Indian Summer


This year Chicago experienced an unusually warm September, which continued throughout the first half of October. Day after day, the temperature hovered between 70 and 80 degrees – well above average. The heat almost coaxed us into believing summer might just stay forever, except that the diminishing daylight and changing hues of foliage let on that it is in fact autumn.

Yes, despite the temperature, ornamented pumpkins are posed on front porches and baseball rivalries dominate the television schedule. The arc of the sun changed it’s tilt and the birds are moving south. Make no mistake, it’s October.

Usually by this time of year we have already undertaken the exciting assignment of swapping our summer closet for our fall repertoire. The calendar implies a wardrobe of quilted field jackets, riding boots, fisherman sweaters, flannel tops, tall socks and cashmere scarves in rich earthy colors like marigold, mahogany, olive and burgundy. These beloved textures and colors are the old standards of back-to-school, of football tailgates, of apple picking and brisk mornings.

But when the temperature doesn’t accord with the rest of fall’s identity, it creates a style paradox. I’m sure many of you, like me, have stood in your closet in the morning scratching your head trying to figure out how to piece together a suitable outfit for ‘falmer’ – fall and summer. And although it’s been cool lately, we must prepare for the possible return of warmer temps…Indian summer. How do we look in-season and stay cool temperature-wise? Flip flops and shorts don’t seem appropriate anymore, but boots and leggings are a plague in 75 degree heat.

I’ve put some thought toward outlining more nuanced options between those two seasonal prototypes; options that are heat-accommodating but read ‘fall’ in texture and tone. Should the Indian summer continue or we find ourselves facing one again next year, I hope these ideas help you solve the closet conundrum.

Hot days give way to warm nights. If a cool evening breeze comes along, you’ll need a layer. A jean jacket feels like high-summer drive-in style, but a trenchcoat, peacoat or field coat is more weight than you need. Option? Try a lightweight blazer  (unlined will be coolest) in place of a jacket for evening outings. You’ll be comfortable and you’ll project a feeling of fall with that preppy standby. Or, a leather bomber or moto is a good update to a denim jacket. Try 1. the Zara Checked Blazer or 2. the Madewell Shimmerweave Bomber Jacket from the Gap.

You want to wear leggings or slim-leg jeans because that’s part of your fall uniform. I get it. Me too. But is there anything worse than perspiring in them and having to peel them off like a wet bathing suit? I recommend a lightweight cargo pant or away-from-the-body slouchy boyfriend jean in a dark wash that you can even hem-roll and pair with a heel for a playful contrast. And if you want to bare those legs, I vote for a season-less, casual shirtdress or jersey knit skirt in a neutral, earthy color. Shorts tell everyone that you are in a state of seasonal denial. My suggestions: 3. the Gap Sexy Boyfriend Selvage Jean or 4. James Perse Melange Drawstring Skirt.

Lightweight button downs in chambray or oxford fabrics are an excellent choice for temperature regulation. The fabrics breath and sleeves roll, yet they very much look like a fall staple. Try 5. the Uniqlo White Oxford Shirt.

Retire the linen cardigans, keep handy the air-spun cashmere cardigans and wait on the wool cardigans.

Flip flops and gladiator sandals feel mismatched for the crumpling of fallen leaves underfoot. Yet, keeping your feet cool is important for overall comfort on 75 degree days. Kick on a pair of lace-free lightweight boat shoes, Vince Blair Slip-Ons, TOM’s corduroy slip-ons, or a pair of colorblocked ballet flats. Wedges are a great transition style in place of a heeled bootie, but look for more understated versions. Cork and straw platforms feel more Fourth of July than Columbus Day. Check out 6. the Vince Blair “8” Slip-On Sneaker.


About Anne Langbein

As a former Manhattan-based women's apparel buyer for companies like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, Anne Langbein brings industry insight and styling experience to her fashion writing for TCW blog “Chic Chicago.” She has consulted as a stylist for individuals and corporations and is the creator of the popular fashion and beauty website Defining Delphine, a blog that seeks to inspire women as they define their personal style.