The Top 10 Absolutely-Must-Have-Or-You'll-Die Pieces For Summer -- All Under $50!

Let me sort out your summer wardrobe!

Jun 12, 2014 at 12:30pm | Leave a comment

I don’t know about you but I don't feel ready for summer at all. It’s finally June but it took the weather over here on the East Coast takes ages to warm up. We had a few hot days recently but as I write this now, it’s dark and gloomy outside again. I’m thinking it’s time to get in the summer mood by doing what I do best: combing the Internet for cute clothes. 
 
Here are my picks for the top 10, absolutely necessary, MUST HAVE OR WILL DIE summer items. Some of them might be a little expected (I know, I know: Sandals and sunglasses, Kelly? Really?) and some might be trends that you wish would die already, but overall I hope there’s something here for everyone -- even if it’s just some much-needed summer inspiration.
 
1. Fun sunglasses
 
I already prepared for summer by spending big bucks on a pair of Warby Parker prescription sunglasses. I stuck to a classic shape and color since I knew I’d be wearing them daily. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have a cheaper, more fun pair as backup. 
 
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Clockwise from top left: Nasty Gal Nita Shades, $20; Nasty Gal Dizzy Shades, $20; J. Crew Cat Eye Sunglasses, $25; Asos Retro Sunglasses, $19; Asos Embellished Flower Retro Sunglasses, $34; Asos Flat Top Cat Eye Sunglasses, $23. 

 
If you’re into the ASOS flower sunglasses but don’t want to spend the $34, may I direct you to my embellished sunglasses DIY?
 
2. Summer bag
 
Without even realizing it, I started an insane collection of dark oxblood bags this past winter. I’m now in the market for something a bit lighter and summery. I’m currently deciding between a bright pop of color in the form of a small messenger bag, a bucket bag in a neutral shade, or a structured pastel bag.
 
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Tan and white bucket bags, $28 at Old Navy; Black bucket bag, $40 at Zara; Pastel pink bag, $30 at Aldo; Pastel blue bag, $45 at Aldo; Yellow bag, $36 at Zara; Red bag, $49 at Zara; Pineapple bag, $34 at Asos.

 
The pineapple bag is just for fun. Is it just me or are pineapples everywhere right now? 
 
3. A hat (because sunscreen isn’t enough)
 
Maybe this will be the summer that I finally look good in hats. I hope so because I really want the extra sun protection, but I don’t enjoy looking like a dork. A big floppy straw hat is required for going to the beach and sitting poolside, while an oversized felt fedora makes your summer street style effortlessly cool. I don’t think I can pull off baseball caps, but they’re one of the few hats I feel you can wear from the beach to the street, and J. Crew has some cool ones right now.
 
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Top row (all J. Crew): Eyelet baseball cap $40, Chambray baseball cap $35, Metallic baseball cap $45. Middle row (all Asos): Tan fedora $38, Grey fedora $38 , Black oversized fedora $42. Bottom row: Asos black straw hat $38, J. Crew straw hat $35, Old Navy straw hat $23.

 
 
4. A T-shirt dress
 
This is one of my favorite casual summer items. What’s easier than jeans and a T-shirt? This dress, because you don’t even need the jeans. Plus it is still a dress so you get to feel a little more feminine and show off your legs. I pair mine with everything: sneakers, sandals, ankle boots, heels, a denim jacket, a leather jacket. It’s versatile (and so comfy). 
 
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Clockwise from top left: H&M Jersey Dress $17; Miss Selfridge Plain Black T-shirt Dress $44; Asos Curve Skater Dress, $31; Asos Metallic T-shirt Dress $48; Uniqlo Women’s Slub Dress, $30; Miss Selfridge Coral T-shirt Dress, $44; Zara Striped Dress, $30; Asos Swing dress, $31.

5. Black jumpsuit or romper
 
A romper is my other put-it-on-and-go summer staple. It doesn’t necessarily have to be black, but I think that helps make it look a little more polished and sophisticated. The same goes for jumpsuits. I think a black, well-fitted jumpsuit can be elegant for a night out when paired with heels and jewelry.
 
