How To Build a Warm Weather Wardrobe on a Budget

A warm weather wardrobe can be a tricky thing to build. You want to be comfortable and look good, even when it gets hot. This requires good fabrics that can both breathe and drape, and accessories or layers for complexity. Here's some guidance about how to build a warm weather wardrobe on a budget.

How To Build a Warm Weather Wardrobe on a Budget

People who like clothes tend to prefer the colder months. Fall and winter give people a chance to wear more layers made of heavier fabrics that drape in certain ways. And all of that is more difficult when it gets hot.

Difficult, but doable. There are spring- and summer-weight materials that drape beautifully. There are layers and accessories that can give your outfit the complexity of a layered winter look. And a lot of the key pieces can be had for very good prices.

I'm going to help you navigate the season with both general advice and specific recommendations. I'll break my advice down into sections:

Remember: never buy clothing you don't love, unless you think you can use it to explore a new style. The best way to save money is not to buy something cheap, but to not buy anything at all. Explore your personal style, learn, grow, and if any of the recommendations here don't resonate strongly with you, ignore them.

This article contains affiliate links. I still stand by every recommendation I make. Moreover, the intent is not so much to tell you what to buy, as to help you start exploring these warm-weather options.

General Tips for Thrifting Online

You're probably already playing with eBay, Poshmark, or a similar service, but it can often be hard to find exactly what you want. There's a huge number of filters, and not all sellers use them properly. You simultaneously want to find the specific thing you want and keep an open mind.

The easiest way to do this is by finding good sellers—I like Luxeswap, among others—but you won't find real hidden gems by following popular sellers.

One approach is to use, a meta-search-engine that helps you search ebay, poshmark, etsy, and several other platforms at the same time. You can't really play with filters, but you can tweak your search terms and see what you can find.

On eBay, specifically, you have to play a game with filters: you have to check enough boxes to narrow down your search results, but also try to skip some check boxes in the hopes of finding hidden gems. Sizes might be mislabeled (checking the "short" box when you look for a suit eliminates a lot of short sizes, but there is at least one massive sellers who mark all of their suits as short regardless of actual length, and it's incredibly frustrating). You can check boxes to only show items in new condition, but you'll see much less, and it'll be more expensive.

You can also use ebay advanced search or special syntax to refine your search. Some people refer to this as "boolean search," which... doesn't sound right to my inner computer scientist, but basically, in place of an "or" operator, you can use parentheses: ("search term 1", term2, term3, "term 4"). This might be useful if you want to filter for a list of brands (but you're afraid the sellers might list them incorrectly), or for a few different variants of the same word.

You can link to an eBay search, and I will include useful search links below. As a starting point, Put This On includes its standard, broad searches for high-quality clothing in every ebay roundup. You can modify these by, for example, adding sizing filters, adding or removing brands you don't want to see, or adding required search terms (outside of the parentheses). And you can save your favorite searches—this turns email alerts on by default, but you can disable those if you prefer.

Sorting matters. If your search is narrow, the default sort is kind of pointless. Sort by lowest price is obviously useful for a narrow search, but for hidden gems, sort by newly listed—you'll sometimes find things the other vultures haven't found yet.

And as a last note: always check measurements. Always.


I'm generally a fan of relaxed fit pants. I think they're even better in the summer, when the extra room helps air circulate all over your legs and cool you down. So most of these pants are not slim. Some of these tips may also be useful for finding slim silhouettes, but I'd encourage you to consider trying something a little different for the summer.

Polo Ralph Lauren Andrews and Hammonds

Your bread and butter here is Ralph Lauren. Vintage Polo Ralph Lauren pants in the legendary Andrew and Hammond cuts can be had for as little as $20. They're plentiful in a wide variety of sizes and colors. They come in Chino, linen blends (generally linen-silk), and corduroy (for the fall). They are easy to care for and they've got a good straight leg silhouette. I particularly love my linen for the way it not only flows but bounces off my shoes as I walk.

