Heat Shouldn't Turn the Office Into the Beach

I walked into a busy office the other day and immediately did a double take.

I thought for a moment I was on vacation. All around me were flip-flops and tank tops.

True, it's June, and of course this was a creative firm. And yes, all of a sudden it's hot and muggy, so formal business attire can seem oh-so-wintry. But that doesn't apply to most of us. There's still a certain decorum that must be maintained at work even as the mercury rises.

While some companies have official casual Fridays, many will accept some amount of dressing down every day of the week during the stifling summer months ahead. The good news is it's indeed possible to stay cool and still look professional.

Here are a few suggestions on summer threads that won't make you look like you're at the beach:

  • Bury the black and wear white. It's light and airy. Linen shirts line the racks in stores from Target to Rodeo Drive. No matter what your budget, these basics are a smart staple and work with just about any bottoms. Dress it up with accessories.
  • If you must wear a suit, switch from wool to cotton or linen fabrics. Under your jacket, go for short-sleeve shirts or sleeveless blouses.
  • For men, business casual may include polo shirts or a button-down without a tie. If T-shirts are OK, they should definitely be logo-free.
  • If you go for trendy new shorts, make sure they're just above the knee -- no shorter -- and paired with nice shoes. Linen and cotton fabrics, for women and men, are dressier than jean shorts and therefore more office-appropriate. No sneakers, no cutoffs, no matter what -- unless your work is entirely outdoors.
  • Avoid ultra-short skirts, low-cut necklines, superhigh heels, too-tight clothes, and anything bordering on too sexy. This is true in any weather, but even more important to keep in mind in the summer months.
  • Flip-flops are out. Slingbacks, espadrilles and loafers are preferable to open-toed strappy numbers. If your toes are visible, keep nails bare or perfectly polished. Chipped color looks sloppy and unprofessional on both fingers and toes.
  • Ladies, lighten up on your makeup. A fresh summer face means heavy eyeliner is out. A lightweight foundation or bronzer is in. Stick with natural shades.
  • Easy-care hairstyles, including a loose ponytail, can dress you up while cooling you down. Inexpensive grooming products help minimize the appearance of unprofessional frizz or untamed mane.

Keep in mind that extra-casual attire is only for inside the office among co-workers, not clients.

For interviews, meetings and out-of-office appointments, always maintain your professionalism by upping your attire a notch or two.

If in doubt, ask. If you're going on an interview or sales calls, ask the person who has arranged the meeting for some advice. Sounds awkward, but it can be as simple as this: "Would you please tell me about the attire in your office so I can dress appropriately for our appointment?"

Following these rules ensures that you're always stylish and smart -- a winning combination in any weather.

To connect directly with Tory Johnson or for other information on career advancement, visit www.womenforhire.com