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How To Dress Professionally In The Summer Heat

Keep your cool while staying professional

summer heatAs the weather heats up and the lazy days of summer saunter into the northern hemisphere, the call of the outdoors becomes so strong some mornings that it’s hard to drag yourself into the office, let alone dress appropriately enough to conduct business. But before you succumb to the urge to go totally casual – even if your office has a summer casual dress policy – remember that what you wear has a HUGE impact on how you’re perceived. Warm weather doesn’t change that.

Your main goal should always be credibility. You don’t have to dress down to stay cool. You just need a few tried-and-true solutions to help you fight the heat yet keep your authority intact. Here are some guidelines to dress professionally in the summer heat:


Wear layers to adjust to changing temperatures. It’s the easiest way to combat the high heat/high air conditioning combination that you’ll encounter as you go in and out of buildings. A short sleeve blouse or top and jacket or a summer sweater set gives you the jacket piece that lends authority with the short sleeve top to help regulate heat.

Try skirts instead of slacks, even if you’re a devoted pants wearer. Skirts allow air to circulate around your thighs, and you can create an instant blast of cool air by subtly fanning your legs with the material.

Try wearing your hair up in a simple yet professional style. A chignon, French twist, French braid, or even a low ponytail will pull the hair off the back of your neck while still allowing you to look proficient.

Try alternate types of hosiery, including thigh-high and knee high styles. They’re a cool alternative to full panty hose.

Opt for lighter makeup, especially if you’re in and out of the heat a lot. Hot weather and lots of makeup do not go well together. Not only does makeup tend to run, blotch, and wear off in the heat, it can also clog pores and lead to breakouts.

Wear a lighter, summertime fragrance. Heavy perfumes tend to cloy in the heat, making even a little bit just too much.

Pull out your summer business accessories, including light colored handbags, shoes, and briefcases. Clean purse and other portables of unnecessary items and go for light and easy.

So now that you know what you SHOULD do, what should you avoid?

The biggest thing to remember is that the more skin you show, the more casual you appear. If you keep that foremost in your mind, whatever your occupation, you won’t go wrong. So with that in mind —


Wear a sleeveless top to work, even if you have great upper arms. A short or even a cap sleeve is always more appropriate for business.

Wear shorts or miniskirts unless it’s part of a uniform or your goal is to have people stare at your thighs instead of your face.

Go without hosiery. Yes, they may do that at the offices of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, but it’s usually viewed as inappropriate in most traditional business settings. Try the alternatives suggested above instead.

Go too casual on the footwear. Closed toe shoes are usually the best choice for most business situations, and can range from pumps and slingbacks to loafers and mules. Keep the sandals for after-hours.

Get too crazy with the summer colors. A bit of color is always a welcome change come summer, but too much of a loud color can be distracting. Remember: you want attention on you, NOT on the color of your clothes.

Whatever you do, remember that regardless of how hot it gets or what others you work with wear, you represent both you and your organization. If you find yourself questioning a particular outfit this summer, remember the “ABC’s” of business dress: appropriateness, boundaries, and consistency.

APPROPRIATE clothes meld with both your work environment and the people with whom you interact. Always consider your line of work and your audience.

By setting BOUNDARIES with how you dress, you’ll know that your clothes always offer proper coverage. Make it a policy never to wear anything that would distract from the business at hand, like plunging necklines, extremely sheer blouses, or eye-popping hemlines.

A CONSISTENT approach to business dress establishes trust and credibility for everyone with whom you interact. They know what to expect from you and will always treat you accordingly.

Again, don’t abandon your business goals simply because it’s heating up. Just adjust your wardrobe to accommodate higher temps to keep your professional image intact

About Diana Pemberton-Sikes

Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of Wardrobe Magic, an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at Fashion For Real Women. Need some tips and tricks? Pick up a copy of Wardrobe Magic. Visit her site for more information.


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