The Best Cooling Clothing for Summer

This cooling clothing is designed to help regulate your body temperature.

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Best Cooling Clothing for Summer

Travel + Leisure / Marcus Millan

It’s that time of year again: the weather is heating up, the days are longer, and vacations are in full swing. The only thing standing between you and comfortable travels all season long? Packing the best cooling clothing for summer in your suitcase. 

Clothing designed to let the breeze flow right through often relies on a mix of breathable natural and synthetic fabrics, mesh details, and other specialized cooling technology to wick away moisture and prevent overheating. Cooling clothing can make all the difference for your overall comfort when it comes to commuting, taking sightseeing tours, or simply getting an outdoor workout in. Read on to discover the best options to stay cool in every category.

Best Sundress

Madewell Theo Sleeveless Midi Dress

Madewell Theo Sleeveless Midi Dress


Why We Love It: You’ll want to wear this 100 percent cotton, flowy A-line dress to every occasion all summer long.

What to Consider: The bodice may be a tough fit for those with larger chests. 

This is an easy, breezy summer dress you’ll want to throw on no matter if you’re running errands, window shopping in Greece, or heading to a sunset beach bonfire. The Theo Sleeveless Midi Dress from Madewell ticks all the boxes for being effortlessly chic — consider the pockets and adjustable straps a happy bonus. The fitted bodice gives way to an empire waist and flowing skirt that’s sure to catch the breeze and help cool you off on the hottest days. While all three colors are beautiful, the eyelet white will keep you the coolest, and you can have fun with accessories if you want a pop of color. 

Price at time of publish: $128

Best T-shirt

Icebreaker Merino Sphere II Short Sleeve Scoop T-Shirt

Icebreaker Merino Sphere II Short Sleeve Scoop T-Shirt


Why We Love It: Merino wool in the summer? Yes, its natural breathability is second-to-none!

What to Consider: It’s machine washable, but don’t toss it in the dryer (line dry in the shade instead). 

This T-shirt from Icebreaker is made with the brand’s Cool-Lite™ jersey fabric that’s lightweight, breathable and literally designed to wick moisture away from your body — it’s engineered to regulate your temperature and let your skin breathe even during bouts of high-intensity activity. Plus, it’s naturally odor resistant to keep you confident all summer long. The offset shoulder seams will help prevent friction that could irritate your skin and the drop tail hem combined with a relaxed fit offers a little extra coverage while you move throughout your day.

Price at time of publish: $75

Best Tank Top

Boody EcoWear Tank

Boody EcoWear Tank


Why We Love It: This versatile tank is lightweight, breathable, and hypoallergenic. Plus, its wide straps will disguise your bra. 

What to Consider: This may be a slimmer fit than you’re used to and the torso is a bit long.  

Bamboo fiber is naturally absorbent and wicks away moisture quickly, which means smelly bacteria can’t multiply quickly enough to become an issue with your Boody Tank Top. Plus, it’s buttery soft and gentle on your skin. For those planning to spend time in the sun, this garment has a UPF 50+ rating to protect your skin from damaging UV light. And when the weather gets cooler, consider this tank the ultimate layering piece you can wear year round (it’s thermoregulating, which means it’ll feel cool when it’s hot or provide warmth on colder days).

Price at time of publish: $23

Best Shorts

Monos Kyoto Shorts

Monos Kyoto Shorts


Why We Love It: These breathable unisex shorts are the loungewear you’ll want to live in. 

What to Consider: They are pricey, but the unmatched comfort is worth it.

In a world where comfort reigns supreme, the Kyoto Shorts from Monos will be the pair you reach for time and time again. They are ethically produced in small batches in Canada and made only from the highest-quality, plant-based fabrics — in this case, 95 percent cotton and 5 percent spandex, for a soft, breathable experience. Take this loungewear on the road (there’s a matching top to complete your look), as it’s the perfect summer attire for grabbing an iced latte on a morning stroll around your hotel or snuggling up on the couch to catch up on Netflix after a long day of meetings. 

Price at time of publish: $90

Best Exercise Dress

Vitality Cloud II Sport Dress

Vitality Cloud II Sport Dress


Why We Love It: With impressive size inclusivity — 2XS to 4XL — the Cloud II is almost too cute for just working out.  

What to Consider: The straps aren’t adjustable. 

