As the temperature rises, everyone starts thinking about trading winter jackets, hats and scarves for shorts, sandals and swimwear. But before you start planning your weekend getaway to the beach, give some thought to what you will wear to the office during the heat of summer. First, pick the right fabrics. Second, when it comes to "business casual," emphasize business, not casual. With these simple steps, you will look your best during the summer.
"Staying cool and fashionable can sometimes be difficult in the summer," says Andrew Taylor, style director for Ann Taylor. He advises women to "incorporate light fabrics that breathe into your wardrobe. Tropical wool, linen and cotton are all great options."
Taylor also suggests women embrace color in their summer wardrobe. "Color is key from a style perspective," he says. "Pairing a vibrant color with a neutral is a great look for summer." He thinks many women are making a mistake by sticking to the same dark colors they wear during winter. He advises women to "insert pops of color into each outfit."
Taylor suggests Ann Taylor's silk-woven camp shirt, calling it "the perfect addition to any woman's closet" and noting that it works well with a tailored jacket or pants. He also mentions the Madison skirt in polished cotton, available in summer colors. He says, "It's a great piece that can feel really fun and is also one of the season's key statement pieces." He would pair it with a cascade ruffle top. For a business-casual look, Taylor suggests a knit dress or a cabana stripe sundress, paired with a peplum jacket to create "a look that comes across as both stylish and sophisticated."
But Taylor warns that though "summer definitely gives a woman the chance to be more casual and have fun with her wardrobe, she should be careful not to go too casual or show too much skin, especially in more conservative office environments." He suggests keeping a cropped jacket or a summer cardigan in your office for meetings or just in case your office is overly air-conditioned. He also warns against wearing shoes that are too casual. "Flip-flops are really meant for the beach," he says. Instead, he suggests sandals, heels or flats to complete your summer look.
Glen Hoffs, design director for Brooks Brothers, offers some summer wardrobe advice for men, as well. He suggests men avoid knit shirts because they "look better on a golf course than in the office." Instead, Hoffs advises men to look for long-sleeve cotton shirts in a broadcloth or poplin weave, calling these shirts "the cornerstone to looking professional." These light, woven fabrics will breathe better than a knit shirt, keeping you cool and comfortable. Hoffs says you should select shirts that are trim and that look best for your body type.
Hoffs says, "The other key piece to the summer wardrobe is the jacket." Whether you are buying a sport coat or a suit, he suggests looking for an unlined jacket. Though a jacket's outer fiber may breathe very well, Hoffs notes that most lining fabrics are acetate, which traps in your body's heat. "An unlined jacket keeps you cooler and looking better." He suggests that you find a jacket that fits well in the shoulders, and if you do not use a tailor, be sure to remove the basting stitches at the bottom of the back vent or vents.
Hoffs also echoes Taylor's advice about fabrics, saying, "The best summer clothes are made from natural fibers -- linen, worsted wool or cotton. Worsted wool, or tropical weight wool, is a very fine, lightweight and cool fabric. It's not scratchy or warm as many people assume."
If you follow this advice, you should be able to breeze through summer looking cool, confident and comfortable. And you should be able to avoid any fashion faux pas, as well.
They say you should dress for the job you want. Listen to Taylor and Hoffs and maybe you can take that raise and start planning that weekend beach getaway after all.