Summer Office Attire: What’s Appropriate, What’s Not

How many of these statements on summer business dress have you heard? “Summer is the only time I get to wear what I want to the office” “Summer business casual is less strict than other times of the year” “Our office is always cold (hot), so I must wear _________(fill in the blank)” ” We meet fewer clients in the summer, so it’s not that important to get dressed up”. These are just a few of the misconceptions regarding summer office attire. The fact is that although summer business dress may appear more casual, the more casual your dress, the more important your grooming and accessorizing become. Your motto for summer should be “dress down/groom up”. Here are some suggestions to keep your office attire during the warmer months business appropriate but still consistent with both the warm weather and the ephemeral nature of the season.

Sheath Dress

1. Choose brighter colors and lighter fabrics. These will both keep you more comfortable and look more seasonable. If black or navy is your color of choice during the cooler months, try light gray, pale taupe or beige as your base color in the summer. Then add in a flattering bright such as pink, yellow, or the “in” color for 2013, emerald green.

2. Stay up to date with your grooming. Hair, nails, makeup and shaving/waxing all must be tended to. It may be easier to schedule these appointments in advance, especially if you’re on the go during the weekends.

3. Know the difference between a sundress and a sheath dress. They are both sleeveless, come to the knee, and are currently in vogue. The similarities, however, end there. A sheath dress is tailored, in either a solid color or subtle pattern, and fitted to the body.  The simple lines and conservative style make it office appropriate. A sundress is usually light colored, or in a bold pattern, with narrow spaghetti straps and shaped with either an empire waist or drapey skirt. The relaxed style makes it not recommended for business. If you must wear a sundress to the office, I suggest putting a cardigan over it.

Summery Pattered Top
Summery Pattered Top
Work Polo and Khakis
Work Polo and Khakis

4. Ankle length slim cut slacks with flats and a bright or patterned top are a nice everyday look for women. Men always have the option of a polo shirt with khaki pants. Casual, but appropriate. A step up would be adding a blazer, or lightweight wool slacks with a patterned button down shirt. Custom made shirts offer unique options such as colored buttons and contrasting trim.

Some items I would suggest that are not business appropriate include:

1. Flip flops, which¬† are the number one office dress complaint I get from human resource managers. They’re overly casual, noisy and unsafe. Yes, they’re easy and comfortable but even if they have a pretty design or logo on them they’re not for the office.

2. Shorts. Yes, I know they wear them in Silicon Valley year round, and there are even tailored shorts displayed as office attire, but c’mon, they’re shorts!

Sockless Look, Don't Recommend

3. Halter tops, midriffs and other strapless, summery attire. Halters, tank tops, midriff bearing and low cut blouses are never office appropriate. Showing that much skin will take away from the business message that you put so much effort into. Save them for the weekend.

4. Sockless look for men. This is a bit of a double standard, as women do wear sandals without socks or pantyhose, while loafers or lace-ups on men need socks. If you guys want to try for a different look this summer there are plenty of fun colorful socks that will lighten up your business outfit. Simply match a color in the sock to your pants or shirt and you will be on-trend, polished and professional!

The summer months can be a good time to try new styles that you might not wear the rest of the year. As always, assess your plans for the day i.e. seeing clients, day in the office, playing golf or corporate training all call for different guidelines. You can never be too careful, however, so as at all times during the year, if unsure that something is appropriate, it’s probably not!

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