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As temperatures rise keeping up a professional appearance becomes more challenging particularly when you work in a casual environment. While some companies stay buttoned-up even during the warmer weather others take the idea of casual down to a whole new level with some employees dressed like they’re headed to the beach. When you work in a laid-back office it can be tempting to throw on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, step into a pair of flip-flops and head for the office. But, if you value your professional reputation don’t do it.
It’s easy to diminish your professional “brand” and not so easy to recover. “Your reputation at work is your personal brand,” says Lynne Sarikas, director of Northeastern University’s MBA Career Center. “You work hard to known as a capable, competent professional who does great work in a timely manner. Do not ruin or at least tarnish that reputation by dressing unprofessionally in the workplace. It is not worth it.”
One of the biggest issues for women is finding a way to be comfortable in both the summer heat and the arctic chill of the office. Subways and trains when the air-conditioning is on the fritz can be overwhelming. Professional stylists say the trick to navigating these extreme temperature changes is to layer, layer, layer. Even if your office is on the warm side keep a jacket or sweater on hand for impromptu meetings.
What should you wear? Dresses come highly recommended as a solid choice for summer because of their ease and style. For more versatility think skirts. Stacia Pierce of Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises says, “Pair a tailored tank with a straight skirt for a smart look that means business. Another way to go is a maxi skirt with a dressy tank to give your casual look a formal appearance.”
It’s also essential to be careful when it comes to fabrics. The generally consensus is to stick with natural fabrics like cotton and silk. Just be careful with linen. “Linen is a great summer fabric, but it wrinkles a lot, so it’s not great for the office,” says Illysia Neumann-Loreck, fashion stylist and blogger at Madly Chic. “You don’t want to look like you just rolled out of bed.”
Two problem areas for women are pantyhose and shoes. In some companies bare legs are acceptable in other’s they are not. Look around and see what other women are wearing. “If you do choose to go bare, shave, exfoliate and moisturize like crazy – even a tinted moisturizer on your legs can go a long way to creating a more polished leg,” says Katherine Lazaruk of ICU Image Consulting. Choosing the right shoes can also be problematic in warmer weather. Open-toed shoes and sandals will work in some offices, ballet flats are almost always a safe choice. Again take a look at what other women in your office are wearing.
When it comes to Don’ts the three biggest offenders are:
The one place where shorter can be better is when it comes to your hair. “Summer is a great time to experiment with chignons, side ponytails, sleek braids or even with new shorter cuts,” says Lazaruk. “Just getting your hair off your neck can decrease your body temperature a couple of degrees.”
Our experts also offered a few ideas on where to shop, particularly for those of us on a budget. Their suggestions for online shopping are:
While some companies have a dress code regarding your summer wardrobe many do not. When in doubt about what to wear err on the side of caution – the office is not the place to advertise your assets. Look to your supervisor and other managers at the company for guidance or speak to someone in HR.
Before you leave for work in the morning take a quick look in the mirror. “Think about whether you would want the president of the company or an important client to see you in that outfit. If the answer is no, don’t wear it to work,” advises Sarikas. Remember it only takes a minute to damage the solid reputation you’ve taken years to build.