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Style / You glow, girl

Diane Von Furstenberg summer dressing

Photos provided by vendors


August is underrated. Like a lo-cal Italian salad dressing, we notice it, but our focus never lingers. I suspect August suffers the reputation of a transitional month, a span of four weeks that exists just to service change as we harvest corn and purchase pencil cases. As it is with any period of gap bridging, our mental energy is spent focusing on what has been and what is to come. And, as a result, August suffers an identity crisis. It is not a statement month, a month like December that says “I’m here!” No, in fact, in Greek, the word August is loosely translated into “My goodness, wherever did July go?” But maybe it is time for us to put August in its own spotlight, and stop treating it like the end of summer. August is not the end of summer, or pre-September, either. August is full-on summer, the hottest time of year that defies every Buffalo snow joke told by those nonnatives familiar with only two seasons: air conditioning and walking to the car. Around here, August is fairs and festivals and regattas and quarry jumping. It is bar and backyard patio time. Did I mention the heat? Yes, and although July may boast, on average, a higher point or two in degrees, our heat in August is more proximal. August introduces a humidity that hugs us. It encourages haircuts and brings condensation to our skin, like the outside of a Cuban highball or glass of iced tea. I call this the Lake Effect Glow.


I am probably the worst offender. Every year I give up by week two. Not anymore. This year, I am giving August the thirty-one days ordained by the calendar gods. From now on, July is now only a distant memory of lawn edging and dandelion patrol. I’ll deal with September and office attire only at the first glimpse of a yellow bus. This is the day to turn to my closet and dressing table, take the bath towels and sweat pants off my full length mirror, and shoot for a high summer attitude make-over with some of our “best of” style help. I’m going to reach for looks that are artistic, clever, impressive, you know—august.


Misa Colombian bucket bag with Snapchat spectacles


Temple St. Clair pendant

 Alexis Bittar choker


Which brings us to the perm. It’s back, but you may not recognize it. (It is not for me. My hair on a perm looks like a genetic mishap, a CRSPR mutation with no medicinal benefit.) But gosh, this time I think they have actually perfected the loose wavy locks look for a sunset beach walk, as well as the super spiral curly perm on a brond (brown + blond) colored ‘do. How amazing would it be to sit at a café with prepermed indigo extensions woven into long black or brunette hair, or to sport a long or short afro corkscrew that ombres down into gold or silver. Looks like these have the power of a VIP badge, and for that reason, August should be New Hairdo Month, with only one rule about perms that carries over from the eighties: do not try this at home.


The perm is back, and it’s been perfected.


Speaking of new kinks, reconsider reaching for the Little Black Dress, just in August, just once. Or at least think of the “little” part of the LBD as less “little,” and the “black” something more like a print. Why not? Stand out from the crowd. Be bold. August is not a shy month. Nature knows this. A zinnia is not a wallflower. Poppies pop, and dahlias look as regal as the flower’s name intones. Sunsets are fiery. Thunderclouds form gangs. August takes charge, as does Diane von Furstenberg, who has no problem mixing blue tablecloth checks with savory yellow and pink Japanese florals, and making it work. Misa offers up an orange that somehow manages to match the perfect purple. And Temple St. Clair dangles sapphire blue and a tsavorite green, a hue I never even knew existed. Even if colors like these are too intense to distract the sun from its business of turning up our internal thermostats, they may distract our focus enough to forget about wondering what heat index means.


It is not just color options that, if put to fabric, can help beat the heat. Sure, the LBD is alluring and never out of style, but, in August, a body needs air. Circulation matters. There should be two points of contact between the body and the piece, at most. The top of the shoulders and maybe the waist, or a hipbone and something else, or a halter top tie that just flows. And flow does not just help the air wick us back to below-fever-type temps. Flow attracts attention. Again, back to nature. The blue of the thin summer sage may seem faint, but it still draws my eye. I always notice its gentle sway. The same happens with wrap dresses and any silhouette cut that is loose enough for physics, as in, for every action there is a reaction—which is a slightly different approach to dressing then say with pleather. August gives us the one best chance to stay sexy simply by looking happy and cool and in the moment, in the moment as a participant, I think the mindfulness lessons suggest.


Clara Sunwoo open air concepts (first two), long dresses by Cupcakes and Cashmere


As long as we are breaking barriers, save the (Grace) Kelly bag love affair for another month. In fact, go one step further, one giant step in the opposite direction of an It bag: the fanny pack. The FP is on the designer’s must have lists this year, and no one is even trying to disguise it by calling it something else, like a “money belt” or a “virtual reality headset case.” I have a hard time understanding why this muffin top add-on is an option. So, I am left to speculate that women are jumping on the FP bandwagon because we are getting used to using our arms for like, other stuff, and it is so much easier to update the old microfiber fanny pack in leather and tassels than it is to put functional pockets into what human women wear. I am not really sure I can wear a fanny pack, though. This may be the first time in my fashion life that, August mentality or not, I will have no choice but to say, “You first.”            


Catherine Berlin is Spree’s longtime style essayist.


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