Heading to New York City this summer and wondering what to wear? Yeah — we get this question (or questions about various cities like this) all the time. And frankly, whether you’re headed to any big city on the East Coast (NYC, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C.) or even across the pond (Paris, perhaps?), you’re likely going to be dealing with the same kinds of issues: hot city sidewalks radiating heat and even-hotter subway cars.
While I’ve had a cold-weather uniform at the ready for years now, it’s taken me a bit of time to navigate through all of the, uh, unique challenges that summer travel has to offer. Not only do you have to contend with said heat (and again, there’s nothing hotter than some of NYC’s subway platforms), but I’ve noticed that cockroaches tend to come out in full force in the summer months, as does dirt, which has made sandal wearing…not ideal.
And yup, I learned that the hard way.
This post has been updated for 2023 with some fresh styles.
Traveling To NYC? My Summer Outfit Formula Is A Game-Changer
OK. So, given the long list of things to consider — high heat, intense sun, walkable footwear, cockroaches, dirtier-than-usual subways — my go-to formula for traveling to NYC in the summer centers around one key piece: a really special dress in a natural, lightweight fabric (cotton poplin or linen is best) in a dark color, with interesting design details. This type of dress is durable and hides all manner of dirt, yet it’s breezy and can still be wildly exciting to wear.
And with the amount of walking/dirt/cockroaches in New York City (or similar cities)…I’m always going to recommend sneakers over sandals.
Bottom line? If you’re exploring the big city, why not wear something practical and fabulous? Really, I always do want both.
Hero Piece: A Breezy Black Midi Dress — Yes, Even In Summer
A black (or other dark-colored) dress can be hotter in the sun, but the advantage is that it also hides dirt (or spilled iced coffee) better too. So, I can easily ride the train, sit on park benches, go in & out of subways, eat at a food cart…and still look put-together enough for the MOMA or a chic, little NYC rooftop.
The key is finding a dress that’s also a bit of a statement piece (midi length or longer), with glamorous design details (off-the-shoulder, cutouts) and an overall breezy silhouette to contend with the heat (bonus points for a leg slit).
Here are a few dresses that caught my eye, perfect for a day of exploring NYC in the summer. These dresses are all made from cotton poplin and can be found at every price point (there’s everything from Old Navy to A.L.C. below).
48 Hours In NYC: Putting The Dress To The Test
A few weeks ago, Mike had a work event in New York, so we took the train up to the city. I packed only my black Staud dress and sneakers (as well as my event outfit) for this quick trip. It was one of those 90-degree weekends, and this outfit turned out to be pretty darn perfect. I was as cool and comfortable as could reasonably be expected, and I appreciated that this dress was decidedly NOT precious…yet still felt glamorous and pretty.
We stayed at the Ink48 Hotel, which has one of the most amazing rooftop bars. Highly recommend. A little shoutout to Sullivan St. Bakery too. I planned on splitting a few things with Mike and then…ate them myself. So.
And if you haven’t yet seen the new Penn Station…WOW. Thanks to COVID, we hadn’t been to NY in quite some time, so stepping out into the gorgeously renovated train station felt a little like stepping into Oz.
I’d love to know if you guys have a foolproof outfit formula for summer travels, especially with city destinations in mind. If so, please share!
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