Best fabrics to wear in hot weather 2024, according to experts

Temperature shifts (especially above 80°F degrees) always bring to the fashion forefront colorful outfits and lightweight, breathable fabrics to withstand the heat. So when it comes to finding the proper garments for warmer weather, the right fabric can make or break down your plans, especially when it’s searing hot outside.

While white tank tops may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ubiquitous spring/summer wardrobe pieces, there are other cooling fabrics you can embrace during humid, hot weather. Shop TODAY talked to experts to spill the must-have textiles and material combinations that will keep you dry and avoid breaking out into a sweat the moment you step outside of your home.

Best fabrics for hot weather | Fabrics to avoid during hot weather | Fabric pros and cons | Features to look for | Breathable shirts | Breathable bottoms | Breathable dresses | How we chose | Meet the experts

What are the best fabrics to wear during warm temperatures?

According to Billy Draddy, EVP and creative director of Summit Golf Brands, one of the best options to wear in hot temperatures — regardless of material — is a light-colored fabric. “Dark colors absorb light from the sun and the heat that comes along with it.”

Material-wise, a man-made fiber like nylon will keep you feeling pleasant. “Cotton will keep you cooler but once you start sweating, whether it be working out or while out in extremely warm temperatures, fabrics made out of man-made fibers will keep you more comfortable,” he adds. “These fabrics are also hydrophobic so they don’t absorb your sweat.”

Also, if you can keep a dry fabric up against your skin, you’ll inevitably remain cooler. “Water is a conductor of temperature and just like when you jump in the pool at the end of the summer and you feel the cool breeze up against your skin, the same thing happens in reverse with the heat,” Draddy mentions. “If you have a wet shirt on and high, high temperatures, you will feel even hotter than the outside temperature.”

What fabrics should be avoided during hot weather?

According to Draddy, you should avoid wearing dark-colored fabrics and natural fibers such as wool, silk and cashmere on hotter days. “These fabrics can trap heat and moisture and are not ideal for warmer temperatures,” says Jaime King, fashion designer for Maurices.

Fabrics with high contents of polyester and acrylic can also trap heat, according to King. “Both fabrics retain heat easily and will aid in increased perspiration during the high-temperature months.”

Fabrics pros and cons

As a fashion expert and designer, Suzanne Vinnik breaks down the pros and cons of the most ubiquitous materials on the market.

  • Rayon: “It has a great drape and dries quickly. It is moderately breathable and has a silky texture which doesn’t cause you to sweat, but it wicks no moisture and requires dry cleaning.”
  • Linen: “[Linen] allows great airflow and is an anti-microbial textile as silica is anti-fungal and anti-microbial so it won’t smell even though it does absorb moisture. It is very breathable due to the open weaves, but I’m not a fan personally due to wrinkles and the time it takes to dry especially in humid weather.”
  • Cotton: “This is one of the most breathable, comfortable and easiest to care for textiles! It is also great for sensitive skin. As there is no added cost with dry cleaning or hand-washing, it is very durable and soft, but if you are someone who sweats profusely, beware as it absorbs moisture instead of wicking away from the skin. If you are someone who sweats less when you are cool, it’s a fantastic option.”
Courtest Jannely Espinal, Shop TODAY Writer
  • Silk: “[Silk] is lightweight and breathable. A lot of luxury brands use it because it doesn’t insulate trapping heat and feels great against the skin. I like to use it for layering on exceptionally hot days, but the drawback is that it can retain odor and requires hand-washing as putting it in the washing machine will ruin the fabric in nearly all cases. It is also not friendly when it comes to sweat, making it very visible.”
  • Modal: “Modal is a type of rayon made from wood pulp from beech trees. It is far more absorbent than cotton and allows perspiration to wick away from the skin. You will never feel hot and sticky in it, which is why you see a lot of brands using it over cotton, which is 50% less absorbent”.
  • Merino wool: “[It’s] not my choice ever as it is extremely itchy against my sensitive skin, even in higher quality weaves. It is used often in summer clothing as it is extremely breathable, wicks moisture and doesn’t smell bad. When caring for it, you’ll want to hand-wash and lay it flat to dry so it doesn’t begin to lose its shape, which is a drawback.”
  • Chambray: “This is one I want to love more than I actually do because it is a tight cotton weave that absorbs sweat but is still breathable with the look of light denim. On a summer dress or shirt, it can look very chic depending on the design of the garment. If you are someone looking for great breathability, it is a great option, but you will want to look at the garment construction if you hate wrinkles.”
  • Polyester: “If you are in a dry heat in particular, it is used in a lot of activewear as it is light, water-repellent and allows moisture to wick from the skin rather than soaking into the fabric. The drawbacks are that it is non-absorbent and can also grow bacteria, which smells even after washing. I’m very conscious of the ways I’m using polyester as it doesn’t break down the way natural fibers do and can cause issues.”
  • Nylon: “We see it a lot in activewear because it is a wicking fabric that dries quickly. Depending on the blend, it can be breathable but is one of the smellier fabrics as it holds in odors.”

