The 7 Best Beach Outfits for Summer 2023, According to a Stylist

Sun, sand, and style don't have to be mutually exclusive.

woman wearing orange crochet top at the beach
(Image credit: Getty)

With summer on the horizon, even the thought of packing a suitcase gives us that fuzzy feeling. But preparing for a beach vacation doesn't end with finding the right swimsuit (or two, or three). Seasoned vacationers know that bringing the right beach bags, sandals, and sunglasses for every occasion is just as important, but there's one highly overlooked facet of beach-packing: The beach outfit. 

It can be tricky to transition from a wet and sandy bathing suit to normal clothing, so picking the right beach outfit is often a confusing, messy, and anxiety-inducing experience, leaving even the chicest beach-goers among us ready to resign ourselves to the loosest, easiest-to-grab items in our closets. However, it is, in fact, possible to look chic on the beach, according to fashion stylist Madeleine Kennedy. Below, she reviews a variety of outfit options that look great and feel comfortable in spite of all the sun and sand.

What to Look For

Of course, not every outfit is suitable for sun, salt, and sand. Kennedy reminds us that for the sake of your comfort (and for the sake of the garments themselves), it's best to focus on specific fabrics and colors that will keep you cool.

"Shoppers should look for pieces that are made with breathable fabrics such as linen or cotton," she advises, noting that they, along with silk, "allow for breathability and will keep you cool throughout the day." And when it comes to shoes, she says, "leather, canvas, or cotton fabrics are all great options that will keep your feet comfortable and cool."

In terms of comes to beach style, Kennedy encourages experimentation. "The summertime is a great time to explore patterns and bolder colors," she says. And wearing lighter, brighter colors also has logistical advantages. She writes, "Darker colors tend to absorb heat easily, so be sure to avoid them if you plan to be in the sun all day."

Simple Yet Classic

For many people, including myself, denim shorts are the ultimate easy beach go-to. And for an elevated denim look, Kennedy suggests pairing them with an airy linen top. She elaborates, "An outfit I love for the beach is definitely a pair of denim shorts paired with a light colored linen top, baseball cap, and leather slide sandals. It is a simple yet classic look that will never go out of style." Plus, the cap is a perfect sun hat for shielding your face from the harsh summer sun.

Easy and Elevated

For those who, like me, prefer eschewing pants as often as possibly during the summer months, Kennedy brings up yet another classic beach outfit—only this one doesn't involve pulling on bottoms. "Another take on a classic look would be an oversized white button up that works as a mini dress, paired with a straw hat, tote bag and strappy sandals," she says. "If you need to wear this look into the evening, add a thin belt and gold earrings to elevate the simple white shirt."

An Easy One-Piece

If you're like me, then you love a low-maintenance beach outfit that makes leaving the sun and sand as easy as possible. Kennedy says that a one-piece is perfect for this, explaining, "I love a great romper moment, as it can be dressed up or down. I also like to play with patterns and bolder colors when it comes to rompers since you are only working with one article of clothing."

But if you are, in fact, going bold with an eye-catching print or bright shade, she recommends, "I then tend to keep the shoes and accessories more neutral so not to draw the attention away from the romper."

A Dress that Doubles as a Cover-Up

I try to be as low-maintenance as possible in the summer: The heat tends to make me feel languid, and, when I'm at the beach, any complicated outfit is bound to be undone by the wind and the sand, anyway. For this reason, my all-time favorite beach outfit is a dress that doubles as a cover-up. It's quick, easy, looks like it involved more effort than it actually did, and it doesn't involve having to wiggle into a pair of pants.

A Linen Look

Linen has always been a summer favorite, but it's made a particularly strong comeback this year in the midst of a contemporary obsession with quiet luxury. I'm a personal fan of linen all through the summer, and Kennedy is, too. "I love the option of wearing pants to the beach, especially if you are planning an evening out afterwards," she says. "I opt for a linen pant for breathability, paired with a one piece bathing suit that can act as a bodysuit during the evening by throwing on a lightweight jacket or button up over. Find a sandal that has a small platform, that way the shoe can be dressy enough for the evening."

A Matching Set

Who doesn't love a matching set? Not only does it take the thinking out of choosing an outfit (I cringe at the amount of time I've spent obsessing over an outfit, wonder if one item matches with another), but it's also several outfits in one: You can, of course, wear the set together, or you can wear the pieces as separates. 

Meet the Expert

Madeleine Kennedy
Madeleine Kennedy

Madeleine Kennedy is a celebrity stylist from Texas. A UCLA graduate, she has styled the likes of Julia Roberts, Timothée Chalamet, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Ana de Armas, and more. She is currently based in Los Angeles.

Gabrielle Ulubay
E-Commerce Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.