Reader Request: Long Over Lean for Summer

long over lean for summer

Emily e-mailed me this question:

I’m fairly new (2 years) to this whole style thing and I’m encountering a problem. The long and lean look looks great on me (I’m 5’3 and a size 20ish) but I can’t figure out how to do it in the summer. I’d love your help with how to do this so I can be stylish and comfortable this summer.

The long over lean dressing formula can feel a little covered-up for hot weather, but it is possible to make this look work for summer! Here are some ideas:

Short-sleeved or sleeveless tunic, slim bottom, open footwear

sleeveless tunic and legggings

Eileen Fisher | Macy’s | Garnet Hill

The quickest route to comfortable long-over-lean looks for summer is to lighten up your tunic. In addition to considering fibers and weight, lop off some sleeve length. Short-sleeved and sleeveless tunics still look elegant and edgy with leggings and skinnies. You can do booties or other closed shoes if you prefer – my toes freeze all summer, so I sometimes do – but sandals or ballet flats that expose a bit more foot real estate will help make your look feel seasonal.

Lightweight tunic, cuffed or cropped denim, sandals or booties

tunic and jeans

Nordstrom | Torrid | Nordstrom

As you’ve likely guessed, how summery you want to make this look is directly related to how much skin you feel like showing. In this variation, a lightweight sleeveless tunic and sandals paired with cuffed skinny denim will give you the most ventilation and may feel the best during the true Dog Days. But ankle boots (show an inch or two of lower calf between boot and jean) worn with half or 3/4-length sleeves can work just as well. Ballet flats are always a comfy, cute option for summery long-over-lean, too.

Lightweight tunic, clamdiggers or capris, flats or sandals


Nordstrom | Garnet Hill | J.Jill

This is definitely the trickiest of the three options, as a slim bottom that hits mid-calf or higher will divide your leg line. Add a tunic that hits mid-thigh and you’ve created another division. If you’re concerned about breaking up your figure or creating odd proportions here’s my main tip for making clamdiggers and capri-length leggings/pants work with tunics: Shoes that are nude to your skin tone will soften the break at your ankle, and a tunic and leggings that are similar in tone will soften the break at your thigh. So the blue tunic and black leggings outfit is totally adorable, but does create some very hard lines along the legs and lower body. Something to think about if those breaks concern you. (And yes, I know that middle image doesn’t feature terribly “lean” or slim-fitting bottoms, but it shows a wonderfully summery way to style a light-colored linen tunic.)

A few other considerations:

  • Palette: There’s a lot of black in these example images, but lighter colors, pastels, and white will help your long-over-lean looks feel seasonal.
  • Asymmetry: Jagged hemlines have a lot of movement to them, which aligns nicely with breezy summer weather. Asymmetrical hems also look fabulous on sleeveless tunics, so they’re a natural for hot-weather tunic wearing.
  • Fibers and footwear: OK, these have already been mentioned. But I’m calling them out again! Linen, cotton voile, and other summer-weight fabrics are great choices. And consider sandals and open footwear to lighten your look.

Are you a fan of long-over-lean looks for summer? How do you create yours so you don’t overheat? Any other tips for making proportions work?

Top images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Nordstrom (right)

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Originally posted 2014-07-08 06:28:51.

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8 Responses to “Reader Request: Long Over Lean for Summer”

  1. Emily Bullock

    thanks Sally. those are some great ideas. this is definitely my go-to. I’ve been living in jeggings (which fit me like skinnies) and tunics. Definitely helpful.

  2. ballewal

    I wish I liked that look on myself. I don’t like how the lean pants look or feel on me. But it always looks so polished and put together.

  3. walkercreative

    Great advice here. This is pretty much my summer uniform. It is also easy to bike and be active in. One tip about the the capri/clamdigger length — I skipped buying them this summer. I have found that full length skinnies with stretch can be cuffed pretty nicely to the right length for YOUR body and shoe choices in summer. It’s much easier and you get multi-season use of your pants!

  4. Thursday

    Is there no way to work a skirt into the equation? The long over lean silhouette is not one I wear, but I know when it’s hovering around, or soaring above, 40C here, the last thing I want to wear is tight pants. Would a fitted maxi skirt, in a lightweight knit, stand in for the lean side of things? Or maybe a slightly fuller cut skirt of a very lightweight fabric? I’d certainly be fighting the urge to belt at the natural waist, but that’s my problem.

    • Sally McGraw

      Weelllll, then it becomes a question of proportion. A slim, long skirt definitely covers the “lean” side of things, but adding a tunic in there will make most figures look very disproportionate. A top that long makes the torso appear long, too. Belting at the natural waist would help, but as you said, that kinda defeats the hot-weather purpose of the skirt! (At least in some cases.)

      Long over lean works best with skinnies and leggings. BUT! You can certainly do a slim maxi and a loose top that’s shorter than tunic length – that just creates some good volume balance. Hope that helps, Thursday!

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  6. Shawna McComber

    I love long over lean any time of the year and am a big fan of leggings. I find them too hot for July and August most of the time though. I like the idea of something lean that hits just above the knee and the top comes down to a few inches above the knee so most of what you see is the long tunic or short dress and just a few inches of the lean pants/shorts/leggings. I’m not sure for how much longer I will be happy showing my knees but for now they aren’t too bad.

    I also like the lean portion to be cropped and in that case I try to go for a longer tunic length which seems, to my eye, to be less chopped up looking. I probably commit the choppy faux pas sometimes though as I am inclined to use black cropped leggings and black flats. I might be getting away with it because I am tall.

    I also do long over lean by using an above the knee stretch pencil or tube skirt with a long tunic top. Essentially I like long over short lean if I can get it.

  7. LaPriel

    Sally, another great post.

    I love this look on me too. But, I find it too hot for summer. I also don’t like the feel of too much fabric in summer. I use my pants pockets a lot in summer too which is super annoying with a long top.
    I wear knee length shorts most of the summer with mid hip knit tops. I am still struggling to get the look I want for summer.