Alice Chen, Founder of Sunday Club, on What to Pack for a San Francisco Summer
Updated: Mar 6
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So you're headed to San Francisco in the summer. For first-timers (hey, we've been there), a long-awaited trip to California sounds perfect; you're prepared with sunglasses, sandals, and multiple swimsuits. But unless your suitcase also includes lots of layers, you're going to be very underprepared... and very cold in the Bay Area.
The thing about San Francisco—and other parts of Northern California—is that the summer temperatures rarely get above 70 degrees. Expect lows in the high 40s to low 50s and weather that requires a light-to-medium jacket. This isn't San Diego, after all.
As always, the right packing list will ensure you enjoy every second of your California experience. For that, you need to meet Alice Chen, a social media guru (you've seen her work on Apple News and Hello Sunshine) and founder of Sunday Club, the candle company she runs out of her apartment in San Francisco. Take one look at her own Instagram feed, @alicefchen, and you'll immediately get a sense of her style; it's classic, a mix of high-low, and the epitome of San Francisco style.
Below, see what Alice Chen recommends packing for a trip to San Francisco in the summer. If you follow her lead, you'll be perfectly prepared for picnics, walking to Dolores Park, discovering wine bars, and zipping up and down the hills on a Vespa (Alice's favorite things to do in the city in the summer months).
San Francisco Style Q&A with Alice Chen
My personal style is…
Lately, it’s matching sweatsuits! But in all seriousness—casual pieces that still feel elevated. Getting dressed should always feel special and fun, no matter where you’re headed … or even when you’re staying home.
Don’t visit San Francisco in the summer without…
A warm jacket. Summers in San Francisco are as cold as they get, and temperatures can rise and drop from neighborhood to neighborhood, so you’ll want the flexibility to layer up as you explore the city. Oh—and don’t forget a hair clip; it gets windy here, and you’ll want a quick way to tuck your hair up!
My tried-and-true outfit to wear in the summer...
Cropped straight-leg jeans, an oversized denim jacket, a pair of sunglasses, and shoes that’ll take me all over the city—on warmer days, it’s my rose gold Birkenstocks; on a cooler day, I reach for my Veja Espalars.
My go-to bag to carry around the city…
I go everywhere with my A.P.C. demi lune bag. It’s beautifully structured, super roomy (I can’t believe how much I can fit in it some days!) and I love how it’s minimal but still elevates every outfit.
If you see me out around the city, I’m probably wearing these shoes...
Everlane’s Day Glove! I have multiple pairs in different colors because they are just *that* good. I love the silhouette, and the leather is delicious: these shoes are so buttery soft, they mold right to your feet, like they were made just for you. I’ve walked miles in these shoes!
Favorite brands for clothing you wear every day...
Richer Poorer and Naked Cashmere have been my quarantine go-tos over the past year, and their loungewear is even sleek enough to wear out, for days when transitioning from working at home to evening errands is just too much to think about. Now that I’ll be going back into the office in a few months, I’m starting to pick up pieces from Madewell, Aritzia, and Everlane. I’m also eyeing the jumpsuits from Happy French Gang, a local SF-based designer who makes these incredible pieces from homespun, handmade cotton and beautiful dyes. They’ll help me ease into post-lockdown dressing. Plus, the designer produces clothing and home goods with a cooperative in India that provides jobs to women to help them achieve financial independence and send their kids to school.
My summer in San Francisco bucket list includes...
Visit a craft fair, like Renegade Craft, West Coast Craft, or Head West Marketplace! They’re such great places to meet local makers and to support local businesses—and after starting my own small business, Sunday Club, in 2020, I appreciate the work these creators are doing even more.
I’m also looking forward to getting out and supporting some of my favorite restaurants: Nopa, which was the last restaurant we sat in before San Francisco locked down; Foreign Cinema, where I suggest going ALL out for brunch (seriously, just order everything); Dancing Yak, a locally owned Nepalese restaurant that has the best butter chicken and the kindest staff; and 20 Spot, a wine bar that’s exactly the vibe I want on a night out: chill, cozy, and with tasty bites and lots of fun, creative wines you won’t find anywhere else. Bonus: It’s right across the street from Garden Creamery, one of SF’s best from-scratch ice cream shops.
And what would summer in San Francisco be without picnics in the park? Dolores Park, Alamo Square Park, and Golden Gate Park are where you’re most likely to find me.
What to Pack for a Trip to San Francisco in the Summer
An Outfit-Making Layering Piece
Don’t let the California sunshine deceive you... San Francisco summers are cold and windy, and it’s not unusual to have your entire winter wardrobe in rotation during the middle of July! I love Aritizia’s Ganna shirt-jacket — it’s warm but breathable, and just the right amount of oversized, so you can layer it over any outfit.
Sneakers You Can Walk in All Day
I always feel like the best way to get to know any city is to walk it. I’ve been wearing my Veja Espalars everywhere I go; I love how effortless yet sleek they look, and I can wear them with both dresses and jeans.
A Throw-On-and-Go Piece
There’s so much to see and do around San Francisco, so pack an easy throw-on-and-go outfit for days when you’re rushing out the door; I’m a fan of the linen jumpsuits from MATE the Label.
Ever since I discovered Kitsch’s face masks, I haven’t looked back and haven’t worn anything else. They’re comfortable, easy to clean, and come in lots of colors and patterns.
A Carry-All Bag
There is no shortage of cute boutiques and local shops to check out in San Francisco, and you’re likely to end your day with at least a few knick-knacks to take home. Bring a bag that’s big enough for all the local goodies you’re sure to collect … and one that zips closed, too!
Hair clips, Scrunchies — or Anything to Keep Your Hair Out of Your Face:
Trust me: You will experience that famous San Francisco wind when you visit in the summer. I keep a hair clip with me at all times, to avoid the tangled mess that my hair becomes when the wind picks up.
A Versatile, Ready-for-Anything Outfit
In San Francisco, you might find yourself on a hike, kayaking in the bay, picnicking in the park, or sipping rosé … all in the same day. So you need an outfit that will keep up with everything you’re doing. I love Outdoor Voices’s Exercise Dress—it’s made for moving, but still cute enough to wear to dinner or drinks.