Summer Work Clothes: How to Look Professional When It’s Hot

Summer Work Clothes | CorporetteWhat should you wear — and not wear — to look professional (and stay cool) when it’s hot outside?  Which summer work clothes are the best?  We’ve recently gotten two reader questions on the issue.  First up, Reader M wonders:

Hi. I’m 30 years old. I am a rock and roller. Meaning that I work in the music industry. In the past my job was to chaperone the concert site. I was very good at my job. Got a new job in Orlando, FL, that has me now working at a desk. I am now a supervisor. I came into this job in the fall so I had some leftover black wool slacks, nice dark wash denim, and black sweaters to get me through. It’s now almost spring (feels like summer) and I don’t know how to do professional for summer. I work in a business casual environment, which helps. I like to keep all of my color in accents like purses, shoes, scarves, etc. I wear monochromatic. It’s my signature and super versatile when starting a new wardrobe. Can you advise cuts, fabrics, etc. of office appropriate summer wear for a newly professional, young lady like myself that’s trying to beat the heat without looking like a concertgoer?

Reader T also wonders:

I am heading to D.C. from California this summer for a legal externship, and am in need of advice on the dress code in the legal world when it’s 95 degrees. I worked on the Hill for several years and (sadly) recall a lot of flip flops and sundresses during the hotter months. I imagine that this won’t be the case in a legal setting/government agency, but I would love some basic outfit formulas, fabric suggestions (is tweed taboo?), and other ideas for a 30 yr. old to look like a lawyer while fighting the humidity and sticking to a budget.

In terms of outfit formulations, my go-to looks are boring, but they’re classic for a reason: think sheath dresses plus a blazer (to be added once you’re inside), and nice, lightweight trousers (look for cotton or cotton blends) with a nice tee and a classic pair of pumps (and ideally a matching blazer). (Pictured: Cole Haan Air Carma Open Toe Pump, on sale at Zappos for $169.99 (was $275).) As we’ve noted before, natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and linen are going to breathe a lot more than non-natural fabrics, so do pay attention to that when buying new pieces.  (Also: pay attention to the laundry instructions. That $20 pair of pants starts to look less appealing — and less of a deal — when they start to smell to high heaven after two wears and the only way to launder them is to get them drycleaned.)

We’ve talked about how to stay cool during a heatwave, but here are a few fast tips for cooling down quickly (or to stay cool enough to avoid completely wrecking your clothes):

  • a simple fan, carried in your purse or bag — yes, you’re expending more energy as you fan yourself, but the bit of a breeze can be amazing if you’re stuck on a hot subway platform
  • an ice-cold can of soda, held against the inside of your wrist, the back of your neck, or even the back of your knees
  • convenient ice packs — there are even necklaces designed to be iced and worn!

Otherwise: We’ve talked about what not to wear as a summer associate, what not to wear to work in general, and how to stay cool during a heatwave — but not in many moons.  So let’s revisit!

An opening caveat: As we’ve noted in previous discussions, this is very much a “know your office” situation.  If you’re working at a NEW office, though, or are still learning your office, you should wait until you see someone significantly more senior than you break these rules before you consider it “office culture.”  (For example: if you’re a summer associate at a law firm and see a first-year associate wearing sandals, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ok for everyone to wear sandals.)  It’s a bit of a spectrum, but here’s my list:

Probably not ok…

  • Sandals of any kind (shoes that expose at least three toes per foot)
  • Shorts (and yes, despite our April Fool’s shorts suit roundup a year ago, we do include short suits on the list of NO)
  • Completely wrinkled clothes (linen has its own challenges, but it shouldn’t look like you balled it up, packed it in a suitcase, and then decided to wear it)
  • Short skirts — there is a spectrum here, but for business it really should be as close to your knee as possible!
  • Spaghetti-strap tank or other top that makes no effort to hide bra straps (or worse, requires you to wear a strapless bra)
  • Off-season items such as heavy tweed, boucle knits, thick wool trousers (but the thin, light seasonless wool is, you know, seasonless).
  • Tights are probably not ok… but pantyhose may be required.  (See below.)
  • Cleavage of any kind.  If at any point you look down during the day and see your bra, you need a camisole.   (You may want to check out some of the newer demi camisoles if the idea of another layer makes you swelter).

