With this week’s heatwave, we’re confronted with the annual dilemma of dressing for work in the summer.

How much skin can you show and still be appropriate?

To keep it professional, resist the temptation to go to work half naked. Think about armpits, thighs, cleavage, stomach, and even shoulders — keep them covered unless it’s 35+ degrees (Celsius) and there’s no air conditioning in the office.

Bottom line: The more skin you show, the more you are distracting your audience from listening to what you are saying.

Instead of wearing less, choose breathable (not see-through) fabrics, looser fitting garments, and lighter colors. This does not mean that you need to walk around in a white linen (wrinkled) caftan all summer long. Let me break down five key factors, in order of priority:

  1. Your Head = literally keep it cool. If you can’t aim an electric fan at your head, carry a folding fan and use it whenever you have a free hand, like during meetings.
  2. Breathable = natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, and even lightweight wools are better than synthetics that don’t breathe. Looser weaves also allow heat to leave your body. Linens and cottons are obvious woven choices, and knits are even better.
  3. Looser fitting = away from your skin. Skin-tight garments hold in heat (read: sweat). And if you’re even a tiny bit claustrophobic like me, a tight garment in a hot environment is enough to make you at the very least irritable, and could even lead to a mild panic attack.
  4. Lighter colors = darker colors absorb light & hold the heat next to your body. Lighter colors reflect light, keeping you cooler.
  5. Shoes = if acceptable, wear sandals or other strappy shoes that let your feet breath. If your feet are cool, what you’re wearing on your torso is less important.

Nothing to Wear?

Now’s the time to take advantage of the summer sales and go shopping — in a store with air conditioning.

What is Your Tip?

Please leave me a Comment with your tip for dressing cool this summer.