Your Summer Work Wardrobe: Keep Cool, Stay Chic

By Erin Donnelly

Funny, but you don’t remember an important thing like “Dressing for Success during the Steamy Summer Months” being part of your college course load. Oh, sure, you can find out what x equals when you need to (i.e., never), and translate your boss’s memos into Latin should the impulse strike, but looking like a working girl—and not a working girl, wink wink—at the office when the temperature breaks 85? You’re totally stumped.
pic5You’re not alone. As this recent article from the Associated Press reveals, the summer months pose problems for many business professionals, whether they’re sweating it out in a black wool suit or ruffling their boss’s feathers by showing up to work in skimpy, skin-baring outfits that defy office decorum. It’s an issue that has much to do with etiquette as it does fashion.
So what’s a career gal to do? Keep reading. We’ve found work-appropriate looks that exude professionalism while keeping you cool and comfortable—no sweat stains, itchy fabrics, beet-red faces, or wardrobe violations allowed. Never let them see ya sweat, remember?
First though, Single Minded Women turned to Peggy M. Parks, president of Atlanta’s elite image consulting agency, The Parks Image Group, for guidance on the one issue stressing out overheated working women the most: Whither pantyhose?
“Hosiery is like makeup for your legs,” says Parks. “When you’re young, you don’t really need it because your skin is usually flawless; however, as we get older, we find a need to cover up blemishes, wrinkles or sun spots.”
In her work as an image consultant, Parks sees first-hand how a small detail like hosiery can make or break a first impression. “Just last week, I was in an elevator with a woman who looked very put together until I got to her feet,” she recalls. “She was wearing slingbacks and no hose. Her heels were so scaly, it was disgusting! Something like that is very distracting.You need to be consistent in everything you do, everywhere, every day.If you’re wearing a professional outfit, everything about you needs to be professional. If you are sending mixed messages, you will not be taken seriously.You always want to make sure that, in a business environment, people look at your face when they talk to you. You want to bring attention to your face so they will listen to what you are saying, and won’t be distracted by your cleavage, your hairy legs, or your dry heels!”
Parks advises that if you plan to skip the hosiery, make certain that your legs are well-maintained and free from bruises, body hair, varicose veins, and other skin imperfections. Otherwise, wear trousers or long skirts (although, depending on your work environment, long skirts may not be appropriate).
Now that the Million-Dollar-Hosiery-Question has been dealt with, it’s time to sort out what you’re actually going to wear. We’ve rounded up our favorite polished and professional summer-ready looks below.
Theory Betty Dress (shown, top left): The pinstriped herringbone material exudes class, while the white hue and sleeveless cut are made for summer.
Hollywould Coral Josephine Dress (shown, top right): A chic shirtdress makes a big statement in less-than-conservative offices, especially with the right accessories.
Searle Sleeveless Ponte Sheath Dress: A sleek sheath dress that hits the knees or below is the working woman’s best friend during summer, and it’s great for layering year-round. Choose one in a solid, dark hue (like this navy version) for maximum versatility.
O Oscar Belted Short-Sleeve Double-Breasted Jacket (shown, left): If you’re opting for a cropped or short-sleeve jacket, look for a style that’s polished, with finely tailored details, and not overly trendy. You can also replace this belt with a more conservative black version if you choose.
Glenplaid Jacket & Skirt (shown, right): Replace your stifling black pantsuit with a skirt suit in a lighter, less sun-sucking color. This jacket style works buttoned up or open, with a tasteful blouse.
Kay Unger Textured Jacket & Sheath Dress: This cool taupe combo gives you the option of adding the jacket for meeting clients, and flying sleeveless in the comfort of your office.
You also can’t go wrong with a nice (but not overly tight) pencil skirt paired with a classic button-down blouse and a matching blazer. And don’t get sloppy when it comes to makeup, hair, or accessories. Pin hair up in a chignon if ponytails are too casual for your workplace, keep makeup light and sweat-proof (repeat after me: mineral makeup is my friend), and steer clear of flip-flops and open-toed sandals without the express approval of your higher-ups.

And if all else fails, get there early so you can crank that A/C up!


More SMW Summer Beauty & Fashion Tips:

Some Like it Hot: SMW’s Sizzling Guide to Summer Beauty

Sunglasses, For Girls Who Want Passes

Summer Whites for All Ages