Summertime is my favorite time to be outside, soaking in the sunshine. But I’ve quickly learned that the wrong clothing can make me feel overheated and drenched in sweat in summer heat. There seem to be fabrics that work better than others in the summertime, and I’ve been on a quest to find the best ones.
Summer fabrics that best beat the heat will be lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking. Cotton and other natural options should be your go-to summer fabrics since they keep you cool even in the worst weather. Synthetics like polyester or nylon are generally not recommended for summer wear.
Keep reading to see the complete breakdown of the best fabric for summer and what you should be on the lookout for as you make your wardrobe choices. You’ll thank us later when wearing the perfect fabrics to help you beat even the worst summer heat.
- Best Fabric for Summer
- What to Look for in Summer Fabrics
- What Fabric is the Most Breathable?
- What is the Best Material to Wear in Hot Humid Weather?
- Is Polyester Good for Summer?
Best Fabric for Summer
No two fabrics are created equal, and there are definite winners when it comes to staying cool and dry in the summertime. Fabrics made from natural fibers dominate our list since they tend to have good airflow and will keep moisture away from your skin.
1. CottonCotton is the ultimate summer fabric and is incredibly versatile. You’ll find cotton options available for any clothing piece you want to wear, from shirts to shorts, socks, dresses, and even undergarments.
Cotton is one of the best choices for summer because it is breathable, allowing air to flow through the openings in its weave to reach your skin. This keeps you cool as it whisks warm air away from your body.
Cotton is also absorbent. It can hold at least 20% of its weight in moisture before it even feels wet. This means it will absorb sweat rather than allow it to be trapped against your body.
Cotton is also durable and has high tensile strength, meaning it will stand up to whatever summer activities you participate in. It is also one of the most affordable fibers on the market while being hypoallergenic and a good option for sensitive skin.
2. LinenLinen comes in a close second to cotton as an ideal fabric for summer. It is equally lightweight and breathable due to its loose weave, which allows heat to escape. It is also excellent at absorbing moisture and dries much quicker than cotton.
Because of this, linen has long been a favorite for hot summer days. It is one of the longest-produced fabrics in the world. It originated in Europe as far back as 36,000 years ago and was a favorite in ancient Egypt’s scorching heat.
Linen loses out to cotton in popularity mostly because of its cost. Linen fibers come from flax through a very time-consuming and resource-intensive manufacturing process. This makes linen clothing much more expensive than cotton alternatives, decreasing its popularity.
Regardless, you can find plenty of linen options for your summer wardrobe. It is a popular choice for summer dresses, shirts, and skirts.
3. ChambrayChambray fabric, also known as batiste, originated in the 1500s in France. It was created to be a durable fabric for work, holding up well to regular wear and tear. Since then, it has become a worldwide favorite since it has all of the benefits of denim fabrics without any of the negatives.
Specifically, chambray is used as a denim substitute because denim is heavy and dense and not ideal for summer. Chambray, by comparison, is lightweight and breathable, allowing air to flow through the strong fabric to keep you cool. It still has a similar look to denim, which makes it an excellent substitution for your favorite denim shorts or jeans.
An added benefit of chambray is that it is highly moisture-wicking. This means that it absorbs sweat off your skin and moves it away from your body. Once on the exterior of the fabric, the moisture evaporates and leaves you feeling cool and dry.
Chambray is typically made of cotton, though linen and silk options are also available. Even though it is often cotton-based, chambray is its own distinct fabric because of how its threads are woven. The weave of chambray is close enough to that of denim to share many characteristics while also feeling smooth to the touch overall.
4. SilkSilk is an excellent choice for summer fabric, especially if you’re looking for an option that has an elegant finish and feel. Silk is known for its distinct shine and comfortable drape, making it a popular choice for casual and formalwear. It is gentle on the skin while also being strong.
Silk is perfect for summer because of its breathability. It absorbs excess moisture from the skin and wicks it away, where it quickly dries from the surface of the fabric. This helps you to thermoregulate when the temperature is high – while also looking your best.
Natural silk is an incredibly expensive fabric, however. Silk fibers come from the cocoons of mulberry silkworm larvae, which go through a long refinement process. Yet despite the cost, investing in quality silk clothing will go a long way towards keeping you cool in the heat.
Beware of silk impersonators that may not be as good of a choice in the summertime. Synthetic fabrics like polyester chiffons and even some rayon crepes have a lot of the same look and feel as silk. However, synthetics are generally much less breathable or cooling than natural fibers like silk are.