Other features to look for for warm weather clothing

One factor to keep in mind is the fabric’s texture. “Think about if you were going to warm up something with your hand. You wouldn’t just put your fingertips down; you would put the full surface area of your hand down on what you were trying to warm,” says Draddy. “So, the opposite is true when you’re trying to stay cool. The less surface area that’s hitting your skin, the cooler you will feel. Textured knits, although indeterminable to the naked eye, have less of the fabric sitting up against your skin and therefore will keep you cooler.”

Courtesy Jannely Espinal, Shop TODAY Writer

The silhouette of a piece also plays an element in the fabric’s comfort. “The best thing you can do to keep cool is to find clothes that are cut away from the body, especially when dealing with humidity,” mentions Vinnik. When it comes to her designs, she focuses on varying lengths that cut away from the body and hemlines that create ventilation.

“During the summertime, you’ll find a lot of loose dolman sleeve capes and tops, kaftans and summer dresses that are not clingy to the body,” she adds.

Best breathable shirts

Quince Flowknit Ultra-Soft Performance Tee

What we like

  • Feels breathable
  • Unbeatable price

Something to note

  • A bit short for long torsos

Size: XS-XL | Colors: 6 | Materials: recycled polyester and spandex

Short sleeves are a must-have piece in your closet during elevated temperatures. This Quince tee features moisture-wicking and anti-odor properties and is made from recycled polyester and Flowknit fabric. The simplicity of this T-shirt is top-notch and hangs loosely on most body frames.

Uniqlo Halter Neck Bra Sleeveless Top

What we like

  • Very comfortable
  • No need to wear a bra

Size: XS-XXL | Color: 5 | Material: 94% cotton, 6% spandex

One thing I won’t compromise during summer is comfort. Let the breeze refresh your skin with this built-in bra. The piece comes in five neutral hues and is made from a cotton blend that feels soft and relaxed. While the top has a short length, this one pairs perfectly with high-waisted pants or jeans.

I’ve worn this top in-repeat for a week with different bottoms and it’s one of the best tops I own.

American Eagle Go Big Oversized Shirt

What we like

  • Cuffs stay in place
  • Feels super soft

Something to note

  • Runs large
  • Wrinkles easily

Size: XXS-XL | Colors: 2 | Material: 55% cotton, 45% viscose

Senior editor Jess Bender loves this shirt for hot weather for its breathable construction. “My go-to summer uniform usually involves a tank, bike shorts and a gigantic button-down to give the laidback look an extra layer,” says Bender.

“While other button-downs are a little stiff and not very breathable, this oversized American Eagle one is made for warmer weather. Beyond being extremely breathable and super soft, it’s lightweight enough to double as a beach/pool cover-up if you need!”

