Dressing for the tropics

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Because “sweater weather” isn’t even that cold
International, mostly western, brands release their collections seasonally. They take note of the predicted weather patterns, such as the dip and rise of temperatures, when coming up with garments. Spring, summer, fall and winter: these are the seasons that greatly influence the possible length, thickness and even the material of a piece. Sweaters, scarves, coats, sundresses, bikinis, and other clothing pieces are available to the public in consideration of the season in which said pieces will be released.

However, incorporating these seasonal fashion statements into ensembles is not applicable to every part of the world.Not all countries have four seasons that would be conducive to the use of heavy pieces of clothing in an everyday look.

Tropical countries, like the Philippines, only have two seasons: the sunny and the rainy. But climate change has taken its toll. And these two seasons could hardly be told apart as the bouts of rain pour during the warm season and the sweltering heat surrounds the cold season blur the lines between them.

Sweaters provide comfort, warmth and a chic style during the cold season but are impractical to wear in tropical countries where the weather is warm all year long.

In other words, the heat is no longer “seasonal” in the country as it stays all year long.


Addressing this, local designers and brands have taken steps by manufacturing tropic-friendly items. But when international brands release new collections, it’s common to feel that you’re left out if you don’t get your hands on those chic sweaters!

Unfortunately, moments of “sweater weather” in the Philippines are few and far between, and those cute sweaters only add to the sweat-inducing heat that we are all too familiar with.

Which goes to say that, in this country, the trend of layering clothes on top of another is probably not the best idea. (Some of us can do it, but certainly not everyone!)

Let’s be honest, a lot of people have experienced the struggle: donning an outfit that we hope we’ll rock throughout the day, only to be ruined by sweat, sweat and more sweat when we take that first step outside.

Are we just supposed to wear short and skimpy clothing then to make the heat bearable?

The unpredictability of the weather sends us into confusion about how can we both survive and seize the day, fashionably speaking. Thankfully, surviving and staying stylish under the rays of the tropical sun isn’ttotally impossible – if we dress smartly and appropriately.

So how can style and comfort be reconciled under the blazing heat?

In an article that came out in whowhatwear.com, Bobby Schuessler, an editorial director from New York City, incorporates style tips from celebrity stylists Jen Rade and Alex Sweterlitsch.

While black is an essential color to own, fashion-forward denizens in the Philippines opt for light-colored garments because “according to science, they reflect sunlight more effectively than dark-colored garments.”

“Think like the Navy and invest in some ‘summer whites’,” Rade said.

This has been a usual to-do when it comes to dressing in tropical countries, which is anchored on the theory that deals with light and temperature – thermodynamics.

Rade added wearing printed pieces helps in hiding those sweat marks.

In addition, Rade also divulged crucial information that dresses and tops with cutouts are not only amusing to wear and look at, but they also provide built-in ventilation for the body as well.

Aside from braving the heat in light-colored clothes, the material used is also a factor to be considered in going under the sun. The piece should be made from a material that is both breathable and lightweight, like cotton. It is extremely comfortable and allows the body to breathe with ease. The same can be said for other natural fibers like linen and wool.

Keep in mind that the fabric has to be both breathable and lightweight to ensure comfort. Not all materials possess both qualities. For example, a plastic bag is lightweight but absorbs sweat and heat rather than dispels it.

Avoid synthetic fibers as they tend to be water-repellant and also cling to the skin; this along with sweat could result in discomfort or skin irritation. Silk is also a bad idea since the material retains heat and exposing to strong sunlight and perspiration could also ruin its quality.

Furthermore, Sweterlitsch also considers the cut or shape of the donned piece in the contending the weather.

The celebrity designer and editorial fashion stylist suggests sticking to “shapes that fall away from the body.” The less contact between the fabric and skin, the cooler the feeling.

When it comes to jeans, instead of going for tight ones, opt for boyfriend jeans or wide-leg to keep those legs cool.

But an outfit doesn’t merely consist of the clothes we wear. There’s also the case of shoes and accessories to boost the ensemble’s style meter.

Choosing your footwear is also crucial not just for your whole ensemble but also in keeping your body cool while you dominate the runway – which is the world. Sweterlitsch advises going for sandals or open-toed shoes because heat tends to escape from our feet as well as our head. But if you have to don closed-toe shoes, go for the canvas ones.

As for accessories, choose to go light and practical. You can sport sunhats or shades to help shield you from those harmful UV rays. In terms of jewelry, be cautious with what you wear because some can be easily damaged by perspiration and heat. Just like a top or dress, go for something lightweight and durable. Chains are okay especially if they are thin, but make sure it won’t irritate your skin once it starts sweating out.

If you’re running out of inspiration for your style, you can always check out Instagram to see the style profile of some Philippine-based stylists or bloggers to get your imagination and creativity running.

Some of my personal favorites are Camille Co (@itscamilleco) and LaureenUy (@laureenmuy). These lovely ladies know how to mix and match pieces to adhere to their style without sacrificing their comfort as well.

Camille Co, a fashion designer and blogger, is a total head-turner with her bold and colorful style that sports vibrant-colored or billowy pieces that complements her body shape well as well as her bright lilac hair.

Another of my favorite fashion icons is LaureenUy, a blogger and the sister of Filipina fashion stylist, Liz Uy. Laureen leaves an impression on the onlookers with her accessories and style that mixes in unique pieces that she wears creatively.

So, forget the basic flip-flops and shorts outfit when the sun decides to shine. With these tips in your arsenal, and the right pieces in your closet, you’re ready to face the tropical climate and turn the sun’s rays into a spotlight that illuminates your style as you sashay through the streets.

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