5. SeersuckerSeersucker is another good choice for summer fabric because it is light, durable, and breathable. It is extremely popular in the southern United States, where it is often used to make men’s suits, shorts, and even children’s clothing. Despite its American popularity, seersucker originated in India before spreading westward.
Seersucker has a distinct slack-tension weave that gives it a bumpy, somewhat wrinkled texture. The alternating tension of the weave causes portions of thread to bunch together. This bunching deliberately prevents the fabric from laying completely smooth.
This texture makes seersucker a good option for active summer days since you won’t have to worry about wrinkles being noticeable on this already wrinkled fabric. It’s a great option if you’re traveling, given that you won’t have to worry about ironing it.
This distinctly uneven texture also helps to keep the fabric from making full contact with your skin. This adds to your comfort by increasing the amount of air that can reach you. Increased airflow will keep you cool in even the hottest of temperatures. It will also cause any summer sweat to dry quickly rather than staying trapped against your skin.
You’ll probably be able to spot seersucker clothing because of its texture and its unique coloring. Most seersucker comes in pinstripe patterns of alternating pastel and white bands. Occasionally, you’ll see seersucker clothing in pastel plaid patterns, though these are much rarer.
Seersucker tends to be made from cotton blends, but you will sometimes see nylon or polyester fibers added to the fabric.
6. RayonMost of our recommendations for summer fabrics have been ones with natural fibers. This is because natural fibers are the best at keeping the heat away from you and dry. Rayon is an exception to this rule since it is a semi-synthetic fiber that works well in the summer.
Rayon is made of cellulose or plant-based fibers. These fibers tend to come from beech trees or bamboo before they are chemically processed as part of their manufacturing. This extensive chemical treatment makes rayon semi-synthetic since the fibers are not 100% natural.
Nevertheless, rayon is a good choice because it is moisture absorbent and is excellent at wicking sweat away from your skin. It is soft and smooth to the touch and has an excellent drape. This makes it a very comfortable option to choose for your summer wardrobe.
Rayon is often popular for athletic apparel since it is comfortable and moisture-wicking. You may see rayon listed by many names since there are multiple variations to these fibers. Viscose rayon, modal, and lyocell fabrics are different variations of rayon.
7. JerseyJersey is a soft and versatile knit fabric popular for summer clothing. While it’s not always the most breathable fabric, it is lightweight and stretchy. The added comfort and stretch can easily make up for the lack of airflow, especially if you’re not spending lots of time outside during the summer.
There are many different jersey fabrics on the market, so you’ll want to pay attention to the type of fibers used in each. Jersey is commonly made with cotton, silk, hemp, bamboo, rayon, viscose, spandex, and many other blends of fibers. Some of these variations will be better than others at keeping you cool.
Remember the general rule that natural fibers work the best in the summer. Jersey made from cotton, silk, hemp, or bamboo will generally be more breathable than many of the other options available.
8. Sheer FabricsSheer fabric is a very broad category of materials used in summer clothes. These fabrics are semi-transparent and very lightweight, giving them a flimsy and flowy feel that works well in the summer heat.
Most sheer fabrics are semi-transparent because of the way that they are woven. Sheer fabrics are generally made with thin thread woven with a low density to make an overall loose knit. This loose knit allows air and light to pass through the fabric, making it comfortable to wear in the heat and making the fabric see-through.
There are many different sheer options to consider in the summer months, and each is made of its own unique blend of fibers. Sheer fabrics can be made from cotton, silk, polyester, rayon, nylon, and a wide variety of other blends of both synthetic and natural fibers.
Some of the lightest-weight sheer options to look for are organza, chiffon, and gauze. These fabrics will be airy in feel but also have somewhat of a firm texture. These fabrics are mostly synthetic but sometimes have silk added to improve the feel and give shine to the finished product.
Heavier sheer options include voile, muslin, lace, and tulle. These will still be breathable and sheer but will make up for their added weight by being extra soft and draping well. These often have more natural fibers included in their makeup, especially cotton.
What to Look for in Summer Fabrics
By this point, we’ve already discussed the top fabrics you should be wearing in the summer. These fabrics have a few common characteristics, which you should always look for in your summer outfits.
