Updated: Aug 21
Before my first visit to New York City, I had all sorts of glamorized ideas about all the people that lived there, and the exciting high-style lives they were living. Though there are nuances to a native New Yorkers' dress code, the reality of how they act, and dress is far different than what I had expected.
Yes, New York City is a fashion capital of the world but more noteworthy than the brands themselves is the diversity of people, cultures, and styles encompassing New York City. So when you’re packing for New York, do your own thing. Pack the looks that make you feel most confident and comfortable no matter the time of year. Feeling good in what you’re wearing will make all the difference and ensure you always have a great time.
Remember, you’re on vacation, so dress how you want. Many of the people you might see on the street in New York are dressed for work or some other event. So, you cannot always assume the way you see them is how they would prefer to be dressed.
After a few trips to New York City, the key points I have learned when packing involve three things, checking average temperatures, picking comfortable shoes first, and planning outfits around the different activities and highlights we have planned. After reading this article, you will have a good idea of the best things to pack for sunny days in The Big Apple.
Average High Temperatures for August
August in New York City is typically the hottest of the summer months, followed closely by July. With average temperatures lingering around 75 degrees and high humidity, it can feel even hotter. Not to mention sticky too. It's rare for average high temperatures to exceed 80 degrees, but there are the occasional 90-degree days this time of year.
Though the tall buildings can provide some shade on sunny days, there is often little to no other relief from the summer heat. Your best hope for a cool breeze is the gush of A/C coming from a department store entrance as you walk in. Early August is also likely to have frequent rain, which makes for more humid days.
But, there are a few ways to manage the summer heat during the hottest months. The first way to beat the worst of the heat is to time your outdoor activities early in the day, preferably before 10:00 am. Once temperatures start to rise, they won’t usually begin to cool down until around 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm.
A classic summer packing tip is to choose lighter-colored clothing that will absorb less sunlight. However, if you want to maximize your comfort, it is a great idea to take a close look at your care tags. Knowing what types of fabrics, you’re wearing will significantly impact breathability and moisture wicking. Look for light clothing made of breathable fabrics like modal or rayon.
Styles & How Many Pair to Pack
New York City has so much beauty to take in on the streets, from architecture to views of the river and more. Inevitably walking is the best way to see the city, so plan on packing a couple of pairs of comfortable walking shoes.
I know the impulse can be to buy a bunch of new comfortable shoes before your trip, but I am here to tell you this may not be a good idea. New shoes often mean blisters and new wear patterns that your feet aren’t used to yet. It’s not the shoes’ fault, necessarily. They just need to be broken in first.
Secondly, the city can be dirty and known for semi-frequent afternoon rainstorms. So, the last thing you want is to trash a brand-new pair of shoes or two before they’ve had their proper time in the sun.
Instead, opt for your well-worn, comfortable walking shoes and throw a cute pair in your bag for when you arrive at dinner, a show, or another notable destination on your itinerary.
How many pairs of shoes you choose to bring will vary depending on how long you will be staying and if you’re checking any luggage. At a minimum, I would recommend at least three pair. Two walking friendly and one nicer pair.
Shoe Packing List
August in New York Five-Day Packing List
3-4 short sleeves/tank tops
3 pairs of shoes
Accessory Ideas for stylish looks
Notice a trend here? Getting your hair up off your neck on warm days is another great way to keep cool.
collapsible water bottle
Best Things to do In New York During August & What to Wear
Your attire for a Broadway show may vary greatly depending on the type of show and time of day. Matinees are typically more casual, but people dress all sorts of ways. Some are more casual, while others are more dressed up. As I said before, it’s really up to you and what you’ve been doing that day. My go-to favorites are a longer high-waisted skirt with a sleeveless blouse or sundress. I also recommend bringing a light sweater, as the theaters can sometimes get a little chilly.
Taking a wild guess here, but if you’re in the time square area, I would bet there is a good chance you’re doing some shopping, or maybe a quick hop over to Central Park. Wearing something comfortable and casual on this day is a good choice.
American Museum of Natural History
Museums are always meticulously climate-controlled, making them great days to plan a more layered look. Sticking with lightweight fabrics, you might consider loose linen trousers with a simple tank top or t-shirt.
Statue of Liberty
Best seen by one of the ferries. The Statue of Liberty is a quintessential icon of New York City.
When picking out your look for the day you visit the statue, think more practical than fashion-forward. If you plan to actually climb the 162 steps to the top of her crown, you will want comfortable shoes for sure.
Taking the ferry is one of your best bets for a cool breeze, so you may not want to wear a hat. Opt for quality sunscreen and sunglasses instead.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another wonderfully climate-controlled environment to spend the day exploring many wonders of the art world.
City and the beach, what could be better? If you’ve taken in all the arts, culture, and cuisine you can handle, head over to Coney Island and enjoy one of the many public beaches available. When hitting the beach, it is always a good idea to bring plenty of sunscreen, sunglasses, and maybe a wide-brim hat too.
Notable New York Events During August?
As summer is winding down, outdoor concerts, free and with paid admission, are still in full swing all over the city. Though there is likely not to be a dress code for most of these events, other notable New York highlights likely will. Every year spanning more of a month than just a week, foodies from all over descend upon the city to take in all the culinary world has to offer. I’m talking about Restaurant Week!
From notable casual eateries to Michelin-rated dining, there is something for everyone to enjoy during the restaurant week event. However, make sure to look ahead when making reservations, as things book up quickly, and many high-end restaurants will require following a dress code.
Want to dress more like a Native
New Yorker than a Tourist?
A few things I noticed on my trips to NYC is that black clothing is the predominant choice. However, darker colors are not ideal for summer. When in doubt, dark is most versatile and likely to blend in. But what makes true New York fashion different isn’t just dressing in darker colors. It’s about crafting a tailored, just-for-you sort of style.
In New York, looking expensive is not about flashing brands but finding the perfect fit. Style is about balance, simplicity, and a pop. Balancing high-end, well-made garments with more affordable trendy items and adopting a less is more attitude. The pop can come from a statement accessory or bold color incorporated into your look.
New York couldn’t be the city that never sleeps without residents that can go all day. By choosing to stick with darker colors and well-tailored garments, New Yorkers can effortlessly transition from work to happy hour, late-night fun, and many other activities without skipping a beat. For more insights from a local New Yorker, I recommend checking out this summer-style post here.
Stuffed and Zipped Shut
She went off to have an unforgettable time in New York City despite the summer heat. Did this article change how you thought about your packing list for your summer trip? Are you feeling motivated to finally get your bags packed now that you know exactly what to wear in New York in August? No matter what time of year you plan to travel, there is always a good time to be had in the Big Apple.
If you’re curious how packing varies for each time of the year, check out this article by New York Travel Expert Sara from Funky Experiences. My favorite tip is using Rent the Runway for special seasonal items like winter parkas if you’re visiting from a warm location. These and many other tips can be found here.