Seattle Fashion Experts on this Summer’s Looks
Dress with relaxed elegance and you’re ready to go anywhere
By Annie Midori Atherton June 16, 2023
Picture this: it’s Friday afternoon, the heat is rising, and you’ve skipped out of work early for an ice-cold drink on the patio of your neighborhood watering hole. For the occasion, you’ve slipped on what could become a uniform for the summer: a simple dress with a slight A-line hem that falls just above your ankles, smart white tennis shoes, and a wide-brimmed straw hat. To your right, another guest relaxes in cherry-red trousers that flow about her legs. Here, a server strolls by in a knit tank top that looks sewn straight from a cozy blanket you’d want to take to the beach.
If Seattle style has a mood this summer, you might say it’s an easy, up-for-anything vibe. Or, to borrow a phrase from Jane Hedreen, owner of Flora and Henri in Pioneer Square, a look of “relaxed elegance.” Call it the fashion equivalent of the “careless vesper” cocktail at Harry’s Fine Foods: just gin, a splash of Lillet Blanc, and an orange twist. With an emphasis on lightweight, natural fabrics and clean lines, this season’s styles highlight the human form without squeezing it in. Structured cuts keep loose-fitting pieces from looking too much like the sleepwear many of us turned in to day wear as we spent more time at home in the past few years.
We spoke with the owners and buyers at some of the city’s independent boutiques about the pieces they love this season, and how they curate their collections for a Seattle market. For tips on how to make these looks work for anyone, we tapped two local influencers, Vanessa Camille and McKenna Foucht. Camille, a model who shares her Seattle pride with her over 70,000 followers in photos taken at iconic locations such as the Founder’s Club at the Fairmont Hotel and the Arctic Club Hotel, is a vocal proponent of inclusive fashion and beauty, while Foucht started her Instagram account, Five Foot Fashion, to showcase style for those with a shorter frame. One thing both women can agree on is that many of this season’s trends are great for the casual vibe of the Northwest.
“Oversize fashion is in for both men and women, and it is comfortable,” says Camille.
The key is to strategically pair pieces that balance each other.
“I suggest choosing either the top or bottom to be oversized and the other side be a bit more fitted or tailored,” says Camille. “I love oversized and relaxed linen or parachute pants, and a more fitted top to make sure my figure doesn’t get lost in the fabrics.”
Foucht adds that as a smaller person, she’s mindful of how the length of clothing falls on her frame. “When it comes to loose-fitting items, I tend to lean toward cropped styles so that it doesn’t completely swallow me up,” she says.
Styles that go from day to night
When curating for a Seattle market, local buyers know the importance of versatility.
“Almost every piece we buy can be dressed up or down in my signature sneakers, Superga or Veja, or a beautiful wood-soled platform sandal from Rachel Comey or Coclico,” says Hedreen. “It doesn’t have to be flashy to be chic and eye-catching.”
“People here usually don’t like wearing something only to work,” adds Kayla Gil, owner of Pipe and Row in Fremont. “We make sure what we carry can also be worn to a fun dinner or something else after. Our style is always practical, but trendy and comfortable, with a slight edge.”
Emily Childress, one of the managers and buyers at Les Amis in Fremont, says they’re less concerned with trends than they are buying from designers they trust and admire, especially those that prioritize ethical production and quality fabrics.
Fabrics that flow
Flora and Henri is known for its cashmere sweaters but carries a wide range of designers. Recently, Hedreen has seen shoppers gravitate toward Sara Lanzi pieces this season, such as a flowy, easily packable skirt paired with a light sweater.
Childress raves about a proprietary fabric they carry at Les Amis by Rachel Comey, called Poppy.
“The fabric is so light that when you walk, it flows with you,” she says.
Camille echoes the emphasis on soft fabrics, saying she’s seen a rise in “mermaid core,” which she describes as an aesthetic that features ruffles and materials that evoke the ocean.
“Maybe it’s because of The Little Mermaid movie,” she muses. “I don’t know, but it’s definitely a thing.”
Meanwhile, more structured cuts keep all the linens and natural fibers reined in.
“Fashion ebbs and flows between things being fitted and things being oversize,” says Alisa Furoyama, owner of Glasswing on Capitol Hill. “I think, especially after the pandemic, people are just trying to be comfortable. There’s something about a sculptural fit that feels really modern and exciting.”
One brand Furoyama is excited about right now is Cordera, a Spanish label run by two sisters committed to a sustainable business model, with all goods designed and produced in Spain.
“A lot of the Cordera pieces are from these beautiful lightweight fabrics, but they’re sculptural, so they drape or cling, and they feel really good on,” says Furoyama.
Childress agrees there’s been a shift in their clientele to have more of an appreciation for menswear, and Gil adds that trousers are very popular right now. “People are styling them a lot more casual and a little sexy.”
Of course, summer in the PNW requires constantly adding and shedding layers. An oversize shirt, like the 100% cotton Kayla shirt by Citizens of Humanity, can function as a light cover-up. The shirt features unexpected detail on the sleeves that allows you to adjust them to different lengths.
“It looks like very undone, but it stays out of your way,” says Gil. “It’s everyone’s favorite shirt, so effortless and easy, but very cool.”
Curating a summer wardrobe can be aspirational, conjuring up images of all you’d like to do. On their podcast Happier, author Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft have a recurring theme, advising listeners to “design their summer” as it starts by thinking intentionally about how they want to spend their time. Though the concept goes beyond clothing, creating a wardrobe can play a part in that design. If your summer fantasy involves going from the farmers market to dinner out and maybe even catching an ice cream on the way home, you might invest in lightweight trousers and a cashmere cardigan, or oversized shirt, for the inevitable evening cold snap. If nothing else, being dressed for anything will give you an excuse to soak up every hour of the season that you can.
Annie Midori Atherton is a freelance writer covering culture, careers, parenting, and more. Her writing has appeared on The Atlantic, the BBC, Insider, and other places. She lives in south Seattle with her husband and toddler.