The problem finding them is that the words "Andrew" and "Hammond" don't appear in most item names or descriptions. My personal approach is to search for the material only, put a range of sizes into the filters, filter down to Polo Ralph Lauren ("Ralph Lauren Blue Label" is also Polo, and sometimes I include include Purple Label and Double RL while I'm at it), and just sift through. The Andrew is more common and has double forward pleats; the Hammond has double reverse pleats. There are some other cuts worth looking at, but you'll generally want to stay in the vintage space here. If you don't filter by brand, you'll see a lot more options, and many of them will be from Lauren Ralph Lauren, which I never want to see.

Here's my eBay search for linen pants. Feel free to modify for chinos, select the sizes you want to select, add or remove brands (like "Ralph Lauren" generally, although I exclude that because it's mostly Lauren Ralph Lauren, you know how patient you are).


Current Levis are fine, but I'd recommend shopping for them in person, since their sizing is inconsistent (and they charge shipping). You also get a better sense of fabric in person, of course, which is useful if you're looking for something on the lighter side.

Certain vintage cuts of Levis are special, though. This Numerology Guide is useful, but doesn't capture everything. Vintage 501s are special, but their silhouette changed throughout history, so searching for them is tricky. Likewise, vintage 517s used to have a more dramatic flare, which is cool and unique and good. I have some old 514s (straight fit) that I like, but some current pairs look slimmer. You'll want to train your eye to spot the difference, check measurements carefully (including leg opening), and generally experiment to find the cut you want.

Finally, Levi's Silver Tabs are having a moment right now, partly due to their more relaxed cut, so check those out.

Giant Fit Chinos

At the time of this writing, J. Crew Giant Fit Chinos are 40% off. These sales are relatively rare, but really good. They're really nice chinos, and $60 really is a good price for them. They're nicer in my experience than other J. Crew Chinos, and they just have a great shape to them.

Dickies Loose Fit

Caveat before I get into this: a lot of these pants are poly-blends. But this is a budget guide. So here they are: Dickie's is making unusually good pants for cheap. Enjoy.


Patagonia Baggies

This is the pair. Other brands are vying for the title, but the five-inch Patagonia Baggies retain their throne for another year. They're swim shorts, and if you cut out the lining, they're also just kind of all-purpose nylon shorts. They are most known for gorpcore style, but they've transcended the aesthetic. Get a funky color, wear them with any random thing.


Guayaberas from Havana Shirt Co.

I found one of these in person, and I loved the fit and the linen-rayon blend fabric (it's soft and drapes nicely and washes easily) and the details. Then I looked them up on ebay, and they're dirt cheap. Go for it.

Bronson Aloha Shirts

Bronson uses good rayon to make good Hawaiian-style shirts in nice prints with fun colors, good collars, and a good silhouette, at a good price. I like mine. Their stock is low at the moment, but I've been assured that they'll restock by summer.

Bronson also makes good pants, mostly milsurp styles in mid-heavyweight cotton, but the pants section was long enough as is.

Abercrombie Linen

Abercrombie's linen is unusually good for the price they charge, especially on sale. I actually prefer it over J. Crew's Baird McNutt linen.

They also do linen-rayon blends, knit shirts, and a couple of other things well.



Hats can be an important way to deal with the sun. They can also make your head sweat. I think they're worth it, but my head is unusually susceptible to burning...

Conventional wisdom would be to get a baseball cap for your preferred team, or for your alma mater. These carry a bit of personal meaning and a little extra semiotic juice—they help carry your outfit beyond pure aesthetics and into the realm of literal self-expression.

Derek Guy offers a different perspective: that you should look for a kitschy hat. He shares some worthwhile inspo, but for those smart enough to avoid twitter: random brand logo baseball caps and bold-printed trucker caps and whatever other random thing clicks with you.

I also like a good bucket hat, since they cover more of your head, but I'm pickier about a good bucket hat, so if you're on a budget... good luck.

Tote Bags

They're dime a dozen, but as with hats, you should find one that's either kitschy or means something to you. Something from a museum, a local cafe, a trip you took. They're a good way to carry around your hat, your sunglasses, your pool or beach paraphenelia... especially when you don't have a jacket with a dozen extra pockets.