Probably ok except in the most conservative of places, but KNOW YOUR OFFICE (and your situation — I wouldn’t wear any of the below on my first day or a day with a big meeting)…

  • Peep toe pumps (a bit of toe exposed)
  • Bare arms (i.e., sheath dress or nice top with bra straps fully covered)
  • Cropped pants — in the almost 6 years of this blog’s existence, they’ve gone from being rare (in our 2008 poll, 65% of people agreed that they were inappropriate for work) to commonplace (in our 2012 poll only 20% of people hesitated to wear them to the office).  Last year we even gave advice on how to wear ankle pants to work!  Six years is a long time for fashion, but a short time for conservative offices… so if you wear them, wear them with caution.
  • Bare legs.  This varies HUGELY by office and by region — in most places, I’d guess, it’s a “of course you don’t have to wear pantyhose every day!” situation — but on Big Days in a lot of places (court appearances, client meetings), they may be expected.

Ok in all places, I’d guess:

  • Sleeveless dresses, tops, tees, and blouses, worn with a blazer or cardigan
  • Sleeved dresses, tops, tees, and blouses, worn by themselves

We’ve also talked more about how to build your wardrobe for a summer internship, with what I think is still a solid list of the minimum pieces you should buy.

Readers, what are your go-to outfits for the summer?  What fabrics and styles do you avoid? 

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Comments

  1. Tips from a long-time survivor of DC summers:

    1. I prefer sleeveless shells or dresses that do not have fabric at the armpit, to give them some fresh air when commuting. However, I know some people don’t like the chaffing this may cause, so YMMV.

    2. It’s ok to wear flip flops to commute. Really.

    3. If you have longer hair, put it in a ponytail until you get to work to 1) get it off of your neck, which makes you feel extra-hot, and 2) avoid a cloud of frizz around your head from the unbearable humidity.

    • Woods-comma-Elle :

      Tangent – putting my hair up results in kinks (though I can’t get curls to hold, go figure), especially if it’s humid. Any tips on non-kink inducing hair tying implements would be appreciated!

      • used to humidity :

        Twist the hair and pin up with a claw clip.

      • Use a clip to hold your hair up–twist it behind your head and use a big clip. Some have little rubbery bits to help hold it up.

      • I really don’t see this as a tangent Woods,Elle….putting my hair up even for a few minutes is my best way to cool off.

        I use yoga ties and put my hair up in a loose ponytail. My goal is to survive a commute, not a ten mile run. I buy them from Amazon and last purchased them here: http://www.amazon.com/Crease-Hair-Ties-Pack-Variety/dp/B00DZE3FX2

        You could also twist your hair into a messy french twist and clip it up with a butterfly clip.

      • Medic Maggie :

        I think you have my hair. It actually does hold curl, but the moment that I put it into any semblance of a pony tail, I get a big crease.

        The only tip that I found to decrease the crease is to tie a low pony (like just at nape of neck/hairline) loosely with an elastic. The “no crimp” elastics (basically like dress-maker’s elastic w/ a knot) tends to be a little more gentle. But, I found the lower the pony, the less likelihood of creases.

        I know it kind of defeats the purpose of really getting it off your neck, but even out from behind your ears is sometimes enough to just get some air circulation.

        Now my hair is chin-length, so there are no ponies here anymore.

      • My room mate used to swear by spin pins to put her hair in a bun for her walking/public transit commute in the DC area.

      • I am a twist fan. I have enough length now to use a hair comb to hold the twist and I use little flat clips for the shaggy bits on the sides. They match my hair color and eye glasses frame color very well (bonus!).

      • Oops sorry I hit report on accident! I usually tie my hair in a low side ponytail – gets off the neck and is easy to handle. To avoid the actual kink, use a fabric hair tie, like those you see where they just basically have one piece of fabric tied to the other end of the fabric. I have particularly thick hair, so any clip of any kind doesn’t hold my hair up at all, or my hair ends up breaking the clip itself.

