Desert Style

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by Mia Hanekamp, Editor In Chief

This past weekend, I jetted off to the southwest to visit family in Scottsdale, Arizona. I was thrilled to get out of Madison for a few days, especially to a destination where I could absorb all the vitamin D my dermis desired. After all, Mother Nature has been depriving us of the springtime climate we midwesterners have been rightfully waiting for.

My plane ticket was booked, and my bus to O’Hare was departing in a few hours, but my suitcase lay empty on my bedroom floor. I had not even begun to pack.

I tossed in a bikini and my single pair of flip flops that had been collecting dust in the back of my closet since about September. It was then that I realized I had no idea what to pack. I don’t know how to dress for hot weather! Warm weather, sure. Layering is my best friend. But hot? This will be my twentieth summer living in the Midwest, home of the hot and humid, and every May, I dread having to face the inevitable reality that dressing well for hot weather is impossible.

Well, let me tell you: This past weekend, I learned that inevitable reality is far from true.

Arizona’s climate is unique. It has beautifully breezy mornings, unbearably scorching afternoons, and perfectly cool evenings.

Diane von Furstenberg, Saks Fifth Avenue

However, this climate, unlike the climate of other warm regions such as southern California, makes layering nearly impossible. The heat of the afternoon is hellish enough to force you inside closed doors until 6 p.m. Simply removing a jacket when the afternoon arrives is nowhere near sufficient. And despite all this, the women of suburban Phoenix have an incredible sense of style. I studied the wardrobe choices of these fashionable Scottsdale women and imagined how a Midwesterner, like my self, struggling to find the perfect hot-weather style, could bring these looks back to Madison.

Arizona women are in great shape. The crisp, sunny mornings facilitate those early jogs, and, let’s be honest, when you are showing some skin 365 days a year, you really don’t have much of a choice.

T by Alexander Wang, Neiman Marcus

But not every woman wants to show a lot of skin. I know that I, personally, feel somewhat uncomfortable if my arms and legs are very exposed at the same time, unless it’s 102 degrees and I’m eating a corn dog at the State Fair. These women seem to agree. The happy medium is a mid-calf sun dress, or the “midi”. I’m talking about the ones that don’t completely brush the ground like maxis do. And if you’re lucky to be tall enough,

Rebecca Minkoff, Saks Fifth Avenue

a regular maxi dress will do just the trick. With this interesting length, these women have the chance to show off their toned arms, tanned chests and necks, and their perfect pedicures. Light fabrics are best, such as linen or a very thin cotton. For these, I can justify spending into the $100s range, because you will wear these constantly. Lastly, interesting detailing on the back of the dress can give your look an eye-catching pop when you pull your hair back to cool off.

As for color, for every print, I saw a solid. Prints were not as popular as I assumed they would be. But there was a reason: Arizona women love jewelry. I frequently saw a solid-colored sun dress with thin straps and a low-cut neckline paired with bold statement pieces during the day. Turquoise was very popular, as well as gold. Earrings were long, necklace pendants were massive, and bangles were everywhere.

Marc by Marc Jacobs, Nordstrom

Another way in which these women countered simple-colored dresses was through their bags. Scottsdale is an affluent city, but this doesn’t necessarily mean I only saw the same brown leather

Ted Baker, Nordstrom

bags with LV’s stamped everywhere. Women often matched their bags to their jewelry or their shoes, making this relaxed look exude a much more polished feel. Pops of outrageously bold color were everywhere, so don’t hold back!

Now before I move on to footwear, let’s clarify something first: I love flip flops. However, this does not mean that I love the foam things you slide your feet into before stepping into the Sellery shower. Flip flops can make a serious fashion statement if they are done right, and Arizona women do them right. If we’re going with simple dresses and statement jewelry, we can definitely have fun with the footwear. While perusing the shoe department in Nordstrom at Fashion Square with my cousin, Tara, gawking at all of the incredible Stuart Weitzmans I’ll never be able to afford, my eyes landed on a pair of black Valentinos (pictured here). These are flip flops done right. But you obviously don’t want to pay $275 for two pieces

Valentino

of plastic, no matter how fabulous they may be, Steve Madden does a fantastic knockoff for a fraction of the price. If bows aren’t your thing, J.Crew does a great oversized-rhinestone-encrusted  flip flop for under $30.

Badgley Mischka, Nordstrom

If you want to look fabulous in the heat like the women of Arizona do, you’ll need to adjust your makeup and hair styling routine. My suggestion? Au naturale. Leave the Chi in the drawer, and forget the extra concealer.

It’s not winter in Wisconsin anymore, and if you have as much hair as I do, you don’t want to look like you were just given an electric shock upon walking outside into the heat. After your shower, toss your wet hair with a bit of spray to keep the tresses separated and the frizz away, and let it air-dry as you go about your day.

For makeup, cover those blemishes, apply a pop of blush to the apples of your cheeks and your temples, swipe some mascara over your lashes, and you’re done.

I know what you’re all thinking: Arizona women can do this because of their everlasting tan. This is completely true. With a sun-kissed glow every day of the year, anything looks great. I’m a huge advocate of safe sun, and since you (hopefully) aren’t lying in the beds at TanWorld every day, let me tell you about fake-baking. I recommend Jergens Natural Glow, which I use daily, even in the winter. Just be careful to eliminate the awkward lines on your hands, wrists, and feet. For a splurge every now and then, I recommend the towelettes by TanTowel (click to purchase). They are a great way to create a deeper color if you are on-the-go and don’t have time to wait for the lotion to dry. The Jergens can be purchased at any Walgreens, but for the TanTowels, you’ll have to make the trek out to Ulta (but let me tell you, it is sooo worth it).

With bright statement earrings and a great sun-kissed glow, you won’t need to do anything to your hair. Once it’s dry, leave it down, or pull it back into a loose pony.

Although Arizona’s climate is so different from Wisconsin’s, we can still steal tips from the stylish women of the desert. Let’s bring their style to Wisconsin and look fabulous all summer!