You might not care for ties, but two really quick recommendations; Brooks Brothers Makers and Armani. Be picky. Life is too short to wear a tie that you don't love.


Layering makes outfits better. It just does. But it gets more difficult as it gets hotter. How are you gonna do it?

Ribbed Tanks from Goodfellow

The easy way to layer in the summer is to go backwards. Instead of wearing something over your shirt, wear something under your shirt. The ribbed tank top has become a popular tool for these purposes. Wearing a shirt totally open over a ribbed tank is both a good look and extremely, extremely wearable even when it's hot out—close to wearing the ribbed tank alone.

Target's Goodfellow line actually checks all the boxes here.

Some of you might be skeptical of buying from Target, but... they're 100% cotton, they're soft, the cut works fine (length isn't really a concern, just pick the size that's not too tight or too loose). There are cooler options, sure, but this is a budget guide, and these really hit all the right notes.

You can wear your shirt partway open, totally open, or even go through the options below and add a third layer on top. Three-layered outfits are good, being able to do that in the summer would be very good.

Oh—and I think a good necklace can help complete this look. Find one that means something to you.

Some Light Jacket

How light is your lightest jacket right now? They get lighter. They get more breathable.

This jacket is all wool.


edit: this J. Crew jacket is $28 at the time of writing. It's cotton-linen with three patch pockets and a general workwear flavor almost like a lapelled chore coat.

My only tip for getting good tailoring cheap is to thrift it. Luxeswap and this modified version of the Put This On search (filter down as necessary) might be worthwhile. Don't be too much of a fit perfectionist while thrifting, but take the jacket to a tailor. You can just wear a good casual sport jacket open over various casual outfits, as though it were some other kind of jacket. I like that approach. Everything will breathe better when it's a little more open. But it will usually look better open if it happens to fit well closed.

More modified searches, for example:

Fabric considerations for summer tailoring:

  • Linen can be great, but it should be lightweight—some heavy linens are really better for spring or even fall. Most eBay sellers won't be able to give you a fabric weight, but you can just generally ask if it's very light or heavy. The same goes for wool-silk-linen blends, which might wrinkle less.
  • Seersucker might be better than linen. It's consistently super breathable and shouldn't be too hard to thrift. Its negative connotations are specific to blue-on-white stripes, but we're seeing more and more solid seersucker out there, so look for that.
  • A lot of lightweight or high twist wools can work. Simon Crompton goes over some high-twist bunches here, but good luck thrifting those.
  • Madras jacketing generally isn't for me, but it's another form of lightweight cotton you might enjoy in the summer. I like Madras shirts, but think they generally look better layered.



Cheap out on your espadrilles. Buy them from anywhere, $30 is enough, buy them from some local-operated stand on vacation. Espadrilles might only last you a couple of seasons, but that's the point, they're not supposed to be fancy british shoes that last a lifetime, they're rope and canvas.

Canvas sneakers

I think Chuck Taylor high tops are among the coolest things you can put on your feet, and they look better beaten up. Vans are good too (and have their roots in skater culture), and so are Sperries (with more of an Ivy lean. Paul Newman would wear these on a boat).


It's trickier to thrift shoes online, unless you know your size in a particular last. I would recommend looking in person. You can find good loafers cheap, and honestly, they might be more comfortable since they're worn in. (If you want to buy new on a budget, go to Meermin).

If you find a brand you're not sure about, search /r/goodyearwelt. If they don't talk about the brand, skip; if they talk shit, the brand is pretty good; if they say good things, that shoe was a fantastic value at full price and probably aged beautifully.

Some brands that are awful now made some very cool loafers in the past; Cole Haan, Florsheim, and Johnston & Murphy are all overpriced garbage in 2024, but if you go back far enough, they sold some really good shoes.

Birkenstock Bostons and Arizonas

Okay, most models start around ~$150, which is kind of expensive for sandals, but this is, believe it or not, your long-term option. The cork footbeds will mold to your feet over time; they go from being hard and unpleasant to being incredibly comfortable. They're also pretty popular these days, you might actually be able to style them in a cool way.