        Another way is if your hair is long enough, do a loose side braid starting at the nape of your neck, just enough for you to tie your hair at the end. Or you can take two halves of your side ponytail and twist them into a rope (twist each half one direction, twist the two halves together in the other direction), and loosely tie the end with a fabric hairtie.

        To avoid small frizz, I usually bring a small bottle of argan oil/anti-frizz creme for touch-ups throughout the day.

  2. If you have to take public transit to work and/or walk long distances, I honestly find the best solution is to bike instead. You dress the part (spandex and tank), shower and change at the office (or a nearby gym if your building doesn’t have a shower), and then arrive at work freshly showered and cool. Much nice than schlepping from the train or bus and arriving at work sweaty and miserable.

    I know it doesn’t work for everyone’s situation, but this is how I dealt with miserable Boston summers for years (and actually, when my commute was only a few miles, I’d shower at home first- then at work I’d just towel off, change into my work clothes, and put on my makeup/do my hair in the bathroom). This also meant I could pack multiple layers and long pants for the Polar Vortex that is an office building in summer, and not worry about sweating to death on the subway in wool trousers.

    • And I guess you can tell by my comment I don’t agree w/ Kat re: wool trousers in the summer. Sorry, when my office is 65 degrees and the AC vent is blowing directly on me, I will wear wool trousers and a cashmere wrap (or sweater, whatever it takes to keep me from freezing)

      • This. For the first question in Florida, I recommend layering. When I lived there I went directly from air-conditioned house to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned office, so I usually wore sweaters to work in the summer.

      • At 65 degrees, it’s actually impossible for you (or your water molecules) to freeze.

  3. “OK in all places”: I’ve actually been taken aside over wearing tees – nice material “dressy” tees, mind you, with cardigans and blazers and scarves – to my supposedly business casual office. If you work with mostly men whose idea of business vs casual is collar vs no collar, the concept of the dressy tee may be completely lost on them. All they see is “no collar” – you might as well be wearing a men’s undershirt in their eyes.

    • Dress codes can be weird that way – when the rule is “no collar” or (at my last office) “no jeans”. I’m going to guess you looked nicer in your put-together tees and blazer than someone wearing a wrinkled, oversized oxford, but they were within the dress code and you weren’t.

      At my last job jeans were forbidden (even dark, dressy ones paired with a blazer), but a gauzy, burnout tee and flowy skirt was OK. Still bitter about that…

      • Oh, absolutely. I was 10x better dressed than the guy in sloppy outdated jeans and a wrinkled polo shirt. Yes, this office allowed jeans, but not dressy tees. Sigh. Not fair, but reality.

    • Orangerie :

      This is so interesting to me because so many women’s blouses don’t have collars. Seems like a sh*tty double standard if you really aren’t allowed to wear a professional silk blouse just because it’s collarless (DvF, Joie and Theory tops come to mind).

      • In complete agreement. I have seething hate for the shirts that make me feel like I look like a little man (even when paired with a skirt).

        • Yes, I’d have a hard time with a “collar-ed shirts” only rule, as they just don’t fit me, not to mention the man-ish look that I have with the uni-b00b. If I were 30 pounds lighter…

  4. Senior Attorney :

    I completely agree that it’s “know your office,” but I wear dressy sandals to the office in the summer. I have a pair of high-heeled gladiator sandals that expose FOUR toes per foot and I love them. Granted, though, the straps are substantial and the overall look is at least as much “shoe” as “foot.” And I’m pretty senior so can be a little more daring than a more junior person. And I always have a great pedicure. And I’m in So Cal. Okay, that’s a lot of qualifiers, but I do love my sandals in the office.

    • That’s funny – I have some awesome Michael Kors gladiator sandals and I would wear them to the office, but generally don’t wear really open flat sandals because I feel like there are too many hazards and I would hurt myself!