One of the easiest ways to feel hot and overheated in the summer is by wearing fabrics that are heavy. Heavy fabrics cling to your skin, trapping moisture and heat against your body. This will inevitably make you feel clammy and overheated in summer weather.
Lightweight clothing, by comparison, will move freely, allowing air to flow through the fabric to reach your skin. This will help hot air to flow away from you, keeping you cooler overall.
You’ll especially want to avoid heavy fabrics like fleece, wool, and leather during periods of high heat. You may also want to reconsider your favorite denim shorts or jeans if you’re looking for light clothing since denim is meant to be thick and durable. Thick fabrics are a no-go when the weather is hot.
Breathability is important in summer clothing since it is what allows air to make contact with your skin. Clothes that are not breathable will make you feel hot and clammy as they trap heat against your body instead of allowing it to escape as air circulates.
Fabrics made with natural fibers tend to be more breathable than synthetics, largely due to the shape of their fibers. Cotton, linen, and natural silk are all good options if you’re looking for breathability in your summer clothing.
‘Moisture wicking’ refers to a fabric’s ability to absorb moisture and carry it away from your body. These fabrics bring sweat from your skin to the surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate away in the summer heat. This keeps you cool and prevents sweat from being trapped between your body and your clothing.
The best moisture-wicking fabrics tend to be synthetics. Unfortunately, synthetics aren’t considered to be breathable or otherwise good options for summer wear. A synthetic blend, like a polyester-cotton mixture, may be the best of both worlds between breathability and moisture wicking.
Natural fibers like cotton are good at absorbing moisture, but they do tend to hold on to it rather than allow it to evaporate.
Believe it or not, the color of the fabrics you wear could change how you feel in the summer heat. Dark-colored clothing tends to absorb most of the sun’s rays. This can pull heat towards your skin rather than keep it away.
Light-colored fabrics do the opposite and repel the sun’s rays. This can keep you cooler since repelling the rays may help to keep away the heat that comes with them. The heat difference may not be a lot, but every little bit helps when you’re battling the summer sun.
What Fabric is the Most Breathable?
Cotton is generally considered the most breathable fabric, making it a popular choice for the summer months. A fabric is ‘breathable’ when air can pass easily through it, allowing heat to move away from your body to keep you cool. Cotton’s breathability comes from the unique shape of its fibers.
Specifically, cotton fibers are shaped like twisted ribbons. When these strands are woven together, they cannot tightly stack on top of one another because of their twisted shape. This leaves natural gaps between the fibers through which air can easily pass.
This is a direct contrast to the fibers of synthetics like polyester, which form the shape of straight rods. These rods are tightly woven, closing holes that air would otherwise push through. This is one of the main reasons cotton is such a popular choice for casual and activewear in the summer months.
What is the Best Material to Wear in Hot Humid Weather?
Humid summer days are especially difficult to dress for since the air is hot and full of high levels of water vapor. You’ll want lightweight and breathable fabrics that can combat the heat. At the same time, you’ll want a fabric that is moisture-wicking to move sweat and water vapor away from your skin.
Cotton is one of the few fabrics that can accomplish both of these tasks. It is the most breathable fabric available and is also excellent at absorbing moisture off your skin. The moisture can then be dried in the summer heat instead of trapped between your skin and clothes.
In particular, you’ll benefit from wearing cotton clothes that are light in color on hot and humid days. Light clothes, especially white ones, reflect more of the sun’s rays than dark clothes do. Choosing the right color of clothing is one of the easiest ways you can beat the heat of humid summer weather.
Is Polyester Good for Summer?
No, polyester is not good for summer. It’s considered one of the worst fabrics to wear because it is water-resistant. This means that it will trap sweat underneath your clothes rather than wicking it away.
Trapped sweat and moisture will cause your clothing to cling to your skin, making you feel hotter overall. Polyester is also one of the least breathable fabrics you could choose since its synthetic structure is tightly woven and reluctant to allow air to pass through.
If you must wear polyester in the summer, try to find a polyester blend. The best option you could choose is a cotton-polyester option. You should also try to wear as loose-fitting clothing as possible if you must wear polyester to allow as much air to hit your skin as possible.
When it comes to staying cool in the summer heat, the fabrics you wear can affect how you feel. A good summer fabric will be lightweight, absorb moisture to keep it away from your skin, and allow air to flow through to keep you cool. As you choose your outfits this summer, look back at this list to pick the options guaranteed to keep you cool and comfortable.