What to Wear to Work in Summer

Dear Anita,

It’s so hot and humid! How can I dress for comfort during summer yet maintain a professional image at work?

Dear “Hot Under the Collar,”

Unless you’re a lifeguard, you can’t get away with wearing beachwear to work. (In fact, that’s a good litmus test: “Would I wear this to the beach?” If the answer is yes, don’t wear it to work!)

Even though less is more when it comes to summer dressing, don’t take it too far. Forgo the panty hose and tights, but make sure you don’t show too much leg with a too-short mini skirt. Cropped pants or culottes may give your ankles a breeze while not ruffling feathers in the HR department. Depending on your company’s dress code, sandals may be allowed, but flip-flops, in my opinion, are never copacetic for work (that thwack-thwack-thwack is so distracting!).

Bare arms may be acceptable – thanks,  Michelle Obama! – but spaghetti straps are not office-appropriate. Be sure to bring a cardigan or blazer so you don’t catch a cold when you enter your hermetically-sealed 68-degree air-conditioned office. (Think that’s just an old wives’ tale? The Wall Street Journal published an article on the effects of going in and out of air conditioning.)

Check out my Pinterest board for summer wardrobe inspiration.

When diving into your closet to select a summer wardrobe, check clothing labels, not for the designer name, but for the fabric content. Breathable fabrics like cotton or linen keep you cooler than synthetic fabrics like nylon which, because they don’t absorb moisture well, can leave you feeling clammy in high temps. Seersucker is a cotton fabric woven in a puckered style so it lifts off your skin and allows air to circulate. In that vein, looser-fitting clothes (without looking sloppy) can be more comfortable than bodycon fashions. Opt for an unstructured dress rather than pencil skirt with tucked in blouse, cinched with a leather belt. That’s just asking for a sweat-soaked “spare tire.” Performance fabrics wick sweat away from your body. The trend started in athletic wear, but you no longer have to look like you’re ready for your gym workout. These value-added textiles are going mainstream; you can now find polos and dress shirts made from performance fabrics.

Color matters, too. There’s a reason white and light colors are popular in the summer. While black may be slimming, it also absorbs more heat (technically, black absorbs more light which is converted to heat). And there’s just something psychological about wearing a fun summer floral that feels more refreshing than drab winter hues.

With these tips, you can avoid cooling yourself Marilyn Monroe-style over a subway grate, like viral Reddit “Cape Man.”

Readers: Describe your favorite hot-weather office-appropriate outfit.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Judy Garofalo
    Jul 30, 2016 @ 08:41:02

    To the we staff employers.
    I would like some information on what kind of employment that is available for the month of August. I saw your advertisement at the West Warwick Department of labor and Training. Could you email me some information about full or temporary employment that is available. Thank you for your time.


  2. Sue Koches
    Jul 05, 2016 @ 10:25:32

    My favorite is linen cropped pants with a linen blouse that can double as a light blazer. Using a tank under the blouse, accessorize with cute sandals, earrings (nothing too flashy) and a shell necklace.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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