    • Lady Harriet :

      I’m in Florida and dressy sandals can definitely be okay in many offices. AC here is usually frigid in the summer, so you absolutely must layer, no matter how hot it is outside. I like silk and silk blend cardigans–the fabric looks dressier, they keep you warm inside, and if you walk outside before taking one off you won’t melt. I also like lined cotton jackets. If you wear skirts to work keep a shawl at your desk to cover your legs if you get cold. Bare legs are usually fine in FL, but you might be chilly indoors.

      • Senior Attorney :

        I hate summer because I freeze in the a/c all summer long. It’s always a tension between looking unseasonable and boiling while outdoors, and freezing while indoors. Ugh.

  5. I generally wear skirt (w bare legs)/tank/cardigan in the summer here. That said, I have tried short sleeved sweaters and I get too cold. I just have to wear a long sleeved cardigan!

  6. Orangerie :

    I can’t speak to humidity (thank you San Francisco), but it’s been hot as blazes here this week and I’ve been wearing exclusively dresses, either with sleeves or sleeveless with a blazer inside the office. My firm is pretty formal so I don’t feel comfortable in sandals or bare arms.

    No matter how light the fabric, I just can’t wear pants in the heat. Honestly, even the extra layer of fabric that comes with tucking a shirt into a skirt is enough to cause discomfort. Dresses just provide the most breathability.

    • You and me both. I live in skirts now. They are so much more comfortable in the heat.
      I keep a little wrap in the office to put over my legs when air conditioner temperature gets set to meat locker.

  7. Meg Murry :

    Could a future post talk about building a summer wardrobe for interns that are not law interns? I’d like to be able to point some college students heading out on internships to a post about that, or possibly something for people starting their first job this summer/fall? Or could you update the 2009 post on internships to mention that the bottom half of the list (everything below suits) is a good starting point for people in a business casual field? I remember being completely overwhelmed before my first internships on how to quickly build a wardrobe that would work all summer and how to get pieces that would mix and match so I could have a little variety.

    • Wardrobe Oxygen has what I found to be a really helpful post about a summer business casual wardrobe capsule. You might want to look around her site to find a few helpful posts.

  8. Clementine :

    One of the best tips I got for dealing with heat was this: get cheap pantiliners and use them as underarm guards in blazers. This is especially useful when you have a day where you’re supposed to wear a jacket and have to alternate between the 100 degree, high humidity outdoors and an air conditioned office.

    Take two pantiliners and adhere them to the underarm area of your blazer. Switch them out as often as needed. They come prepackaged and the adhesive is designed not to make your clothes gunky. This tip drastically cut my summer dry cleaning bills.

    • Orangerie :

      Do they stay put well? I’d be paranoid about the adhesive coming loose and then having the liner fall onto the floor at an inopportune moment.

    • I used to sweat like crazy and then I got prescription antiperspirant and it works like a dream. Even if I’m super hot I won’t sweat like crazy out of my arm pits. It’s called Hypercare.

      • Anon for this :

        I used CertainDri – it’s available at most drug stores. It changed my life. I may have mucked up my body chemistry, but at least now I can wear professional clothes and not be afraid of having constant pitstains in the summer.

    • I would think the plastic part of the liner would create more heat.

  9. I lived in DC for three summers and these are great tips. A big piece of it is mental….just accept that you will get sweaty in your work clothes (especially if you go out at lunch), and will have to clean them more. Skirts breathe much better than pants, in my opinion. Sandals on the commute, hair up, and ideally early in the morning. I also avoid blow drying my hair at all costs and move more slowly. Yes you are outside for longer, but keeping my own internal temp from getting too hot seems to help.

    • I AGREE 100% Haveing lived in DC for many year’s includeing some Summer’s, I can tell you that it is NOT just the heat, it is MORE the HUMIDIDY! FOOEY!

      It can realy be stifleing in DC b/c you MUST get from the office, which usueally is air condition to the METRO, which is also cool b/c of the A/C, but when you get out, and have to walk to your apartement or dorm, it is terribel! Also, if you want to go OUT at lunch or at nite after work, you will sureley get all hot and sweatey! DOUBEL FOOEY!

