Warm Weather Work Attire

By Paula Santonocito

happy woman with shopping bags sitting on a benchAh, August. The dog days of summer, when the sun shines and the temps climb. It’s okay to relax your professional appearance a little during the summer, right?

The answer to this question, admittedly, isn’t always straightforward.

Your Workplace

What you wear to work should be determined, at least partly, by where you work.

For example, the vice president of a Wall Street financial services firm may wish she could wear a sundress and sandals to the office in August, but the outfit wouldn’t be appropriate. On the other hand, the owner of a fashion boutique in lower Manhattan would be perfectly outfitted in the same attire.

Geography also dictates dress. Professional women in Fort Lauderdale dress differently from their female counterparts in Chicago.

Environment, from the standpoint of your actual workplace, also matters. If you’re an administrative professional for a school district, for example, you might tone down your appearance a little during the summer months when school isn’t in session.

Define Relaxed

But what constitutes “toned down”? How do you dress more comfortably to beat the heat, and to loosen up a little, while maintaining professionalism?

First, you have to be sure to straddle the line between work wear and after-work wear with care. Casual summer clothes and professional summer clothes are different.

To this end, there are several definite don’ts.

Don’t wear flip-flops, shorts, mid-drift tops, and ultra-sheer blouses to work. Likewise, plunging necklines and short skirts don’t say business, at least not the kind of business you’re in.

Woman wearing Warm Weather Work ClothesCool and Comfortable

On the other hand, many tanks, sleeveless tops, and T-shirts can be paired with skirts or pants and still look professional, especially if worn with a cardigan or jacket.

Similarly, you can beat the heat in a sleeveless summer dress, while keeping it professional with a jacket or cardigan.

When it comes to shoes, women often get confused during the summer months. Are sandals and open-toed shoes acceptable?

Here again, geography, industry, and individual company preferences and policies usually dictate what works when it comes to summer footwear.

When in doubt about what to wear to work, take the advice of consultant Carol Kinsey Goman, who recommends single women look at the way successful female managers dress and emulate their styles.

You’ll also want to be conscious of your age and body type, especially at the time of year when clothing is more revealing. Chances are a 40-something single woman who is 40 pounds overweight isn’t going to look as polished in a sleeveless top and baby doll cardigan as her younger, slimmer counterpart. It may not be fair, but reality often isn’t.

Remember too, that although the goal is to be cool during the hot summer, it’s important to know if your employer is cool with how you look.

Companies often have dress code policies, and management publications indicate summer tends to be the time policies get enforced. It wouldn’t do your career any good to be counseled for clothing. Find out if your company has a dress code, and if so follow it.

This raises another point. Single women managers should take the time to convey any company policies regarding summer dress codes to their employees, with attention to specific dos and don’ts.

Finally, keep in mind that if you’re a manager, other single women (as well as married women and men) look to you for guidance. It’s not only what you say, but what you wear that tells them what’s acceptable in terms of summer workplace attire.

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