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What to Wear to Work in the Summer Skip to content

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10 Summer Style Solutions for Work

Dress for success even when it's hot, hot, hot

Three women wearing summer dresses

 Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images; Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Barneys New York

Climate change has new meaning when it comes to summer work days. If your job is anywhere but home, business as usual may include arctic air-conditioning, steamy cubicles, humid and sweltering commutes, and sweaty (even stinky) everything. Lucky for us, rigid "dress for success" rules have relaxed, providing opportunities to cheat the heat and chill. Here are 10 win-win ways to do it now.

Alfre Woodward and Garcelle Beauvais wearing yellow dresses with sleeves.

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

1. Wear a dress that moves ... with sleeves! RIP batwings and wiggles, while we slip into some airy shifts, A-lines, and swingy fit-and-flare dresses with sleeves of every length, from barely-there caps to fluttery bells and ruffles. Statement sleeves are "the new thing," so day dresses with your preference of arm coverage are no longer a big deal. Opt for a confident color — like Alfre Woodward and Garcelle Beauvais in sunny yellow — or any hue that brightens your skin, wardrobe and day. Just watch your back: Some dresses look 9 to 5 up front, but they have low, laced or keyhole rear views.

Jaclyn Smith wearing a white blouse.

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Barneys New York

2. Breeze through the dog days in white blouses. A loose-cut blouse won't trap heat and display sweat marks. Choose icy white tops that reflect light so you stay cool. Light cotton, linen, rayon or viscose fabrics are best, but be sure to wear a nude support bra with lined cups to prevent see-through and from wrecking the floaty, feminine effect. White blouses make a midi skirt or a classic pencil skirt like Jaclyn Smith's look extra stylish, or you can pair them with your "good" jeans for a CEO flourish on dress-casual days, too.

Laurie Metcalf wearing white wide pants.

Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

3. Loosen up your pants. Wide-leg pants are your personal closet meteorologists — capable of dealing with any temperature. Whether you choose ankle crops like Laurie Metcalf's or a long and slouchy version, the benefits are easy to see and feel. The lack of compression helps minimize swelling in your lower legs and ankles when temperatures soar — especially if work requires you to sit or stand for hours on end — and the length helps chill-proof gams from icy air-conditioning. 

Oprah Winfrey and Lela Rochon wearing below the knee skirts.

JB Lacroix/WireImage/Getty Images, Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

4. Say 'yes' to midi skirts and dresses. A billowy-below-the-knees skirt lets you leave the Spanx at home, cross your legs and sit practically any way you want. Fans include Oprah Winfrey and Lela Rochon, so long let it wave. Balance a full wide skirt with a more fitted top. The fuller the skirt is, the less likely you'll be bothered with sweaty and chafed inner thighs (known as "chub rub), so skip those long and lean midi-length pencil skirts. For extra protection of ample thighs, do what celebs do and swipe between them with a body balm or stick deodorant before dressing. 

Judi Dench in a casual white duster.

Elisabetta A. Villa/WireImage/Getty Images

5. Add a duster. It's the third piece that moves the needle from casual to groomed for work. Dusters are longer, lightweight, unlined and unstructured versions of jackets. Toned to match T-shirts, they add an elegant touch to ordinary pants or jeans. A deserved shout-out to Dame Judi Dench, who made this look such a keeper! Add signature accessories like a scarf (as Dench does), sandals, jewelry and a bright lipstick.

6. Slack off in a splashy pantsuit. This tailored duo is a no-fail businesslike look for meetings, interviews, performance reviews or presentations. Push the envelope with a white pantsuit, or go with a vibrant and unexpected color, and slide a black or white tank or T-shirt beneath to sharpen the look. Ditch the jacket to cool down during commutes or lunch breaks, or wear it over your shoulders and leave your arms free. Add the jacket when your fridge-like air hits or to look authoritative. Slip on low heels, flats, sandals or sneakers (if your work is creative or tech-based), and you're done.

Penelope Wilton and Chef Ina Garten with tunics.

Danny Martindale/WireImage/Getty Images, Michael Loccisano/Getty Images (for Red)

7. Let tunics do it. Nothing beats an untucked top when temps are torrid. Lightweight, tailored tunics that cover your derriere are a terrific jacket substitute, while softer tunic-blouses give us that "aaaah" feeling and hide belly bulge or elastic waistbands. Simply wear over black or white pants, like Penelope Wilton and author and host of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten, and let less do more.  

Kyra Sedgwick and Helen Mirren

Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic/Getty Images, Gary Gershoff/WireImage/Getty Images

8. Bring more prints into your work life. They don't show stains, creases or perspiration spots under arms, around your bra band or along inner thigh crevices ... and also provide a cheery seasonal break from solid neutrals. However, do look for a background or prominent color in the print that syncs with your core wardrobe so that you can mix your prints and solid pieces for maximum seasonless versatility — like Kyra Sedgwick and Helen Mirren.

9. Let your feet breathe. The secret to avoiding sore soles and blisters is keep work shoes comfortably bare by blurring the boundaries of what's acceptable. Conservative workplaces have adapted to a modest peep toe (big toenail and partial second toe showing) and sling-backs — flat- or low-heeled. Skip the pantyhose because nobody outside the British royal family wears them anymore (or even checks for them). Yes, to low-cut ped-type liners and half-liners that are an undetectable sock-like barrier between sweaty feet, friction and shoes. Backless mules and woven wedge espadrilles cover toes and look professional, and the latter provides even support for feet while adding height.

10. Get the smell out. Yellow underarm stains on otherwise fine white T-shirts? Body odor that lingers in your colorful and dark tops even after washing? Forget to apply deodorant before work? Here are some remedies. For white tees: Soak the T-shirt in one cup of vinegar for 30 minutes. Mix 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon bleach or hydrogen peroxide, and 1 tablespoon of salt to a paste, and brush onto the yellow underarm stains. Leave on for 30 minutes. Machine-wash your white T-shirts with other whites. For dark, black and other color washables: Sometimes body odor lingers in tops, even after they're washed, and gets revived as soon as your body temperature rises in hot weather. Turn all inside out and add 1 cup of vinegar to a cold-water wash, and let soak 30 minutes before laundering in cold water. Hang outside to dry if possible. Stinky shoes? Sprinkle baking powder in your shoes, spray feet with deodorant and wipe down with antibacterial wipes. Forgot to apply your deodorant? Rub a dollop of hand sanitizer on your arm pits. The alcohol kills bacteria and neutralizes odor.

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