Courtesy Jess Bender, Shop TODAY Senior Editor

Buck Mason Surplus Rib Tank

What we like

  • Very breathable
  • Fitted construction

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 8 | Material: 90% cotton, 10% spandex

Buck Mason’s tanks are must-have essentials in my summer wardrobe. They’re extremely comfortable, breathable and a great basic to build up an outfit. These tanks have a slim fit silhouette plus a hidden thread chain where you can snap your bra straps. Now, that’s a game-changer for me.

Skims Boyfriend T-Shirt

Size: XXS-4X | Colors: 7 | Materials: 47% cotton, 48% modal, 5% spandex

If you’re planning outdoor activities, this tee will keep you dry and ready to move around in the heat. The top is made with a cotton/modal blend that feels soft and offers a flattering fit. Whether you wear it for lounging or working out, it provides enough breathing room to move around.

Solbari Short Sleeve Polo Shirt UPF50+ Sensitive Collection

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 5 | Materials: 50% viscose from bamboo, 41% cotton, 9% elastane

Get maximum sun protection with this polo shirt that offers UPF 50+ protection and a sensitive fabric composition. The mix of cotton and viscose provides a gentle feel that people with sensitive skin will appreciate.

Nuuds Everyday T-Shirt

What we like

  • Feels breathable
  • Has a loose fit

Size: XXS-XXXL | Color: 10 | Material: 100% cotton

For everyday wear, keep a collection of short-sleeved light-colored T-shirts in your drawer. This one is classic and simple enough to match your bolder and brighter bottoms. I usually wear this with skirts or high-waisted bottoms since it sits right at the hip. Plus, it has a loose fit that’s easy to tuck in. The garment is also made with 100% cotton for an extra sustainable touch.

Best breathable bottoms

Alex Crane Bo Shorts

What we like

  • Very breathable
  • Comfortable

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 5 | Materials: European linen

For the woman who doesn’t want to wear denim shorts but still needs an alternative, these shorts are a must-have. I’ve owned this pair for over a year now and love how breathable they feel. The shorts have one pocket on the back and feature a drawstring to adjust. The best part? They are a pull-on style.

Quince 100% European Linen Shorts

Size: XS-XL | Colors: 7 | Material: 100% European flax

With a laidback aesthetic and comfortable fit, these linen shorts are a wardrobe staple to keep available at all times. The shorts are made from 100% European flax and breathable fabric that is heat-regulating and soft. Also, it features side pockets and a drawstring for easy adjustment.

Old Navy Linen-Blend Maxi Skirt

Size: XS-4X | Colors: 4 | Material: 55% linen, 45% rayon

Whether you’re at the beach or by the pool, this linen skirt will keep you fresh even during the hottest days. You can pair it with a button-down shirt or keep it simple with a pair of strappy sandals. It also has a back slit which provides a breather from the heat.

Aerie Pool-To-Party Linen Blend High-Waisted Trouser

Size: XXS-XXL | Colors: 4 | Materials: 52% linen, 48% viscose

While shorts are a go-to for steamy days, these long pants will still keep you fresh. This pair feels more elevated and functional when you need something comfortable for the office. It comes in four colorways and features an elasticized band for a comfortable fit. Whether you wear them at the beach or for lounging, these pants have a baggy silhouette that will feel super breathable.

Eddie Bauer Women’s Departure Amphib Shorts

What we like

  • Material feels soft
  • Dry quickly

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 5 | Materials: 86% polyester, 14% spandex

If you’re going to be out in the sun for a long period of time, these shorts are perfect to protect your skin. These are made from a FreeDry technology that is moisture-wicking and features UPF 50+ sun protection. The material is lightweight and easy to pull on for added comfort. Also, it comes in four different colors for an added pop of color.

Bar Harbor Vest and Cargo Pants Set

What we like

  • Comes in a set
  • Big pockets

Size: XS-L | Colors: 1 | Material: Linen and rayon

Vests are trending this year, and according to an email from Klarna, “there has been a 1700% increase in work vests purchases from April 2023 to April 2024.”

This set combines the utilitarian look of cargo pants and the classy aesthetic of vests. Plus, it has big pockets to carry your work phone and other essentials.