      I found that weareing alot of COTTON stuff was MUCH better then wearing any other clotheing, both b/c cotton breathe’s and also b/c cotton is machine washeable. You do NOT want to have to bring everyting to the Dry cleaner’s all the time, b/c the guy I brought my stuff to alway’s stared at me and I think did stuff with my clotheing top’s (tho I could NOT prove it — they came back all streatched out twice–DOUBEL FOOEY on him for probabley thinking I could be his girlfreind!)

      Also, no one mentioned SCHRUNCHIES! THEY ARE A MUST IN THE SUMMER! You can get Schrunchies very inexpensiveley in Pitsuburgh, and I bought another dozen yesterday b/c my cousin’s took nearly all of mine. FOOEY on cousin’s like that. And what would men do with Schrunchie’s anyway? I realy do NOT want to know, but I have my own idea’s. FOOEY on them! FOOEY!

      I hope the HIVE follow’s my advise. YAY!!!!!

    • Yup. Ditto all this for DC. A lot of it is mental. Bring a fan, and don’t move quickly. Keep hairclips at your desk and extras in your bag, so you’ll never be without one. Also, if you can, keep a mini umbrella in your bag.

  10. The thing about working in an office in DC or Florida or any other grossly hot and humid Southern city in the summer is that almost inevitably, the office is going to be way over-air conditioned, making it about 65 inside, and if you dress for 95, you’re going to regret it. The key here is layers. I usually wear a skirt and a sleeveless or short-sleeve top and then carry a cardigan or blazer to put on when I get into the office (and keep a space heater or wrap in my office in case my legs get cold). I agree with roses that it’s ok to wear flip flops on your commute (obviously change shoes when you get to work). Otherwise, I agree on the no heavy fabrics.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Ya I agree with the layers. My office tends to be freezing always and I run cold so I usually need to run my space heater or put a wrap on my legs but it’s just too humid to wear tights or pantyhose outside during summer.

      As a side note, I am so jealous of everyone who is currently living in a warm client. It’s been grey, cold, rainy and windy here all week and I need some sun!

    • SFAttorney :

      why do we put up with frigidly cold temperatures? it is not economical for the building. it’s for men wearing the traditional suit and tie. i have not been successful complaining to building management but will try again. it’s not even that different inside and out in San Francisco so i usually wear a blazer or jacket to work but if i lived in a hot summer climate i’d resent having to pack for the over-air conditioned office.

  11. I find slips under dresses help keep me cool (and save on dry cleaning) even though it is an extra layer.

    Otherwise, I pretty much live in dresses all summer long and throw on a cardigan or blazer when I get into the office. I usually leave a few basic ones in my office so I can avoid having to carry an extra item on really hot days. Linen blazers can be great, I like the Jcrew Schoolboy ones.

    Also, this probably won’t appeal to the first OP but I have a seersucker dress I save for really hot days and it’s awesome in very high humidity. I’d think it would be great in DC, too. LL Bean has something similar now: http://www.llbean.com/llbeansignature/llb/shop/76377?feat=786-GN1&page=seersucker-dress-stripe&subrnd=1

  12. I agree with the comments above. For the Chicago summers, I try to commute in skirts and tanks to add a cardigan/blazer once I’m at my desk or wear sheath dresses. I also try to put on most of my makeup at the office (or at least the foundation) to avoid looking like I’m melting in the humidity. I would say most people commute in flip flops but there is an understanding that you have to change your shoes when you get to the office (my office is definitely no sandals). On days where I have to look more put together or it’s ridiculously hot and steamy outside, I will wear a solid tee and bring my dressy top in my bag and then change at the gym or in the restroom before going to my desk. Anything to avoid the melted look

    • Penelope K :

      I ask the maintenance team to close the AC vents in my office at the beginning of each summer. The rest of the office is freezing, but my own office is very tolerable. I do a new work order around the end of October to have them re0pened. Works great.

  13. On the topic of summer office clothes, could someone PLEASE talk me out of my urge to buy linen pants? Or tell me that there’s a way to wear them without looking like a hot wrinkled mess by 10 a.m.? I keep eyeing the ones at Talbots, and I intellectually know it’s a bad idea but could use some reinforcement.

