Why I’m Dressing Like a Trad Wife This Summer

Action movies are back in theaters, Charli XCX is about to release a new album, and the air smells vaguely of chlorine and grilled hot dogs. It’s official: summer is upon us. For many, rising temps calls for stripping down to tiny crop tops and mini skirts. But if running your errands in an itty-bitty tank and daisy dukes makes you feel as exposed as Julia Fox on a pap walk, you’re not alone. Because while showing skin is a hallmark of the season that all are free to enjoy, I personally will be embracing a different look this summer. Call it Trad Wife (without the antiquated gender roles and needlessly intricate recipes), Ladies Who Lunch, or whatever else you desire. Come June 1, I’m dressing like it’s the 1950s.

I personally have never been one to show a lot of skin. I’m not quick to reveal my midriff, I like pieces that cover my arms, and I prefer a midi skirt to the likely more popular mini. It’s not an insecurity thing (though my therapist might say otherwise)—I have no problem showing off my silhouette, I just prefer to do so whilst completely covered in fabric. And I don’t look down upon those who flaunt their bods, either. I appreciate it with the knowledge that it’s simply not for me.

Of course, my preference is much easier to embrace during cooler months, when I go weeks without seeing my neck from underneath my sweaters. In the summer, however, I’m often torn, staring at the denim shorts in my closet, knowing I don’t want to wear them, but unsure what alternative could provide the same summery ease without showing off quite so much thigh.

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That’s why, this year, I’m looking backward for my summer wardrobe inspiration—not exactly a radical idea, considering fashion is constantly referencing its past (especially now, when about 50 percent of red carpets are made up of vintage gowns or reinterpretations). I’ve always been enamored with the classic Dior “New Look” silhouette, a pinched waist and full skirt. When I went wedding dress shopping earlier this year, I sounded like a broken record talking to the sales associates: “I want a vintage look, very Audrey Hepburn, very Dior.” Maybe I repeated it so many times that the mantra was lodged in my brain. Likely, season two of Feud and my recent rewatch of Mad Men also helped solidify the image. Whatever the reason, I now can’t stop dressing like I’m expected for lunch at La Côte Basque. Tight little cardigans and full, ankle-length skirts. Ballet flats, Mary Janes, pointed-toe mules. Top-handle bags that can fit only a cigarette case. You get the picture.

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During wintertime, darker colors and a good, sturdy trench made the look more cold weather-appropriate. A few chunkier, jacket-adjacent cardigans and trousers helped me achieve the look of Marc Jacobs’s signature Instagram selfie (sans Balenciaga Rodeo Bag) albeit with a bit more shape. Now that it’s getting warmer, I’m reaching for cotton skirts in white, black, and maybe even a light color if I’m feeling risky. I’ll put a tank top underneath the cardigan in case the sun proves too strong (though I’ll be reluctant to reveal it unless totally necessary) and thigh-skimming tailored shorts will also be thrown in the mix on extra-hot days. I’ll probably switch out my flats for a simple sandal on occasion, and top things off with a sun-blocking hat for good measure.

For years, I struggled to find a way to dress for warm weather while remaining authentic to myself and my preferences. Funny that I’ve found solace (freedom, even—although that does sound dramatic, considering we’re talking about clothes here) in the past, a time when women were much more restricted in their wardrobes, among other things. But I’ll save the discussion of why I yearn for the aesthetics of a conservative age for my therapist—when I saunter up to her office in a fabulous ’50s-redux look.

What you need to dress like a “Lady Who Lunches” this summer:

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