Summer fashion at work: DOs and DON’Ts

Be as colorful as you'd like to celebrate summer, but don't go wrong and show too much skin just because it's hot out.
Be as colorful as you’d like to celebrate summer, but don’t go wrong and show too much skin just because it’s hot out.

It’s finally summer, that sweet time of year when we get to shake off our winter doldrums and shed the extra layers of clothing we’ve been bundled in for the past six months. But though the long, hazy days ahead are synonymous with relaxation, this doesn’t necessarily translate to your work wardrobe. It may be beach weather out there, but that doesn’t mean you can start showing up to the office looking like you’re headed to the shore. We asked four style experts to weigh in on the summer staples that are appropriate for the workplace and the ones you’re better off saving for the weekend.

Do: Colored jeans
While jeans are typically seen as a “Friday only” look, a pair with a pop of color is a great way to show off your personality. The right colored jeans definitely do work at the office, says Dani McDonald, the owner and manager of Flock, a Boston area boutique. “It’s a great way to incorporate the colors of the season into your work attire,” she says. For a dressier look, McDonald recommends pairing your jeans with a silk blouse.

Don’t: Flip-flops
While these casual sandals are many people’s go-to footwear on a swelteringly hot day, flip-flopping your way to your desk won’t win you any marks at the office. Flip-flops should be worn only at the beach, says Emily Benson, founder and owner of The Fashion Truck, a mobile fashion boutique. “There are so many cute ballet flats, leather sandals and wedge options — flip-flops shouldn’t even be an option,” says Benson.

Don’t: Maxi dresses
While long, flowing maxi dresses are both incredibly comfortable and versatile enough for most occasions, they don’t pass for professional office attire. “Maxi dresses tend to [either] be a little too casual [think swimwear or bathing suit cover-ups] or too dressy for a formal work environment,” says Pam Santorelli, the owner of Habit a boutique. Santorelli recommends saving the maxis for the weekends, when you can dress them up — or down — as needed.

Do: Tank tops
Gone are the days when baring shoulders at the office was a no-no. Tank tops are great layering pieces for work. Just remember to save the rib-knit tanks for the gym. “Tank tops in the office are a ‘do’ if they’re dressy,” says McDonald. To keep the look work appropriate, McDonald suggests something structured, like a peplum tank, paired with a skirt.

Don’t: Shorts
Unfortunately, the days of it being uncouth to bare one’s knees in a pair of shorts are still very much with us. While shorts can exude a preppy confidence, Benson recommends steering clear of them. “There are few occasions and few styles of shorts that actually work for a business setting,” says Benson. So when it’s 90 degrees out there and pants just won’t do, go for a dress, says Benson.

Our experts suggest:

… If you’re wearing open-toed shoes or sandals, a pedicure is a must, says Dingwell.

… You should invest in a good strapless bra. Bra straps, especially plastic, shouldn’t be seen, says Benson.

… Lightweight dresses can be a little sheer, so wear a slip, says Santorelli.

… If you’re not a fan of denim, then colorful ankle-length khakis are a great option, says Benson.


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