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Summertime in the workplace: How to dress for work when it’s hot outside

Dressing for the office is never a walk in the park — but doing so in the summer can be extra-challenging. Get some work-wise wardrobe advice and tips on summer fashion staples for the hot days ahead.

Woman holding fan in office.

Depending on where you live you’ve got to deal with extreme heat while trying to stay both appropriately covered and sweat-free.  The resulting balancing act can be a tough one, so we’ve sought out two experts to help: wardrobe consultant Carla Nemiroff and image consultant Rachel Fauman

Cover up in cotton

  In terms of fabrics, both women suggest cotton as ideal in terms of being most breathable. “If it’s cut and made a certain way that’s more tailored, it’s going to look okay,” says Nemiroff. “You can wear it with a nice pair of pants and not look schleppy.” Fauman recommends Theory, James Perse, and Vince and Tahari for quality cotton clothing. (See a Tahari Stretch Cotton Shirtdress from Nordstrom.)

Fauman also suggests jersey and lycra as great fabrics to wear to work during the summer season. In particular, she’s a fan of the printed dresses in these materials, made by Rachel Pally, French Connection, BCBG Max Azria and Nieves Levi. As an added bonus, these fabrics don’t wrinkle.

Summer staples

When it comes to choosing staple items to include in your summer wardrobe for the office, Nemiroff suggests a pencil skirt, wide leg pants and white pants. But don’t stop there: Both Nemiroff and Fauman recommend dresses for the working girl, citing them as a flattering and simple option.

“For a summer wardrobe to be easy and successful,” says Fauman, “I recommend having between three and five dresses or skirts that you love, some great lightweight cotton or linen pants, and some button downs and cotton basics — probably four to six items.” Her warm weather workplace picks include Stem by Nordstrom, Zooey, Michael Stars and Splendid.

How low can you go?

While in an ideal world, we could ride out a heatwave in shorts and a tank top, we all already know that’s not the best plan when you’re on the job.

Obviously, standards of dress vary greatly from workplace to workplace — however, as a general rule, both Fauman and Nemiroff agree: It’s always better to err on the conservative side. “It is fairly safe to assume that you should always wear something that covers your shoulders, your cleavage, and doesn’t go higher than two inches above your knees,” says Fauman.

Nemiroff suggests trying to wear a nice sleeveless shirt with a light jacket on top. “That way, on your lunch break or if you really get overheated, you can take the jacket off.”

Even in the heat of the moment…

Studies show that, for better or for worse, how you look on the job can matter almost as much as your qualifications. This advice goes doubly when it comes to job interviews. So take a little time to review your wardrobe with these tips in mind! You may not get a “thank you” from anyone higher up in the food chain, but trust us — they’ll notice.

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