There’s so much to be excited about with the Vitality Cloud II Sport Dress. We’ll start with the fact that there’s a built-in shelf-bra with removable bust pads that hugs the body without digging in. Then there are the shorts underneath, with hidden pockets to store your phone and other necessities. And have we mentioned the compression factor of 2.5/5, which means you’ll get a medium level of figure-flattering support that won’t squish you? Finally, the marshmallow-soft fabric delivers four-way stretch, UPF 50+, is sweat-wicking to keep you dry, and has anti-odor properties, too.

Price at time of publish: $88

Best Long-sleeve Shirt

Athleta Advantage Poplin Top

Athleta Advantage Poplin Top


Why We Love It: This tunic-length top marries edgy style elements with quick-dry fabric. 

What to Consider: It’s a bit pricey if you don’t catch it on sale. 

High-low silhouettes are still in style, and Athleta has created a really fun version with its Advantage Poplin Top. Not only is this garment breathable (the fabric is made from recycled post-consumer plastic bottles), but it’s also water-repellent in case you get caught in a summer shower. What’s more, there’s mesh ventilation in the back to help keep you cool and it’s rated UPF 50+ for sun protection you can rely on. The tunic length pairs well with leggings while drawing attention away from your bum if you don’t feel like showing off all your curves. It’s easy to dress up, too, making it a versatile addition to your wardrobe. 

Price at time of publish: $100

Best Maxi Skirt

Zesica Bohemian Maxi Skirt with Pockets

ZESICA Bohemian Maxi Skirt with Pockets


Why We Love It: With 30 summery options to choose from, there’s a Zesica maxi skirt to match every style. 

What to Consider: This skirt is unlined and the fabric is thin, so some lighter colors may be a tad too sheer without a slip underneath.

If your aesthetic this summer is boho-chic, then look no further than Zesica’s flowy floral-printed maxi skirt. This breezy skirt has a comfortable elastic waistband with drawstrings to ensure the perfect fit, and two convenient pockets so you can explore hands-free. Each skirt is made from 95 percent rayon and 5 percent polyester for a breathable feel that also helps cut down on wrinkles. Now all you need is a pair of sandals, a sunhat, and a cute top to complete your summer look. 

Price at time of publish: $40

Best Workout Top

Lululemon Align Waist-length Racerback Tank Top

Lululemon Align Waist-Length Racerback Tank Top


Why We Love It: Not too short and not too long this sweat-wicking tank top hits just right. 

What to Consider: There’s no built-in bra to rely on, so you’ll have to find one that works with this racerback design. 

Yoga. Pilates. HIIT. Weightlifting. Jogging. Playing with your kids. Is there any movement this Lululemon tank can’t handle? We think not! The Nulu fabric™ is practically weightless and buttery soft, not to mention moisture-wicking, breathable, and no stranger to the four-way stretch needed for most activities — the racerback style also helps ensure you can move every which way you need to. We love the higher neckline for a little extra coverage, too. 

Price at time of publish: $58

Best Workout Shorts

Lululemon Align High-rise Short

lululemon Align High-Rise Short 6" High-Rise Short


Why We Love It: Choose from 4-, 6- and 8-inch lengths and a wide variety of colors. 

What to Consider: The white color may be a bit see-through.  

Finally, a pair of yoga shorts that will move with you instead of fighting against you throughout your sunrise salutations. The Lululemon Align High Rise Shorts snatch your waist and hug your curves yet provide the unencumbered flexibility you need when bending and stretching. The Nulu fabric™ is super soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking to keep you cool and comfortable no matter how intense your activity is, and the added Lycra helps retain its shape. Hidden inside the waistband, you’ll find a pocket to stash your valuables. 

Price at time of publish: $64

Best Sneakers

OluKai Pehuea Li Slip On Sneakers

OluKai Pehuea Li Slip On Sneakers


Why We Love It: We love this convertible sneaker that moonlights as a slide, with a mesh upper and antibacterial insole.

What to Consider: This brand doesn’t offer half sizes or wide widths. 

OluKai shoes are made with Hawaii in mind, but don’t let that stop you from traipsing all over the world in these comfortable slip-on sneakers. The heel is designed to drop away when you’re ready to transition to a slide, without damaging the construction or feeling like you’re walking on the heel. Your feet will stay cool and dry thanks to the airy mesh footbed cover (it’s removable and washable, should it need a little refresh) and mesh upper. Enjoy walking for miles, as the anatomical footbed has a little extra cushioning and support. 

Price at time of publish: $100

Best Underwear

Wherewithal The EveryWhere Cheeky

Wherewithal The EveryWhere Cheeky


Why We Love It: Soft, breathable, and seamless underwear is all you’ll want to wear under everything this summer.