Lululemon Softstreme High-Rise Short 4″

Something to note

  • Material tends to ride up

Size: 0-20 | Colors: 7 | Materials: 53% recycled polyester, 38% Lenzing® modal, 9% elastane

This style is designed for ladies on the move. The shorts are made from a Softstreme fabric technology that features a smooth “peach-fuzz” texture. Plus, the four-way stretch will give you that extra flexibility while still adjusting the shorts with its shock-cord string. It also comes with pockets for accessible storage and comfort.

Athleta Retreat Wide Leg Linen Pant

What we like

  • They wash well
  • Feel breathable

Size: XXS-3X | Colors: 7 | Material: 100% linen

Looking for a soft alternative to silk pants, then opt for this linen-made pair. The pants are a great travel choice for warmer destinations and they are super flattering according to reviewers. Also, these pants come with pockets and feature a roomy silhouette.

Best breathable dresses

KuaCua Women’s Tennis Dress

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 25 | Materials: 75% nylon, 25% spandex

Look chic while stretching on the mat with this flexible exercise dress. This style features a removable bra and compressive shorts with pockets that are snug to your body and offer support. Despite the short length, this dress will give you coverage while working out. The slim fit and stretchy material is moisture-wicking and will keep you dry while working out.

Soma Everstretch Relaxed Travel Bra Dress

What we like

  • It’s adjustable
  • Features side pockets

Size: XS-XXL | Colors: 1 | Material: 86% polyester, 14% spandex

With a flowy silhouette and soft build, this award-winning midi dress is perfect for casual days under the sun. The piece provides an easy fit and is made from an airy polyester material that features fun details (like side pockets). It comes with adjustable straps on the waist and neckline to adjust the fit. It’ll even help protect you from UV rays, as it’s made with UPF-30 sun protection.

Madewell MWL Flex Fitness Dress

Something to note

  • Straps are not adjustable

Size: XXS-4X | Colors: 2 | Materials: 79% recycled polyester, 21% spandex

Whether you’re playing tennis or running errands, this exercise dress is flexible and ideal for low-impact activities. It features all the necessary components to survive the heat including moisture-wicking properties, UPF 40+ sun protection, a built-in biker short for comfort and a ball pocket to store supplies for pickleball or other sports.

The Drop Women’s Ana Silky V-Neck Midi Slip Dress

Size: XXS-5X | Colors: 26 | Materials: 95% polyester, 5% elastane

Slip dresses are easy to wear and a breathable option for days when you feel a bit uninspired. This can be dressed up with wedges or a pair of white sneakers for a casual date. With adjustable straps and a V-neck cut, you can play around with different style choices. Also, it’s a flattering cut without being tight on the body.

Showpo. Mellie Midi Dress

Size: 0-16 | Colors: 5 | Material: 100% cotton

This slip-on style is easy to don and a great alternative when you need to look elegant yet comfortable. It features a plunged neckline, elastic trims and ruched details that stretch out. You’ll feel comfortable in this dress throughout hot weather and it fits for most occasions and events.

Athleta Essential Tee Dress

Size: XXS-XL | Colors: 3 | Material: 90% cotton, 10% elastane

Get all-day comfort with this dress featuring short sleeves and a high neckline that gives a more casual look. This T-shirt dress is a great option for a last-minute one-and-done outfit and pairs well with cowboy boots, sneakers or sandals.

How we chose

We selected items based on affordability and material composition while considering expert tips and recommendations. We also chose items that are highly rated, breathable and easy to care for.

Meet the experts

  • Jaime King is the professional fashion designer and SVP of Design for Maurices, a brand offering women’s fashion at an affordable price.
  • Billy Draddy is the EVP and creative director of Summit Golf Brands. Previously, Billy designed for iconic American brands such as Timberland, Hickey Freeman and Polo Ralph Lauren.
  • Suzanne Vinnik is a fashion designer and CEO of her eponymous brand, byVINNIK. She has worked with television and Broadway stars while changing the narrative around the lack of inclusivity surrounding luxury fashion.

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