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10 Must-Follow Rules for Dressing for Work during the Summer

When the temps soar, office dressing becomes a little more challenging. Summer styles can range from comfy and cute to barely there, so what's appropriate and what's not when it comes to office dressing? Here's how to toe the line.


Flip flops are never OK

Flip flops are definitely a summer staple for both men and women… at the beach. But most experts agree, flip flops are never summer workwear appropriate. “I personally don’t love flip flops for the office but I think a cute summer sandal is equally relaxed and comfortable,” says Leesa Evans, stylist and Hollywood costume designer.

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearKate Aedon/shutterstock

Don’t go too bare

Baby, it’s hot outside, but that doesn’t make it OK to just strip down, especially in the workplace. “Depending on the formality of your workplace, sleeveless dresses and blouses could be an option in areas with scorching temps,” shares Brittany Mann, StitchFix stylist Brittany Mann. “Any straps that are smaller than the width of three fingers should be left for the weekends.”

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearAnn Haritonenko/shutterstock

Stay put together even at an office picnic

A summer BBQ is fun in theory, but figuring out what to wear can send you into panic mode. “For extra-curricular office activities such as a picnic, remember that you are still with your work colleagues and should always dress for the job you want,” says stylist Samantha Brown, “A sun dress for women or shorts with a polo shirt or casual button-up for men will show that you still take pride in your appearance.”

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearCozy Home/shutterstock

Go for light, breathable fabrics

Sweating is an issue for both men and women during the summer, especially when dealing with a morning commute on a subway or train. Avoid sweat stains, and sweating in general, by opting for light, breathable fabrics, like cotton and linen blends, says Brown, “For men, designers are starting to using moisture wicking technology to keep you cool, ” she says. Brown also recommends tropical wool suiting, which is very lightweight often blending wool with cotton and is designed to be more breathable during the hotter months. Ann Taylor offers several styles that work for women, while Joseph A. Bank has styles for men.

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearDiana Indiana/shutterstock

Casual does not equal sloppy

You love the idea of dressing down on casual Friday, but how down is too down? “Casual Friday dressing varies by industry, but if you’re wearing denim to the office remember that it should be uniform wash with no rips or distressing,” offers Brown.

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearAnn Haritonenko/shutterstock

Keep extra layers on-hand

A big problem during the summer is that it’s hot outside but air conditioning makes it freezing inside. Enter layers. “I always recommend having a blazer or cardigan stashed in your office to combat the AC,” says Brown. Evans agrees, “It’s best to make sure your outfit works with or without the layering piece. I always start with the full look and peel off the layer when needed.” Plus, extra layers may come in handy if you’re heading out after work.

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearViktoria Minkova/shutterstock

Steer away from shorts

For some, shorts fall in the mini-skirt category—a no-go for work. “Skip shorts for the office and stick with a more professional look,” shares Evans. But Brown says if your office doesn’t really have a dress code or you work in a creative field, shorts may be OK, but she still recommends sticking to a nice chino instead of ripped cutoffs.

Save-the-Shorts-for-the-Weekend—and-9-Other-Must-Follow-Rules-for-Summer-Work-WearViktoria Minkova/shutterstock

Dress up when it counts

“If you have face-to-face client meetings or conferences with your colleagues, bring a layer to cover up,” Brown says.


Check out your boss or colleagues

The best way to figure out what to wear? “Take a cue from your boss and always dress in a way that conveys that you are there to work,” shares Brown. Be conservative at first, check out what your boss and co-workers are wearing, and then go from there. You can also check out some other ways to dress appropriately at work.


Keep bra straps covered

Maybe at the beach or a club, it’s OK to have a bra straps peeking out, but keep them covered at the office. “For the office I prefer a tank that does not show a bra strap, because a strapless bra isn’t always comfortable all day,” says Evans.

Felissa Benjamin Allard
Felissa Allard has worked at The New York Daily News, Health, Life & Style, and more. As a freelancer, she has had pieces published on What To Expect, SELF, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan, Modern Mom, Working Mother, and more. Her specialities are beauty, fashion, health, wellness, and parenting.