Summer is just around the corner, and cities across the country have already benefitted from a preview of what’s to come: sunny skies, blooming flowers, and unusually warm days. Once the temperatures start to climb, many of us are inclined to bring out our favourite sandals and sundresses, in preparation for spending as much time as possible outdoors. Caution: while breezy tank tops and flip-flops are appropriate for the beach and the park, they should not be worn to the office. Business attire is still the protocol for corporate and professional settings, even when the heat is on and we are tempted to shed layers. Here are some do’s and don’ts for summer attire in the office, with a few tips to keeping cool – even when looking your professional best.
Office-appropriate summer footwear can be tricky, because different corporate cultures have varying expectations. In some business-casual offices, elegant and simple sandals or peep-toe pumps are permitted. If this is the case, before breaking out the open-toed shoes, make sure that your feet are sandal-ready (a pedicure may be in order!). Flip-flops are never appropriate in the office; these should be left as beachwear only. For corporate or professional settings that require more formal dress, sandals of any kind should not be worn. Sling-back pumps are a great option that allow for more breathing room, while maintaining a tasteful style. You can also wear sandals or casual shoes on your way to and from the office, as long as you have a pair of pumps or closed-toe ballet flats waiting for you when you arrive.
In terms of attire, dressing in light colours and materials is key. For tops, stick to cotton or linen shirts: a crisp, white shirt keeps cool in summer and is a classic option. Blazers or jackets are also made in summer-friendly materials: linen or seersucker for both men and women provide a lighter alternative than a wool blazer. Or, a standard navy blazer over a white shirt also allows for a fresh look. Short-sleeve or three-quarter-length sleeve dresses in a lightweight material make for a comfortable alternative; if you choose a sleeveless or thin-strapped dress, a cardigan or light blazer would be necessary to cover bare shoulders.
With regard to bottoms, khaki pants or dress pants made from a lighter material are reliable options. Skirts should still maintain a modest cut around the knee, but switching up a more breathable fabric in lieu of a wool skirt will help to keep cool. The question of whether pantyhose is necessary in summer is again subjective to varying office cultures and different levels of attire: however, as stockings are the norm year-round in business formal and as well as in some business casual settings, I would recommend continuing to pair tights with skirts – opting for the sheerest and lightest versions in the hotter months. In any professional context, denim and cutoff shorts are inappropriate, though in more casual environments, well tailored Bermuda shorts or Capri pants are acceptable.
Luckily, air-conditioned offices during the summertime make it more comfortable to don standard suits and jackets when necessary. The trick is finding an easy transition and balance between professional attire and breezy summer fashion. And if you’re going to head to the beach right after work, bring your flip-flops, swimsuit, and beachwear in a tote to change into – after hours!
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