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Professional Summer Wear

The warmer weather is finally here! As much as I love the sunshine and the summer styles that go with it, short hemlines, bare shoulders, and breezy silhouettes can be a bit too casual for the workplace. While some offices are more laidback than others, chances are denim cutoffs, and tank tops are most likely a no-go for your 9-to-5. Here’s a rundown of how best to dress for the weather and work.

First up, know your work environment. Check your office’s dress policy and see if there are any seasonal changes. Look to see how everyone else dresses for the summer, especially fellow employees who have similar positons and/or years of experience as you do. Also, look to senior-level staff as good examples on how to dress for the summer. But, be warned, higher-ups do have a bit more leeway to dress how they please than entry-level or mid-management folks. The head of your department may get away with strappy sandals, but, if you’re lower on the totem pole, stick to closed-toed shoes.

In general, for ladies, shorts, mini-skirts, spaghetti-strap tops/dresses, cropped shirts, and anything with too much cleavage are best avoided. For men in an office setting, stay away from shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and anything that feels like athletic wear. Of course, if your workplace is on the extremely casual side and the dress policy allows for it, then, by all means, bust out the cargo shorts and golf shirts. However, no one should ever wear flip-flops to work, unless you are on break from school and lifeguarding at the pool.

What IS appropriate, you may ask?

Again, in general, and depending on your organizational culture, for a typical summer day at the office, you’re safe with peep-toe shoes, sheath dresses, cropped pants, scoop-neck tops, lightweight knitwear, and short-sleeved shirts for men. Of course, you want to opt for garments rendered in breathable fabrics like cotton, but try to stay away from head-to-toe linen, which wrinkles easily and can look sloppy. Bare legs are usually also fine, but for a more conservative workplace, keep a pair of pantyhose at your desk. You may find that hose comes in handy to protect your legs if your office runs on the chilly side due to amped up AC. Stay away from opaque tights, especially in black, which look downright odd in the midst of summer.

Layers are also crucial for summer office wear. As mentioned above, air conditioning can wreak havoc on an otherwise perfectly appropriate warm-weather outfit. Pair your breathable, sleeveless button-downs and shift dresses with a cardigan or blazer that you can easily take off when you step outside. If capris and cropped pants leave your ankles freezing, consider a full-length, looser trouser in a lighter fabric, like rayon as your summertime office staple.

Lastly, keep on top of your laundry. In the fall and winter, you can get away with wearing a piece of clothing 2-3 times before having to wash it. In the summer, we all sweat, and, no matter how breathable or ventilated a garment, if you’re wearing it all day, chances are it’ll need to be cleaned before the next wear. Dry-cleaning can certainly add up, so when shopping for summer office apparel be sure to check the label for care instructions and opt for garments you can throw in with the rest of your laundry or hand wash if need be. Also, while it may seem like a pain, ironing can make all the difference in having a questionable garment appear more work appropriate. The cleaner and crisper your shirt/dress/pants, the more polished and professional you’ll be.

If you’re on the fence as to whether or not a particular outfit is appropriate, take a good long look in the mirror and ask yourself: Would I be comfortable showing up in this outfit for an impromptu meeting with my boss? If yes, great, you’re ready for the day of work ahead. If not, go back to your closet and try again.

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