Hot weather & sweaters.
You might think they don't go together……..however….
It is possible to wear a sweater when the weather is warm.
Well let me start with the question a reader from North Queensland Australia sent me.
I like your video on jeans and sweaters. However it is too warm in Queensland for sweaters. How can I still sport a sweater in warm weather?
North Queensland is tropical and hot.
Even the winters are mild with the average temperature being 17 C (62.6 F for my North American readers)
In the summer – it gets routinely over 30 C (90+ F)
So how do you wear a sweater in hot weather?
How to Look Cool in Hot Temperatures
How do you buy a hot weather sweater? A hot weather fabric is simply a fabric that's made from a lighter material and has a wider weave.
So your first clue is simply to look at what the garment is made from. You're looking for material that's not made from anything that insulates well like wool or cashmere.
That being said you can get some very lightweight wool or cashmere items, or pieces that are made from fabric blends that incorporate linen or cotton.
The ideal is to go with something made entirely from linen or cotton which are both materials that are good at dissipating heat. That's just a fancy way of saying these materials have a wide weave that allows heat to be released from your body instead of being caught between your skin and your clothing.
The reason this works brings us back to the wider weave I mentioned earlier. If you look closely at linen and cotton you can actually see the spaces between the threads which is what allows the heat from your body to escape through the material.
First – Purchase A Sweater Made From The Right Materials
Consider buying a sweater made with light fibers. Avoid buying heavy weight 100% wool or cashmere sweater.
Light-weight blends with linen or cotton are lighter, cooler and more breathable.
You may not get the same texture as a Merino wool sweater but a cotton/linen blend sweater will help you keep your cool.
An Alpaca worsted cotton blended with silk produces a soft fabric that drapes well on your body and has a slight sheen that creates a cool summer look.
If you hold the sweater up to light – you should be able to see through the weaves.
When combined with other layers, a thin light-weight sweater can be worn across a range of temperatures.
Second – Wear Your Sweater At The Right Time
Winters are short and brief in some parts of Australia. Be ready for those few months of slight chill with the sweater combinations. In some parts of North America – the weather leans towards a tropical average for a major part of the year.
Whether you’re visiting a tropical island or trying to be relevant to the season – it helps to pay attention to the following details.
- A sleeveless sweater made in a light fabric with a see-through weave will be cool to touch and adds an extra dimension to your outfit. It is more appropriate for summer weather.
- A cardigan with an open front is not suitable for cold winters – but works perfectly in adding movement to your silhouette while the open front maintains circulation of air to your body.
- Stick to lighter colors in the summer. Sweaters in lighter colors and neutrals shades look and feel cooler. Darker colors attract and trap the sun’s rays while lighter colors are better at deflecting the heat.
In winter – be ready with your favorite sweaters. The weather is cooler in the evenings and early mornings between June and August in Australia. Have your winter sweaters ready for this period.
Third – Incorporate Travel Sweaters When Going To Cooler Climates
When you travel – it is easier to pack a sweater than a jacket.
A sweater is light and easy to fold. You will be ready for long waits in air-conditioned airports and sudden drops in temperature in new places with a sweater hanging over your shoulders.
The padding from the soft knit material will add protection to the other items in your travel bag.
Sweaters are easy to roll up and fit in your day bag – making it easy to access when you need it.
If you travel down the coast from Northern Queensland – the weather starts to get cooler. Melbourne has relatively cold winters. I remember wearing multiple layers on a cold night in Sydney and still feeling the chill.
You may find yourself traveling to other countries where the weather is not so mild. A quick trip to chilly Vancouver, Canada will have you running to the stores for warm woolens.
A lightweight sweater is a great option for layering, both in summer and winter.
Made from the downy belly hairs of the Kashmir goat, cashmere is a lightweight and luxuriously soft material.
Because it provides insulating warmth with relatively low bulk, cashmere is usually used to make thin knit sweaters. These have a uniform consistency, and layer easily with other items. It's not impossible to find a bulkier sweater like a cable-knit made from cashmere, but it is unusual.
For maximum versatility (cashmere is expensive, and you want to get the most bang for your buck), a simple, smooth sweater in a plain, dark color is always a good investment.
Cry once about the price, then wear it every chance you get and feel like a million dollars. If you take care of your cashmere sweater, you should get 200+ wears out of it over 10 years.
My advice when purchasing a cashmere sweater is to ensure that:
it fits perfectly
you have occasion to wear it at least four times a year
it is of a simple, timeless, dark color and
you buy it from a reputable merchant (counterfeit sweaters are a poor investment)
Certain geographic areas have their own famous styles of wool — Donegal wool, for example, has little tufts of colored fiber scattered throughout the weave, created by letting small bunches of differently-colored yarns float in the air and settle on the primary threads during weaving.
Plain sheep's wool is one of the most common materials for sweaters. It can vary widely in quality depending on the breed of sheep and the treatment of the cloth.
Soft, thick wools are usually used to make cable-knit sweaters or other bulky styles.
These provide excellent warmth, and make a timeless top layer, but they don't layer as neatly as lighter knits.
You've got a lot of variety and versatility here.
Wool's a good option, and it's sturdy enough to last for years — but it's also more susceptible to damage from heat or improper drying than other materials, so you'll need to take good care of it, and be careful how you wash it.
When most people think of sweaters, they think wool, but cotton is nearly as common.
Cotton is cheaper, lighter, and easier to clean than wool, making it a popular and practical option, especially in the warmer months at the beginning and end of sweater season.
Cotton can be used to make just about any style of sweater. Thin, lightweight knits (think like T-shirt fabric, but a little heavier and bulkier) make good layering pieces, while bulkier cable knits work well as top layers.
Sweaters made from cotton fabric (all other factors being equal) are going to be cooler than either their wool or cashmere brethren as their cellulose foundation sheds heat faster.
This isn't a bad thing – sometimes you want a cooler sweater and cotton sweaters can be worn directly on the skin with no irritation. Also, the use of cotton has helped to drive down sweater costs.
Synthetic Fabric Sweaters
In line with cotton, the big advantage of synthetic fabrics is that they have driven down the cost of these garments. Depending on the type of fabric being used, a synthetic fabric sweater can mimic the properties of wool or cotton, oftentimes without the problems of having to take special care of the garment when it comes to washing and handling.
Be careful, though, when purchasing a synthetic fabric sweater – it will, in most cases, be of a lower quality than its wool/cashmere fiber counterpart.
Consider the sweater weave
Sweater weave affects the heat retaining properties, fit, and level of formality of a sweater. Typically heavy rib patterns will make a sweater thicker, increasing its ability to keep you warm and enabling a former fit. Plain woven sweaters are going to be less elastic, slightly cooler, but the more delicate look gives them a more professional appearance.
Consider heavy weave sweaters a good choice for countries like Scotland or Norway where it is cold in the spring. You could wear the sweater without a jacket if it is thick enough.
For warmer places – a lightweight option is great and versatile and you can dress it up by adding a sport jacket on top.
A light-weight cashmere sweater is more interchangeable and will be more useful than a heavy-weight wool sweater.
For more tips on buying clothes that will give you flexibility and options – read this article on creating an interchangeable wardrobe.
Don’t let the hot weather stop you from rocking sweaters. Pick the right fabrics in light colors and cuts. Make the most of layering even in summer weather.