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Dressing Cool in a Corporate World
Professional men and women in high-profile careers often struggle in the summer months to look polite and authoritative, while staying cool and crisp when temperatures soar above 80 degrees. I can tell you that professionals dress very differently depending on where they reside in the United States. In the Northeast and Midwest, there is a greater tendency to dress more traditionally in a professional environment, regardless of the heat. If you live in the western or southern states, you already know that we tend to dress more on the business casual side of the spectrum due to weather challenges. Wherever you live, it’s important to know how to dress to look flawless and well-groomed no matter how high the mercury hits. In today’s corporate America, we’re blessed with air-conditioned offices, so it’s often when we’re out in the heat calling a client, attending a function, or leaving work that the dilemma of the heat arises.
Remember that your dress sends silent messages to others. It’s your visual image that people tend to notice first when they form an idea of you. Make sure your summer look is believable and polished to attract more clients and achieve greater career growth. Both men and women can follow these tips to look professional yet cool in the heat of summer:
Women’s summer selections
- Wear a solid color business dress with an open weave sweater as a jacket or opt for a dressy cotton blouse and a work skirt worn at the knees. You’ll always look naturally cooler in a dress or skirt than a pantsuit. Remember that a light to medium color is always more professional than a dress or skirt in a bold and wild print.
- Select blouses made from natural fabrics like cotton, silk or linen. Looser fabrics also allow air to circulate and are cooler than fitted fabrics. When you also add a sleek lower neckline like a v-neck, scoop neck, or square neckline, you’ll avoid having anything close to your neck, allowing for better airflow. However, be careful not to reveal too much skin or cleavage.
- For a jacket, choose a great jacket or a modern blazer in a linen or silk blend for a more summery, yet elegant look.
- If your dress code allows you to go bare-legged and your legs look flawless, you can do that, but remember you’ll lose some credibility here. If you decide to show off your gorgeous legs, be sure to self-tan them with a product like Jergens® Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer or Clarins® Radiance-Plus Self-Tanning Body Lotion to look like you’re wearing stockings.
- Here are some shortcuts to staying cool if your work dress code calls for socks. Try wearing dress pants with knee-length tights, or choose a dress or skirt that when worn with tights will look cooler than a pantsuit.
- In shoes, choose open-toed pumps which, although cut out at the toes, are still suitable for the office. Other shoe styles like low heels, mules, slingbacks or dress sandals are also an option. However, make sure that if you wear these styles, you are bare-legged. For any shoe that shows off your cleavage or heels, be sure to follow your pedicures regularly to look groomed.
- For costumes and essential wardrobe pieces, stay away from dark colors and black, which absorb heat. Choose lighter colored fabrics like eggshell, camel, beige, taupe or light gray. Another tip is to look for bracelet sleeves in costumes, which expose your lower arms.
- If you like to wear your hair long, you’ll want to wear it in a sleek, sleek hairstyle to look professional and pull it off your neck in the heat. Consider wearing a classic ponytail or the front part pulled up and out of your face. However, make sure your hairstyle is not too casual. If you’re rocking a weekend look like a messy bun, it doesn’t blend with the professional message your clothes are sending. Try gorgeous pearl, silver or tortoiseshell ponytail clips or ponytail holders to add a classic look to your hairstyle.
Men’s summer picks
- Hang on to these dark corporate colors of Midnight Navy, Charcoal Gray and Chocolate Brown through the end of September. Men’s suits and sport coats in light to medium tones continue to look professional, but also say that you have a certain fashion sense about you, that you know lighter colors are worn during the summer months. Lighter colors will not absorb heat like dark colors. Look for lightweight natural fabrics like a silk blend, linen blend, or a lightweight wool blazer or suit that will breathe in the summer heat. Select colors in lighter shades of beige, medium taupe, or medium gray. These tones look professional and fashionable for the summer but still keep you believable. That doesn’t mean you have to walk around looking like Matlock in your light pastel blue suit all summer. One of my favorites that I recommend to all my male clients is a beige colored British suit that looks traditional and can be worn with several colors of shirts and ties.
- For dress pants, choose a linen blend, which looks fashionable and stylish. Wear these trousers with a sports jacket and a silk blend shirt for the perfect summer look. A more casual dress code may allow you to wear khakis. If you do, select a crease-free type that will look sharp at the end of the day.
- Nothing looks crisper and cleaner than a white or light blue shirt. Choose an oxford fabric or an open weave cotton which will be cooler. You can also try wearing more pastel dress shirts, such as yellow, pink, or lavender, with your suits and sport coats in softer colors. Don’t forget to wear a T-shirt under all your shirts in the summer. The T-shirt will absorb sweat and protect your shirt from underarm stains.
- The only accessory a man wears near his face is his tie. In hot weather, choose a yellow, light blue, pink or purple tie color background. It’s a great eye-catching way to mix and match your lighter-toned suits with a splash of summery color.
- During the summer months, feel free to wear lighter shoes like camel, beige, or brown with suits or dress pants in more earthy colors. With dress pants, wear a light-colored slip-on in a leather weave that looks just right during the summer months. Set aside dark or black cordovan shoes, which look best when coordinated with darker colored suits.
I hope you found the advice in this article realistic and easy to incorporate into your career wardrobe. When dressing in a corporate environment, there is a fine line between dressing professionally and dressing too casually during the summer months. Follow these tips to wear business-like attire in hot weather while remaining credible, powerful, and authoritative.
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