What to wear to the office this summer: Do’s and don’ts

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Despite the fact that the Midwest and the East Coast were both blanketed in a late spring snowfall a couple of weeks ago, summer is on its way. Just imagine: in a couple of weeks you’ll be enjoying blue skies, warm sunshine, long evenings on the porch, and weekend barbecues with your friends!

Work still goes on, however. And no matter how lovely the weather is, you need to make sure that what you wear to work is appropriate for the office environment. Of course, an increasing number of companies allow business casual or casual attire in the workplace—but that doesn’t mean that what’s appropriate at a pool party works in a meeting with clients!

What follows are some do’s and don’ts of what to wear to the office this summer.

  • Do avoid mini-skirts, Daisy Dukes, and other types of cut-off jeans. Whether you’re a man or a woman, super short attire is entirely too bare for the office setting. Plus, cut-off denim gives a messy impression.
  • Don’t avoid shorts or skirts altogether. Both men and women can wear shorts (especially when it’s nice weather) Just make sure they’re no shorter than knee length, and opt for khaki or chino shorts rather than basketball shorts. Women can wear skirts, so long as they’re at least knee-length. If a skirt has a split in in, make sure it’s a modest one.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops. Sure, they’re comfortable and cool. But they’re overly casual, plus, they make distracting “flip-flop” noises when you walk.
  • Do invest in the right footwear. Strappy sandals are fine for women, but men should avoid wearing sandals to the office. Women shouldn’t wear crocs. Sneakers are fine in casual settings, but loafers or semi-formal shoes are a better option for business casual.
  • Do invest in a couple of business suits made of light fabric. Even if your work environment is casual, there are bound to be occasions when it will pay off to dress more formally. If you’re meeting with a client whose company culture is more conservative or if you’ll be giving a presentation at a seminar, you really shouldn’t turn up in shorts and a t-shirt. Instead, purchase a few suits made out of light, blended fabrics that look formal but don’t leave you uncomfortably overheated.
  • Don’t go sleeveless or strapless. Men should avoid shirts and t-shirts without sleeves—but short-sleeved shirts and nice t-shirts are fine. Women can wear sleeveless blouses but should avoid strapless tops or dresses, since they could be considered too bare. Harpers Bazaar writer Lauren Alexis Fisher advises in her article “11 Things You Should Never Wear to the Office During Summer” that if you absolutely want to wear a strapless top, pair it with a blazer or vest while you’re at the office.
  • Do be modest. Many women like to wear sheer clothes, crop tops, or ultra-slim halter-tops during the summer because they’re comfortable and can look great. However, these types of garments are generally considered too bare for a work environment. Instead, wear nice, form-fitted blouses or tops.
  • Don’t wear sports gear. Even if you’re a dedicated football or baseball fan, it’s best not to wear your club’s shirt to work. Opt instead for shirts with a collar, preferably without any loud print. Tip: Keep a couple of ties in your desk drawer just in case you have to go into a formal meeting unexpectedly.

If you’re still having trouble making up your mind whether a piece of clothing is appropriate or not, just ask yourself if a client would take you seriously if he or she met you wearing this outfit. When in doubt, always err on the conservative side. It’s better to be safe than sorry—and nobody wants to lose a project or even a job over a wardrobe slip-up!

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