How to dress for the office in summer - Styled By Sally

How to dress for the office in summer


When temperatures rise, inhibitions plummet. To avoid the distractions and embarrassment that can occur when employees wear attire that is too revealing, many workplaces have specific summer dress codes.

A recent study in the US of 1200 people revealed worrying news for bosses; almost three in 10 workers are worried that a colleague’s dress sense reflects badly on the business. A fifth even put off bringing clients or business contacts into the office.

Thankfully most office spaces will have some form of climate control, so the while the temperature outside may be hot and humid, inside it’s likely to be mild and comfortable. Keep this is mind when dressing for work on a warm day; you may need to put on more clothes than you think. Have a jacket, cardigan or wrap on hand to cover up if the air conditioning gets too fresh.

For women, strapless, backless and shoestring straps are not suitable office attire, even in the height of summer. Short shorts, mini-skirts and low-cut or sheer blouses may get you attention, but not necessarily the raise or promotion you want. Equally, maxi dresses are not office appropriate. Sleeveless tops and dresses are OK, but perhaps have a lightweight cardigan or blazer on hand to cover up if an important client or the boss drops by. In summer, swap the jacket and pencil skirt for a silk blouse and a pleated A-line, allowing you and your skin to breathe.

In a professional workplace, it can be more difficult for men to dress for warmer weather. Shorts and short sleeved shirts are not suitable, but what can you wear? Opt for shirts made of lightweight cotton or cotton/silk blend (more tips on natural fibres below) and lightweight wool trousers or a cotton chino style trouser. Don’t forget about your socks- 100% cotton or wool socks will allow your feet to breathe and will help avoid sweating. You can keep cool whilst maintaining a polished, professional look in summer.

Thongs are a definite no-no when it comes to the office, as are Crocs and Birkenstocks. Not only are they inappropriate in a corporate environment, they are extremely unprofessional. Ask about your workplace’s policy on footwear, as some may not allow open toed shoes. For women, this could mean no peep-toes, or strappy sandals. If your company does allow open-toe or backless shoes, make sure your feet and toenails are clean and cared for.

When the weather warms, there are choices you can make as to the fabrics you choose for summer. Natural fibres like cotton, wool, linen and silk breathe and are actually very cool to wear in hot weather. Anything made of synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic don’t breathe so well because they are not as porous and therefore not as absorbent. So if it’s a hot day, and particularly humid, a synthetic fibre combined with sweat will make you feel hotter and sweatier. The good news is that a lot of suiting is made of 100% wool, so don’t limit your wool suits to the wintery months, they will be perfect for summer too.

As Kate Lorenz, Editor of say’s, “if you think a piece of clothing could be inappropriate for the office, it probably is.”

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