    • Orangerie :

      Nope. There is no way to wear linen pants without looking like a hot wrinkled mess. Unless you plan on not sitting down from the time you leave home to the time you return.

    • Just own the hot wrinkled mess. It’s linen. You won’t be alone, and you will be cooler.

      • Tried. I felt like a Shar Pei. I was extremely uncomfortable all day.

        • This thread is killing me. I always feel the same way about linen, unless it’s a white linen shirt over a bathing suit.

          • Same, I used to love buying linen clothing but it never looked anything like the catalog pictures after wearing for 5 minutes. And I remember my boss telling me to iron my pretty green linen dress (he was a good friend so I didn’t take offense, but I don’t think I ever wore that dress again).

          • I bought a really pretty linen tunic when I was out running around in the Quarter with zora. I haven’t worn it yet because it’s not hot enough (actually in the 60s today!) but I know I will. I haven’t worn linen in years for all of the reasons here, but I just couldn’t resist. It’s charcoal gray with a kind of cowl neck and 3/4 sleeves, more fitted at the top with a swingy bottom with pockets.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I had some linen pants last summer and although they were kind of droopy (i.e. not crisp-looking), they weren’t wrinkly-wrinkly, if you know what I mean. They were kind of a heavy, soft, almost gauzy fabric.

      • Baconpancakes :

        Once linen gets a little older, it gets softer and less wrinkle-prone, more just slightly rumpled. But then it looks drapey and casual, instead of crisp and professional.

    • Not useful for pants, but last summer I started seeing linen knits – as in tees. They seem to have the “cool” properties of linen without all the wrinkling. Great as a skirt/pant top or under a suit jacket.

    • jjjeanette :

      I bought Talbots linen pants last summer. There is no way to avoid them getting extremely wrinkled immediately. I am finding that the wrinkles are hard to iron out, too.

  14. I lived in DC for 9 years. Between April and September, I never left the house without a small travel sized container of baby powder (just throw in a ziplock in your purse). In a sweat emergency, I could duck into a restroom, and shake a tiny bit wherever things got sweaty and gross – in my shoes, between my thighs, into my bra, and instantly felt a million times better.

    • Medic Maggie :

      +1 This. Though I use gold bond. I usually sprinkle some into my cupped hand to pat onto any part that needs a little cooling. I often sprinkle some into my undies before leaving the house. There’s mixed information out there on this, so you might want to do your own digging. FWIW, I have never had LG issues as a result of powder.

      I have also found that on super hot days, cotton undies are actually most uncomfortable simply because they tend to stay damp once they’re damp. I switch to microfiber undies that do a better job of wicking and dissipating moisture. This is especially important with pants, IMHO.

      Lastly, some may find this counter-intuitive, but I saw great benefit to this a few seasons ago: One reason I hated wearing skirts/dresses was the sweat/chafe/irritation on the inner thighs. I solved this by always wearing a pair of shortie compression shorts underneath. In some instances (as with the $4300 silk shortie slip above) this could even double as a slip if you needed it to. While it was another layer to contend with, at least it kept my skin from rubbing on itself and getting terribly uncomfortable.

    • +1

    • I know this is an off-label use, but I use Dove solid on my inner thighs. Obvs they get less sweaty but I also don’t get chub rub when I use it.

  15. I was extremely perplexed by the 2 examples of Daisy Duke’s on their way to work this morning. (Is this a thing?) Yes, to work, not students.

    And I imaging those sleeveless knit maxi dresses are amazingly comfortable, but they leave nothing to the imagination(!) and say “I would at the beach” not “I am a business professional”.

    In fact, they say I would rather be anywhere but work – which while it may be true – is way too close to flipping your job the bird.

    • I was walking behind a girl on campus yesterday whose shorts were so short that the bottom of her butt cheek was hanging out below the shorts. I really didn’t need to see that.

    • Anonymous :

      Agree on maxis. I love them, but I think someone on this site (maybe Kat) said “no one everyone looked at a woman in a maxi dress and said ‘Wow, look how competant she is.'” I just feel like I couldn’t be taken seriously in them.

