What is the perfect summer dress?

Ever since Irwin Shaw made his bittersweet story, “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses,” and Bruce Springsteen gave the idea its own spin in “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” the idea of ​​a perfect warm weather garment has hung temptingly in our imaginary closet, along with the perfect white shirt, the perfect white t-shirt, the perfect pair of jeans. We chase it in stores everywhere, convinced that if we could find it, at least one of our attire problems would be solved.

Well, I’m sorry to say that mythical clothing does not exist. It can not, for clothes are worn in context; they work, or do not, depending on our body, our lives, the world around us. And all that can change.

That does not mean abandoning the search. It just means you have to shelve the idea of ​​the “perfect” dress, some garment that is the embodiment of all clothing ideals. Instead, look for the dress that looks great right now (and with luck a few years ahead).

Although we tend to equate wearing smaller clothes with being cooler, more coverage can actually be more protective without raising body temperature – as long as the clothes are not too sticky. Think of your clothes as a sunshade that can be worn and look for light, natural fabrics like linen, silk and cotton as well as midi lengths and sleeves.

For reasons that are probably deeply rooted in childhood, we also tend to equate “summer dresses” with “pork dresses,” meaning ruffles and puffed sleeves. But a slightly more streamlined look can add a blob of sophistication that Shaw himself may have appreciated; a mood that is more mint juleps on the porch than frolicking in the strawberry fields.

And one, like Jennie Baek, one style advisor at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills, said can be dressed up or down with just changing shoes and bag, which is the key when considering packing.

For example, this tea dress from Lisa says Gah, with flake sleeves, has both cover and sea breeze sway; ditto this style from Anthropologyand this chiffon look. Other options include a crisp striped shirt dressa nice white poplin number or a swinger, looser take on the same from the set.

Finally, beat beat dress is a multi-year problem-solving choice. Tie one on.

Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion-related question, which you can send to her at any time via e-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and compressed.

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