What to Consider: It’s hand wash and line dry only.  

It’s easy to overlook the importance of undergarments when it comes to cooling clothing, but don’t make that mistake! Wherewithal is made from 57 percent polyamide and 43 percent lycra, a blend that helps beat the summer heat due to its high elasticity and water-resistant synthetic fibers. And thanks to the Raschel Mesh Fabrication — which refers to the process to form holes between the yarns in the material — Wherewithal products are incredibly lightweight, and have a noticeable ability to wick moisture. The bonded edges mean no visible panty lines and the widened and darkened gusset provides a comfortable fit with stain protection.

Price at time of publish: $26

Best Hat

Under Armour Iso-chill Breathe Adjustable Cap

Under Armour Iso-Chill Breathe Adjustable Cap

Under Armour

Why We Love It: The ventilation holes are great for keeping you cool.

What to Consider: There are limited color options. 

Keep the sun off your face and reduce the temperature of your noggin with Under Armour’s Iso-chill Breathe Adjustable Hat. The laser perforations create strategically placed ventilation points around your head for maximum breathability, while the Iso-chill sweatband (which feels cool to the touch) helps disperse your excess body heat. Women with long hair will appreciate the extra-large ponytail opening in the back, which also features an adjustable closure. Don’t worry about a few splashes of water, as the water-repellent treatment lets any droplets roll right off the fabric.

Price at time of publish: $28

Best Pajamas

Cariloha Women’s Bamboo Sleep Shirt

Cariloha Women’s Bamboo Sleep Shirt


Why We Love It: Made with sustainable viscose from bamboo, these jammies are temperature-regulating and odor-resistant. 

What to Consider: We wish it came in more neutral color options to choose from.

Cariloha apparel is made of sustainable viscose from bamboo, which is a lightweight and breathable fabric with natural moisture-wicking, odor-resistant, and temperature-regulating qualities — read: this helps clothes stay fresher for longer while traveling, so you can pack less and do fewer loads of laundry. As a carbon-neutral product, this sleep shirt simultaneously helps keep you cool while you sleep and fights global warming. The Fronds Print truly invokes the island spirit the brand is known for, but there are two more subtle patterns to choose from if you desire a more muted bedtime look as well.

Price at time of publish: $49

Tips for Buying Cooling Clothing

Consider the material 

Your goal is to find fabrics that help draw moisture away from your skin, rather than trapping it against your skin. Look for natural materials, such as bamboo, cotton, linen, and some synthetic blends (like rayon) to deliver the air circulation and moisture-wicking properties that’ll help keep you cool and comfortable. 

Look for UPF protection

UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, measures the amount of UV radiation blocked by a fabric — in other words, it indicates how effectively a fabric can shield your skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays (similar to sunscreen). According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a garment with a UPF rating of 30-49 offers “very good” protection and 50+ rates as “excellent.” 

Avoid dark colors and heavy fabrics

Dark colors absorb sunlight and heat more intensely than lighter colors, whereas lighter colors reflect more sunlight and can help keep you cooler. Heavy fabrics can trap heat and restrict airflow, making you feel suffocated or uncomfortable.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the best fabric for extreme heat?

    When the weather starts to heat up, it’s important to choose fabrics that are breathable, lightweight, and have moisture-wicking properties — anything else will only trap the heat and make you sweat. Bamboo is an excellent choice because of its ability to help regulate your body temperature and it’s also a highly sustainable resource. Rayon is a synthetic fabric that also contains desirable features that’ll keep you cool and dry. Polyester and nylon can do this as well, but these materials aren’t quite as breathable. Finally, linen can be a great choice for maximum airflow and it dries quickly, but it may get too wrinkly for travel.   

  • Is tight- or loose-fitting clothing better for warm weather?

    Loose-fitting clothing is your best bet for several reasons. First, the extra space allows for the air to circulate around your body, which helps cool you down. Second, it allows heat to dissipate more effectively, which means your sweat will evaporate quicker. And finally, loose clothing should just feel more comfortable, allowing natural movements and fewer restrictions. 

Why Trust Travel + Leisure

Jill Schildhouse is a Phoenix-based travel writer who is constantly searching for fabrics that will help keep her cool when temperatures in her hometown soar into the triple digits (and stay there for months on end). Moisture-wicking materials are her go-to choice for traveling as well, as she often spends time in the sweat-inducing climates of Hawaii, Mexico, and the Caribbean, where the oppressive humidity always seems to shock her desert-dwelling soul. 

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