It’s still summer here, but not really. The air changed, gradually, over the past few weeks. The atmosphere no longer presses the city into the mud flats it sprang from, sweat doesn’t stick to the skin mixed with dust under a still, wet heat which seldom stirs. Though the sun still shines brightly, it doesn’t bear down mercilessly from 8 in the morning until 6 in the evening. At night soft, damp, cool air swirls through our opened windows.
Past summers in this climate meant burned, roughened skin, blocked pores, insomnia, depression and tension headaches for me, coupled with a general feeling of “This ain’t right” around hot Christmas. I find it physically difficult to reconcile my body to this climate though I hail from the southern United States.
In previous years, my doctor prescribed a therapist for the depression and codeine for my headaches. My head pounded from the moment I woke up until I could find a way to sleep, even if I took an aspirin. The drugs created a vast distance between me and reality, and also blocked my digestion which was uncomfortable. Last winter, I decided to try a new approach to summer.
I planned ahead how best to approach the endless summer though dress and grooming. Here’s the list I wrote up last winter, and how it worked out for me:
Skin- I use an oats and yogurt mixture as a mask on my face nearly every morning. I apply after breakfast, do some chores, then shower. It’s effective; when I miss a few days my skin goes just as crazy as it has in past summers.
- Big Hats, big beautiful hats– This tactic worked well, though I never wore sun hats much before. I used a 1925 reproduction pattern for both hats. The one on the left was made of hemp canvas. The wide brim and silk band worked for me; unfortunately the brim interfacing gave out after two washes and the hat was always a touch too small. The hat on the right comes from the same pattern, made of organic cotton and the crown fits better. Unfortunately, the front brim is too skimpy. I might use the crown from one and the brim from the other, or re-draw a wider brim on the second. Either way, I feel naked if I go out without a hat now.
- Breezy coverage. Flowing sleeves, wide leg pants, swirly skirts- After discovering the wonders of a sun jacket, I focused more on sleeveless tops which I comfortably wore beneath my jacket. The beach pajamas worked better in theory than practice, though I have worn them this summer. I put in a side zip, they’re inconvenient to wriggle off on a sweaty day. I plan to make separate bottoms and a top from them. Jean Ross pants suited me well through scorching hot days- covered legs but still cool. The Wholesome Dress looks like summertime, it’s very cool to wear.
- More and more sunscreen– I wore sunscreen every single day and must say I’m not fond of it- thick and greasy. The stuff I used for my face made me feel like an oil slick, so I was happy to use very little and wear a hat. Besides, it has to be re-applied with continuous sun exposure. I found I was more comfortable in long, wide pants and my jacket than in shorts, coated with sunscreen. Thumbs down to sunscreen from me.
- Use of fibres that won’t stink when I glisten. I want to experiment more with wearing bamboo, lightweight merino jersey, hemp and linen for summer wear- While I didn’t wear merino this summer, I had success wearing linen, hemp, bamboo and cotton. These natural fibers work well in this climate to keep me cool. I made an important personal style discovery this summer- I prefer wearing woven blouses to knit tops.
- Light colors / very bright colors that won’t appear washed out in the sunlight- While this may be a summer no-brainer for some, I tended to wear black, white, red and only occasionally blue. Last year I made an effort to introduce more color into my life, especially for summer. I think wearing bright, pretty colors can influence mood.
- Parasol, possibly. Some Asian ladies here carry around umbrellas, but I would want an actual parasol: I didn’t try this, mostly because I discovered sun jackets and hats. Maybe next year.
- Perscription sunglasses. Or perhaps I should start wearing contact lenses more: Again, another no-brainer but since I started wearing contacts, sunglasses and hats, my summer insomnia and tension headaches nearly disappeared. I find I get headaches if I go out for extended periods of time without covering up, or if I forget to drink enough water.
On the whole, I found a few “new” ways to dress for a long, hot, damp, bright summer. I discovered the role whimsy can play in lifting my spirits a little, especially around Christmas:
Hats and shades and light unlined jackets changed my approach to summer. My sun jacket saw almost continual use, as did my three rotating sun-hats. Jean Ross pants were a great favorite, along with crisp little cotton blouses and easy-to-wear dresses. In fact, I’m a little sad about washing them and packing them away for a few months.
This summer I had a few bouts of insomnia which responded to low dose melatonin tablets. I had a little depression around the holidays which is to be expected. My skin is clear, I have a normal appetite and don’t take drugs to get through every day. On the whole, it’s been much easier to get by this summer than previous ones. Perhaps it’s the sun blockage; perhaps it’s easier to cope because I’m finding my own ways to adapt. I’m not sure, but I have an idea it’s a little of both. It’s exciting to deal with my summer blues through behavior modification without turning to opiates.