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Top row from left (all Asos): $28; $48; $32. Bottom row from left (all Asos): $48; $21; $46

 
It’s not technically a jumpsuit, but I also kind of want those overalls. Blue denim overalls will probably make me look like a farm boy, but maybe black will work! OK, I might be deluding myself.
 
6. Statement necklace
 
If you feel like your summer outfit is a little too boring or you need to dress it up a bit for the evening, just put on a massive necklace and you’re good to go. 
 
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Clockwise from top left: Nasty Gal Feeling Daisy Chain Necklace, $28; Prinkko Statement necklace, $20; Aldo Turrito Necklace, $25; Modcloth Leave It To Chance Necklace, $30; Zara Rhinestone Necklace, $49; Zara Diamante and Cord Necklace, $30

 
7. High-waisted midi skirt 
 
This kind of combines three trends into one, but it doesn’t end up looking too trendy -- just pretty and fresh. ASOS has a great selection of these.
 
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Clockwise from top left (all Asos): $38, $38, $35, $41

 
8. A crop top to be worn with that skirt
 
Crop tops can definitely read as too trendy, but when offset by a ladylike high-waisted midi skirt, they show just the right amount of skin. I have yet to own a crop top myself, but the ones below are making me consider taking the plunge.
 
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Top row from left: Pixie Market Brush Crop Top, $35; Zara Cropped Studio Top, $26; Zara Cropped Striped Top, $40. Middle row: Pixie Market Daisy Lace Crop Top, $49; Pixie Market Lilac Crop Top, $38; Asos Wrap Front Crop top, $23. Bottom row: Nasty Gal Nicki Crop Tee, $38 ; Asos Petite Cropped T-shirt, $15 ; Nasty Gal Straight Up Crop Top, $38.

 
9. Cozy trousers
 
I think the hammer pants trend has finally passed, thank goodness, but apparently it’s been replaced by palazzo pants. I’m not sure how I feel about that. As a fairly petite woman, I feel like palazzo pants would totally overwhelm me, but I do like how dramatic they seem while walking. I also like how cozy they look. If you absolutely refuse to give in to palazzo pants (which is fine by me), there’s lots of other comfy trouser options that you can wear with a T-shirt or loose tank top this summer. The key is the elastic waistline, to make room for barbeque, and avoid hammer crotch at all costs. 
 
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Clockwise from top left: Asos Tropical Print Beach Pant, $35; Asos Wide Leg Pants, $47; Asos Loose Crop Pants, $47; Zara Palazzo Trousers, $40; Old Navy Linen Blend Pants, $30; Madewell Murray Trousers, $40; Zara Wide Palazzo Trousers, $35; Zara Drawstring Loose Fit Trousers, $49.

I’m seriously considering buying those Madewell trousers in every color (they come in black and green, too). 
 
10. Non-fugly sandals
 
Birkenstocks are having a comeback in a big way, but I just can’t get behind it. Aggressively ugly shoes are everywhere right now, and although some people can pull it off, it’s not my thing. When I look for summer sandals, I like to go for a minimal black and tan sandal with an ankle strap (I do not like shuffling -- thus why no Birks and no flip flops for me). A fresh white or mint sandal also sounds appealing lately, though. 
 
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Clockwise from top left: Old Navy Block Heel Sandals, $28; H&M Snakeskin Sandals, $34; Zara Leather Sandals, $49; Asos Firestorm Leather Sandals in Black, $48; Asos Firestorm Leather Sandals in White, $48; Nasty Gal Fate Sandal, $48; Asos Faithless Leather Sandal, $8; Modcloth Morning Matrimony Heel, $40.

 
Those ASOS Firestorm Leather Sandals come in black and white, and have kind of a Birkenstocks meets Swedish Hasbeens vibe. I’m really into them. I also love the touch of leopard print in the Zara sandals. 
 
Well, I think I just got my entire summer wardrobe sorted out. I hope you liked my picks! Share your own current summer must-haves in the comments. 
 
Follow Kelly on Twitter @picturesqueliar for tweets about fashion, beauty, and Jon Hamm making silly faces.