Must Have Summer Work Clothing to Keep You Cool

Here are my top picks for Must Have Summer Work Clothing to Keep You Cool whether you’re gardening, volunteering for a service project, or working on a building project.

Must Have Summer Work Clothing to Keep You Cool

It’s been a hot and humid summer here in North Carolina. This is nothing new, except this is the first year I’ve been working construction outside all summer. My work outfits have been put to the test and I’m anxious to share my favorites for staying cool with you.

As most of you know, the Nordstrom anniversary sale is going on and everyone seems to be clamoring to grab deals on some fashionable items. As much as I’d like to buy cute outfits, it’s not practical for me to spend money on clothing that will get ruined while working on building back Etta. Instead, I’ve ditched my cute tops and skirts to compile a list of the most cooling clothing and durable gear to get through the hottest of summer heatwaves.

Here at Pretty Handy Girl, we take work and safety gear very seriously, as you’ll remember from my Ms. Safe T DIY Fashion accessories, I don’t write about fashion often, but I do think it’s important to have safe and durable work clothing that will keep you comfortable all day.

(This is a sponsored post for Duluth Trading Company. This post also contains a few affiliate links for non-Duluth Trading Company clothing.  I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

One of my favorite places to purchase work gear is Duluth Trading Company —which  is why I reached out to them to be one of the Saving Etta sponsors. I’ve been buying their clothes for years and appreciate their rugged durability. The designers at Duluth Trading put a lot of thought into creating pieces that move with your body. (And I can tell you, there are lots of body contortions happening when you build a house.) If your clothing can’t flex and move with you while handling the power tools, you’re going to rip them or come home chafed.

No Breeze, It’s Cool

Two summers ago, Duluth Trading Company sent me my first Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt to try. They claimed it would keep me cooler than a standard cotton t-shirt. After a week working on my shed during a heat wave, I ordered two more shirts and wore them all summer while working. (It’s worth noting, that Duluth Trading Company changed the design of this shirt to eliminate the mesh openings in the back (but kept the underarm gussets for better arm motion.) Honestly, I didn’t like the appearance of the mesh back flaps, but luckily it seems the shirt is still cool without them.)

Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt (Coral Plaid)

The weather in North Carolina can be unpredictable. We had a stretch of weather in late Spring where it was cool in the morning and beautiful all afternoon. On those days I paired an Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt with a tank top. The long sleeves gives me extra sun protection on cloudless days.

Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt (Royal Blue Plaid)Armachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Aqua)

One hot summer day I had to work on site and then attend the Home for Good Project for media coverage. With only my truck or a port-a-potty available for an outfit change, I decided to wear this blue oasis plaid shirt for both work and the appearance. Luckily I managed to stay cool and clean enough to pull off the media appearance. As a bonus I received two compliments on how pretty my “blouse” was. This shirt is now retired from work because I love it too much to let it get stained or soiled.

Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt (Blue Oasis Plaid), Maven Slim Work Jeans by Dovetail Workwear

One more note about the Armachillo plaid shirts; I keep one in my backpack in case I have to crawl under the house, wrestle insulation, or protect my arms from thorns while doing yard work. The shirt folds up into a small space and can hang out at the bottom of my backpack without adding any weight or bulk.

Armachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Ink)Armachillo Long Sleeve Plaid Shirt (Discontinued Color)

Hats Off to My Framer

The first day I met my framer, he pulled out a wide brim straw hat from his truck and wore it the entire day. He swore it was the best way to stay cool by keeping the sun off his neck and shoulders. That was also the day I made the mistake of wearing a black t-shirt and not owning a wide brim hat. I nearly passed out from the heat. The next day I scoured the Duluth Trading website for women’s hats and found this breathable wide brim hat. The first day I wore it on site, my framer winked his eye and said, “I see you listened to my advice on a good hat.”

Armachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Ink), Crushable Sun Hat (Cadet Blue), and Dry on the Fly Convertible Pants (Smoky Tan)

Revealing Just Enough Skin

My least favorite part of this job is climbing ladders all day. By 3pm, the heat and activity has started to turn my brain to mush. It’s enough to make a person want to strip down and go naked. Luckily, I discovered the Armachillo clothing by Duluth Trading Company. The Armachillo line has a unique “Made-in-the-Jade™ technology”. Every fiber is infused with microscopic jade that dissipates heat on contact and is sewn into the clothing. Which is why this Armachillo racerback tank top is my favorite work shirt. The tank top lets the breeze hit my arms, but is modest enough to hide any side boob or cleavage. The waist band has enough hold to keep the tank top from riding up, and it also provides a looser fit around my middle section (which is more forgiving for a “curvaceous” figure.)

