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Business Casual Tips for Summer

Kate Lorenz, Editor

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We've been waiting months to store away our away our scarves and sweaters.  But there's a down side to the balmy weather:  Even if you take off your suit jacket, the shirt underneath it is plastered to your sweaty back before you board your train.

Business casual dressing is a challenge year-round, but figuring out what clothing is acceptable for the office -- but comfortable enough for the heat -- gets even harder in the summertime.  Are polo shirts professional enough?  Do you really need to wear pantyhose when it's so hot you can barely pull them on?

Before you go shopping for your summer work wardrobe, consult your company's dress code.  You may have a formal policy on whether seasonal pieces like sandals and T-shirts are acceptable.  If your company does not have a written dress code, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind if industry do I work in?  Is it typically very conservative?

  • What is my office culture/environment?

  • What image am I trying to portray?

  • Do I have frequent contact with customers?

Some general guidelines

Spring and summer clothing are defined by bright, cheery colors. Don't be afraid to add some of this color to your work wardrobe.  Even the most conservative wardrobes can look more seasonal with a colorful scarf or pin.  That said, don't go overboard.  A pink shirt, skirt, shoes, scarf and handbag will have you looking more Easter egg than office chic.

White and lacy clothing are especially popular this year, but if you choose to wear these fabrics, also make sure you're wearing appropriate undergarments.  A little overexposure can go a long way in souring your credibility.

You should also always keep a cardigan or blazer at your desk.  It can provide a quick cover-up if you get called in for an important meeting, and can also come in handy in an overly air conditioned office.

The gray area

When it comes to specific seasonal attire, employers' policies vary greatly.  Check with your employer before wearing:

Sandals and open-toed shoes -- If your toes are going to be exposed, keep your feet clean and neatly pedicured. 

Capri pants and gauchos -- Some styles of these cropped and flowing pants can be quite dressy.  If you choose to wear them, pair them with dressy, professional heels.

Polos and T-shirts -- Stick to conservative, basic styles in a good quality material.  Shirts should never be too tight or have large prints or logos.

Trendy jewelry -- Big earrings, necklaces and belts are very popular right now, but use discretion when wearing them to work.  Avoid wearing accessories -- like large earrings that jangle -- that can become distracting to others.

Leave these at home
Above all, avoid any clothing that is sheer, sloppy or revealing.  The following are some of the worst offenders:

  • Denim shorts

  • Short skirts

  • Halter, strapless or tank tops

  • Flip-flops

  • Workout attire

  • Beachwear

  • Midriff-bearing clothing

  • Concert T-shirts or shirts with offensive slogans or logos

Bottom line:  Go ahead and enjoy the season, but when it comes to office wear, always err on the side of conservative.

Last Updated: 24/09/2007 - 3:50 PM

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