised all readers to sign up on Bloglovin' to get delivery. The vast majority of readers have done that. Free, super easy and you can select only the blogs you want delivered.

2. Bookmark the url and just click on it on Tuesday. (But not in July and August, the Passage takes a break.)

3. If you have an Android mobile device (an iOS version is said to be coming), you can use their RSS tracking feature in Google Chrome, it's explained here:

However you find your way to the Passage, thank you for reading.

Tom said…
Here is my packing puzzle. June is WINTER in the Southern hemisphere.
One week in the South: average high//low 72f/22c// 50f/10c
One week in the middle: a little warmer than south, but recent cold snap had a high of 43f/6c!!
Some time in the north: always hot and sticky.
Rest of time: at beach somewhere or other, hot during the day, cool or cold at night.
Jane in London said…
The temperature here in London is swinging up and down at the moment - it was 25c and bright sun yesterday where I live, and today it is 15c and wet. We Brits are known for our cheery determination to wear "summer" clothing during summer months, whatever the weather, and then simply pretend that it's warm...

I tend not to wear black once it gets to this time of year, other than smart black trousers (in a lighter fabric) for evening and black skinny jeans when it's very rainy. I am a big white trouser fan - white jeans, white crops, you name it! Nothing says 'high summer' to me more than white trousers paired with a turquoise top (I love both blue-tone and green-tone turquoise).

Tom: if you plan to visit Salvador de Bahia you will doubtless see women wearing Baiana costume on Sundays or holidays - a truly wonderful confection of super-flouncy white cotton dress and bloomers, which somehow manages to look fabulous on women of every size!

Jane in London
Jane in London said…
I've found a rather lovely picture of Baiana dress shown en masse, on the website of Selvedge magazine, should anyone find it of interest:
Duchesse said…
e/Tom: An adventure! Temperature swings mean layers. Unless going somewhere torrid, my secret weapon is a fine cotton or silk knit cami that turns a light top into a warmer one. Also good for aggressive AC.

Jane in London: I too am devoted to white jeans, and not just with black tops! This is my love letter to them:
Our swings this spring—7C one day, 30C a day or so later, brought white jeans out early.
Francie Newcomb said…
I loved this post and think dark colors look great in the summer. Deep brown with white is great. I am wearing navy a lot this summer because it's more forgiving to my coloring. Black looks wonderful with silver jewelry. Your thoughts are enlightening and I love all your commenters' remarks too!
Allison said…
Duchesse the issue with not getting the post appears to lie with my service provider ( Going through my emails today there was the Tuesday post dated May 20 7:15 am. I did sign up with Bloglivin’ last June as you had advised and all posts came through seamlessly until now. Since it appears other readers have not had an issue it’s possible the servers were down or some other ether based issue. At any rate better late than never!
As for Monoprix (I've bought some attractive things there) I like this green eyelet shirt; I'd wear it mostly unbuttoned as a warm-weather cover-up.

Too many friendly black cats have crossed my path (Livia the latest) for me to wear white anything!
Duchesse said…
lagatta: Available only in France, so those travelling might be interested.
Pamela said…
Hello Duchesse I'll be visiting Montreal for six weeks in August and September and have added Veronique Miljkovitch's boutique to my list. I would love to hear any other recommendations you or your readers have!
Duchesse said…
Pamela: I may be able to contribute if I learned a bit about about you and your wishes. My email address is in the left sidebar under the photo.
My response to Pamela channelled Duchesse as I was typing! Any other centres of interest visiting here? Local history, local craftpersons, neighbourhoods, cafés?... Pamela, Montréal is a historic city by Western Hemisphere standards. If you have time, I'd also suggest a visit to Québec (Quebec City). You can take the train.

Duchesse, I'm drawn to this casual linen jacket at Simons, in the red or the green. I'd certainly go see it there before deciding, though it's not expensive.
Pamela said…
Thank you Duchesse and lagatta. Sorry I wasn't super clear on my request. I have zero sense of style. Absolutely zero. That's why I was just looking for any boutique/clothing store recommendations--which I did not make clear at all! Even if something ends up being not to my taste, I would still appreciate the exposure to different styles and learning and absorbing what I can.

I will be going to Québec as well for 6 days beforehand. My trip is actually starting there and then I'll be taking the train to Montreal. Very much looking forward to it!
Duchesse said…
Pamela: Great! Please contact me via email.

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