Professional Summer Style

I love everything about summer – the slower pace, the longer weekends, and a more relaxed attitude that permeates almost everything – even getting dressed! For summer weekends, nothing could be easier than grabbing a flowy sundress, flat sandals, and a big hat. But, what about dressing for the work week? How can you be office-appropriate, stay cool, and still enjoy the best of summer style? Read on for some helpful tips.

Crack the code. What’s considered to be appropriate business attire varies by geography, industry, company, and corporate culture. That said, you should always remember that business comes first in any business casual equation. For clarification, consult your official company dress code if you have one. If not, take some visual cues from what your company’s authority figures are wearing. When in doubt about a particular item, ask yourself the following question: “Would this clothing item be worn at the beach, park, or pool?” If the answer is yes, you should probably not wear it to work.

Too much of a good thing? In general, exposed skin sends a less-than business-like message, so avoid showing too much. If you decide to go sleeveless, avoid tank tops, halters, and camisoles. Instead, opt for a sleeveless style with more coverage and a modest neckline. Be sure you have a jacket or cardigan at the ready, in case you’re called into an unexpected meeting. Remember that balance is the key to coverage. If you are wearing a skirt, pair it with a ¾ or long sleeve blouse. Similarly, if you are wearing a sleeveless top, opt for pants.

Lighten up. When it comes to keeping cool, it’s all about the fabric.  Natural fibers pull heat away from your body, keeping you happily air conditioned. A dress made of rayon may appear lightweight and floaty, but it will do nothing other than trap heat. Look for clothing contents that include cotton, linen, and hemp, and avoid high percentages of rayon, polyester and nylon. Color also plays an important role in beating the heat. The darker values attract high temperatures, so opt for lighter ones which actually deflect the sun and are more relevant for the season. As a side note, lighter fabrics are sometimes sheer. Remember to check your reflection under bright lighting to make sure your undergarments don’t show under that pesky florescent office lighting. Very often a little cami can go a long way.

Say “yes” to the dress. Dresses are the easiest way to look effortlessly chic in warm weather. With so many shapes and styles to choose from, there’s something for everyone. For work, consider keeping the silhouette simple, but opt for a pop of color or one of the tribal, tropical, or floral patterns that are so strong this season. With your legs on display, attention to grooming is a must. In addition to shaving, waxing, self-tanning and the like, you can also apply a bit of concealer to cover bites, bruises, or cuts. BTW, in case you are wondering… dresses and skirts worn to the office should be long enough that they reach the knees when standing.

Put your best foot forward. I hate to break the news, but not only are flip flops never appropriate for the office, they’re not even suitable for the commute. (You never know who you might run into on the street or in the elevator.) Instead, opt for a more office-appropriate peep-toe pump or slingback. A dressy sandal can also do the trick, provided that there’s a fair amount of coverage. A great pedicure not only completes your look, but is also soothing to hot and tired feet.

In general, as temperatures rise and dress codes relax, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the finishing touches such as grooming and accessories. Ditto for clothing maintenance. Remember, when it comes to summer office attire, no need to sweat it! With these few simple tips, you can keep it cool, casual, and professional…and embrace summer in style!

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