    • I definitely would not wear a maxi dress to my (law) office, although maybe on a dress down day with a cardigan. I don’t think they are all “nothing left to the imagination.” I have two that are not clingy and one that is. I will say that they are not necessarily my #1 choice for weekend wear when it’s really hot and humid because my legs get too warm, so I’d rather wear a shorter sun dress.

  16. My go to summer ‘uniform”:

    Pencil skirt
    Nice tank-type top
    Blazer (cotton, season-less wool, no wrinkly wool blend, unlined whenever possible)

    I am back to wearing pantyhose (Berkshire tan is amazingly close to my skin color) I am getting old lady skin. Pantyhose are my friend.
    Closed toe shoes. My feet are very rarely uncomfortably warm. Too cool, frequently.

    • I meant linen-blend, not wool blend, although, I do wear some wool blends year round.

    • In The Pink :

      As designed “sargent at legs” you might look into Top 20 by sylvia grandi, I think. I’ve been using shapings (dot com) out of Canada for decades for the variety of lines, products, sizes, and colors of pantyhose. Yes, I have old lady skin now and thyroid problems just add to it. No, I’m not a shill.

      The summerweight hosiery is a great way to survive a hosiery-required work environment! The ones from europe seems to last longer than those sold in US stores…but are still very very light and sheer. I dont melt when outside and/or going to the car that way.

  17. Lighter fabrics, yes. Lighter colors, too. You need not get a white suit, but a light gray or light colored dresses in professional fabrics tends to fit the bill. I also avoid pants and pencil-cut skirts at all costs in a heatwave opting for a-line skirts and dresses as they are more breathable.

    • Ironically, I have started noticing some very wearable a-line skirts and am thinking I should branch out.

      The ones i like aren’t too wide at the bottom and look very summer-friendly. And some are longer than I usually wear, but don’t look matronly.

      Thanks for the reminder.

  18. anon in tejas :

    Im in Houston, and it’s hot and humid– basically starting next week until October.

    Here are my tips…
    — skirts and dresses only, no hose. My office moves to jeans/casual Fridays during the summer, but I sometimes don’t even wear jeans. It’s cooler and easier to wear a dress/skirt.
    — closer to breathable fabrics, and washable fabrics. So most of my summer skirts are cotton/blends and can be washed. This makes it a little better if they are super stinky and they are quite a bit cooler
    — don’t leave the office unless absolutely necessary. no coffee trips, no going out to lunch and walking half way across downtown.
    — never wearing a blazer or cardigan while outside. I carry my jackets to Court, and I don’t wear them from my car to my office. It’s a way of keeping cooler
    — staying hydrated. It has it’s pluses and minuses. Plus, I don’t feel like I am going to pass out in the heat. Minus, I sweat more. YMMV
    — Walking in the shade. There is and can be up to a 10 Degree difference in the shade v. sun.

    • Lady Tetra :

      I second the washable fabrics comment! Also the taking off the outer layer (blazer, cardigan) once outside. Ugh, not looking forward to the heat blast.

    • Walking in the shade is so under-rated! It makes a huge difference. I have been known to zig-zag my way somewhere when I have had to walk in the DC summers, just to catch some building shade.

      I also agree: No long walks mid-day. Carry your blazer. Walk on the shady side. Think cool thoughts.

      For me, lightweight wool slacks are best. Cotton blouses, worn not tucked in. A wrap for the office.

      The hottest time in DC is the 2nd half of July (everyone thinks it’s August, but it’s not). Get yourself an out-of-town assignment or plan your vacation for then!

  19. Anonylicious :

    One thing that may sound counterintuitive: always wearing an undershirt or camisole. It’s another layer, but it helps get the sweat off your skin, especially if you’re somewhere humid where the sweat’s not going to evaporate. It also helps prevent sweat marks on your top.

  20. Senior Attorney :

    And may I just say that this thread makes me very grateful that as hot as it gets here in So Cal (and it does get wicked hot), at least it’s never humid. I’ll never forget the time I packed three outfits for a three-day trip to NYC (my first) in early September and was floored when I was soaked with sweat from the skin out within 10 minutes of venturing out the door! Fortunately I was staying someplace where I could do laundry!

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