I bet you’ve never felt the true effects of “heat rises” unless you’ve installed blocking for a light fixture at the top of a fourteen foot ceiling.  It was already close to 93F outside, the air in the rafters must have been over 100F. I was extremely glad I chose to wear my racerback tank top that day.

Armachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Deep Jade), Dry on the Fly Convertible Pants (Smoky Tan)

I don’t usually wear shorts on the job site. I’m more likely to scrape or cut up my knees or shins and I hate my legs (even without bruises). But, any day that threatens to reach 95F or higher, I wear shorts. Luckily I found my favorite lightweight work pants in a short style. Air flow on sweaty skin is key to staying cool on a hot and humid day. Installing the 118 year old reclaimed siding material on the porch ceiling was a labor of love. It took me all week to scrape the paint, seal them, hang, and caulk the seams. I managed to stay cool, but unfortunately I scraped up my shin in front of the entire crew of framers working next door. Luckily I kept my cool (Get it? Kept cool. LOL.)

Women’s Dry on the Fly Shorts (Gray), Armachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Aqua)

These cute overall shorts were a godsent while working on ladders. All the pockets and the hammer loop allowed me to stuff my pockets with nails and hang my hammer instead of wearing a bulky tool belt. Speaking of staying cool, Keen sent me a pair of their Atlanta cool steel-toed breathable work shoes to try. This pair has been on my feet every day on site. They are several years old but are holding up wonderfully. Besides keeping my feet from getting too sweaty, the soles offer great grip when climbing up roof slopes.

Heirloom Gardening Overall ShortsNo Yank Tank Cami (Dark Coral)Stay-Put Lightweight Ankle Socks, Keen Atlanta Cool Steel-Toed Shoes

One of the least glamorous jobs of being a general contractor is picking up after the subcontractors. The day before insulation was installed, I crawled under the house to remove any construction debris left behind. Gloves are a necessity in any crawlspace. They protect your hands from rocks and construction debris and let you swipe away cob webs.

Another necessity is a good bra. It was apparent that my regular underwire bras were going to get destroyed from all the sweat and demolition dirt. Plus, they chafed my sides as I bent and stretched all day long. I started wearing jog bras, but most of them didn’t provide much support. I found the Hellrassiere Medium Support Work Bra and thought it was a mirage. The bra is comfortable and offers much better support than a stretchy jog bra. (One note: They run large, so be sure to order one size smaller.)

Women’s All Season Work GlovesArmachillo Cooling Racerback Tank Top (Peony), Hellrassiere Medium Support Work Bra (black)

Somehow my favorite lightweight work pants evaded a picture. The Flextra Tough Slim Leg Work Pants are flattering but also have hidden mesh in the yoke and knees to keep the air flowing on hot days. You can also slip knee pads into the front pockets to protect your knees on those days you’re crawling around a lot.

I hope my list gave you some helpful recommendations should you find yourself outside working in the garden, on a service project, hiking, camping, or on a construction site. If you’re also a Duluth Trading Company fan, I’d love to know your favorite Duluth apparel!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Duluth Trading Company. I was not told what to write or say about Duluth Trading Company. I am very particular about the brands that I partner with. If I don’t love them, I don’t promote them. I will also always disclose when you are reading a sponsored post.

12 replies
    • Brittany Bailey
      Brittany Bailey says:

      Karin, the prices may seem high compared to Target, Old Navy, etc. but I guarantee these clothes were made to last. I have stopped buying the cheap clothes from those other stores because I can only wear them for a season or a year at the most before they sag, stretch or tear on me ;-(. In the long run, you’ll save money. But, maybe you have some secret source for quality work clothes. Do tell if you do! 😉

  1. Ivory
    Ivory says:

    Wow, sounds amazing. Got to give one or two a try. Thanks for sharing. Good to know someone else is making cloths to keep you cool during hot summer days, besides ………

  2. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    Brittany, so glad you did this post! I love Duluth Trading but hadn’t spied these particular items. My favorite is their Noga pants – they are made for hard work (or running to the grocery store) and I haven’t put a hole in them yet which is saying something – plus they have a zippered pocket on the thigh which is amazing (cell phone? keys? credit card?).

  3. Jeannie Wallace
    Jeannie Wallace says:

    Thanks for all the info. I’ve lost my legs now so I don’t do much roofing or light fixtures anymore, but I do still crawl around in my garden or around my pond and I do climb into a chair every now and again to do some cabinet work. I don’t do heat at all. I’m a winter girl thru and thru but, not much outside work needs done in the winter, so heat it is, and I appreciate knowing what to wear to avoid a heat stroke. Thanks for sharing.


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