How to Dress for Work in the Heat of Summer and Not Get Fired

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When the temperatures really start to climb, the last thing in the world you want to do is pile on the claustrophobic, sweaty workwear. However, unless you work at a water park (and probably even if you do), most workplaces have certain standards for what you are allowed to wear at work. While some workwear dress codes are admittedly archaic and grounded in a time where women’s rights were more of a theoretical construct than a reality, at the end of the day, we all still need to earn a living. Fear not fashion lovers, even if you work in a stuffy and sartorially unforgiving environment, you can still keep cool this summer at the office. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you keep your cool, and out of your manager’s office.

Be judicious about how much skin you show

Too much skin in an office environment is sometimes a bit jarring, both from a visual standpoint and a temperature one. If you are lucky enough to work in a more casual, creative environment, you can usually get away with a bit more flesh showing than those who work in more conservative environments. The secret to keeping it professional in any environment however, is balance.

If you want to go with a sleeveless dress, make sure that it has a longer hemline, preferably knee-length. Longer, maxi-length dresses may work in a creative office, but are a bit too bohemian for more conservative workplaces. If you work in a super-conservative environment where the bosses get scandalised by the mere suggestion of a shoulder or kneecap (and I hope, seeing as thought its the year 2016, that you don’t), make sure to have a blazer on hand to bring with you to meetings and lunches.
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Choose sweat-proof colors and patterns

Lighter colors are great for warmer weather, but make sure you choose something that will stay fresh-looking throughout the day. Colors with a “heathered” finish like grey and lavender tend to show sweat marks easily, so if you are going to be in and out of doors, up and down stairs, or spending a lot of time on public transit on a hot day, you may want to steer clear of them. Shift dresses in simple cuts and patterns are great options, and tend to look fresh all day. If you’re just not a print person, try solid, saturated colors like yellow, green, or orange.

Keep your shoe game in check

Again, if you work in a creative environment, you may be able to get away with a trendier shoe, like this season’s revival of that 90’s favorite, the mule. However, there are certain kinds of footwear that just don’t work at work. Flip-flops are never okay for work, in any environment. You are essentially barefoot in a pair of flip flops, and no, they don’t make you look “quirky-casual”. Another thing to avoid – no matter how hot it is in your office, resist the temptation to kick-off your shoes while at work. At best, it looks unprofessional. At worst…well…you know.

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Let your accessories do the talking

Dressing for the office in summer is actually quite a bit easier once you figure our your particular “formula” for your office. When you’ve found a silhouette that works for you in the hot weather, change-up your look with the use of accessories. A simple navy sleeveless shift can look drastically different paired with a chunky mariner link necklace and pumps than it does with an extra-long strand of pearls and mid-heeled loafers. Just keep the climate and culture of your particular workplace in mind when choosing your accessories. What’s appropriate at a forward-looking fashion magazine is probably not going to fly on Wall street.

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Don’t neglect your summer handbag game

Even if you’re not a purse hound, it will serve you well to give a bit of thought to the handbag you’re carrying to and from the office. You don’t need to spend a lot of money here, but do try to lighten the look of any bag or tots you choose for the office in the warmer months of the year. That same, heavy black leather tote that you’ve been lugging all winter long will weigh-down a light, summery look faster than you can say go.

If you’re looking for something that will wear well over time, choose a simply designed handbag or tote in a natural tan leather color with clean lines and minimal detailing. A simple leather bag in a quality leather will wear incredibly well, and not interfere with whatever it is you’re wearing.