“Comfortable Casual” for a Heat Wave

C&C California Bemberg-Sunburst Tie Dye Maxi Tank Dress2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on comfortable casual for a heat wave — but you may also want to check out our more recent post on summer work clothes or our brand new Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Womenicon

How do you dress professionally for a heat wave? I got an emergency email from a reader, who noted that given the heat wave here in NYC her BigLaw firm has told her she’s free to dress “comfortable casual” (but not in denim) for the duration of the week. Given that the firm is already “business casual,” she’s a bit perplexed.  (Pictured:  Cute, but probably not what the firm had in mind, despite the number of maxi dresses that Bloomingdale’s has on sale right now.  This one was $138, now marked to $82. C&C California Bemberg-Sunburst Tie Dye Maxi Tank Dress)

This is a new phrase to me, but here’s my advice to any woman told that this week: I would stay the course and wear your usual “business casual” to work until you see your female superiors dressing differently. My guess is that this email is intended for the men, who may now be able to include polo shirts, short-sleeved shirts, and khaki pants in the mix. (To any male summer associates who are reading this blog: I’d be shocked — shocked! — if this email was the firm’s way of encouraging you to wear shorts to work during the week.)

I’m curious to hear what the readers say about this, but my attitude is that if you’re dressing properly for summer (for “business casual”) that most women are already sitting pretty, whether it’s Hot or Very Very Hot. For example:

  • If you’re wearing dresses or skirts, you already have a built-in ventilation system. If you’ve been wearing pantyhose to work, my guess is that you can relax that for the next week and skip the hose (but keep a pair or two in your office in case you’re called to a big meeting).
  • If you’ve been smart purchasing your summer wardrobe, fabrics like linen, cotton, and silk all breathe very easily. If you’ve worried that you look too “wrinkled” for work, I would also take this “comfortable casual” as an invitation to not worry about the wrinkles.
  • Know your office on this one — but ladies, if you feel vastly more comfortable wearing capris than pants to work, you might also want to see if other women in your office are doing it and then take that step. If you’re seeing knee-length shorts around your office (worn by your superiors, not the staff), and want to wear them, my best advice is to keep the rest of your outfit as professional as possible. For example, wear the knee-length shorts with a pair of closed-toe pumps (perhaps in a nude-for-you color) and a nice blouse. (But ultimately: are you THAT much more comfortable in shorts or capris than proper pants? I never have been, but maybe that’s me.)

(Also:  who wears denim to be comfortable during a heat wave?)

As always, I recommend keeping a blazer and/or cardigan (at least) in your office in the likely event that the A/C will be blasting, as well as a pair of closed-toe pumps in case you’re called into a big meeting at the last minute.

Readers, how do you dress professionally for a heat wave? What’s your take on “comfortable casual”?


  1. I’m a huge fan of work blouses that appear to have sleeves but actually have fabric only on the shoulder, not on the underarm. There are all kinds of ways shirts can accomplish this, and my wardrobe includes many different examples, most of which are silk. That way I feel almost as comfortable as I would in a tank, but I appear to be wearing short sleeves. If I raise my arm, yes, my underarm is exposed–but that doesn’t happen often, and in my environment no one really cares anyway.

    I also figure that a visible underarm is better than an obvious stream of sweat down the side of my shirt, which would be the situation if I insisted on sleeves every day.

    Otherwise, I agree with Kat on resisting the siren call of “comfortable casual” (sarong and bikini top sounds about right today!) and more or less keep dressing the same way.

    • Belinda G :

      I have a great blue and white sundress that I am wearing this weekend that I bought at J. Crew for $65.

      I dare not wear it into work again because so many of the people stopped by to comment on how pretty it was and my manager does not like it when I get all that kind of attention. It fits so nicely and was very inexpensive!

      In this heat, we have to do something to stay cool!

  2. I would say you could also add sundresses into the mix. I wouldn’t wear sundresses to my business casual firm but they are definitely cooler and breezier and, at least with most of mine, certainly look nice enough and are appropriate, just less business-y.

  3. found a peanut :

    I have been advocating to make tomorrow “[firm name] shorts Friday.” So far, no luck.

  4. Today I’m wearing this dress from Land’s End Canvas with gold sandals and a cardigan:

    http://www.midwesterncliche.com/2010/02/lands-end-canvas-shift-dresses.html (the first one pictured)

    Everyone here in my office (small, not usually business casual firm) is dressed similarly.

    • So funny, I have the same dress and was thinking of wearing it tomorrow right before I came upon your comment. Guess it’s a sign!

    • somewhere(less)cold :

      What is the sizing on that dress like?

      • The sizing, like everything else I have from Land’s End Canvas, is insane. I’m short-waisted, so it fits me okay but the proportions might be off on someone with a different body shape.

        • very cute dress! but how is that a shift dress? I thought the definition of shift dress was no waist, narrow width, falls straight down.

          well i guess i should be asking Land’s End, not you, right? have fun wearing it!

    • The dress is cute, and looks very cool for a hot day. But I have to ask: why buy a dress that looks just like a shirt + skirt? Wouldn’t it be more versatile to just buy a khaki or navy skirt and a white top?

      Not being snarky; I really would like to understand what the appeal of this style is.

      • spacegeek :

        You don’t have to worry about the shirt part coming out or making bulges with this type of dress.

  5. I think this means you’re free to wear a sundress to work. I’d keep a cardigan handy to wear in any meetings.

  6. I’ve been commuting in casual clothing and changing once I get to the office. Eliminates the need to define comfort casual.

  7. I agree that this email is likely more for men than women – I would use it as an opportunity to wear more linen (I rarely do because of the wrinkle factor) and perhaps a couple of simple black cotton dresses I love, but always think are too casual for my office (friends have assured me they are not, but I tend to err on the side of dressed up, especially since my office is business professional M-Th, and business casual only on Fr).

  8. PS – I will add that none of my usual “keep your makeup from melting” approaches are working in this heatwave, so I have taken to paring it down majorly, and only applying it once I get to the office (ie commuting with just sunscreen and moisturizer).

  9. Please say no to knee-length shorts. Some of us have this heat wave climate everyone else is experiencing now 6 months out of the year, and shorts are still never appropriate for work. The standard sundress is out too (and my office is pretty casual).

    • Somewhere in the US? You have feels like temperatures of 120 6 months out of the year? With an actual temp of 102 and a humidity index of 80%? Unless your Persephone that can’t be true…

      • I’m in N Florida and we got into the high 90s with heat index almost that high starting in May. It doesn’t really let up until October, so yeah, we have that weather 6 months of the year. No one is wearing shorts or spaghetti straps to work. There are times you walk outside and within 15 seconds you are sweating profusely, but we just suck it up and deal because we have AC inside. That said, I have worked in a hot place abroad with no AC and people still managed not to die of heat exhaustion while wearing conservative clothing.

        • Ballerina Girl :

          I grew up in the south and the heat is more annoying here in NYC because apartments aren’t typically as well air conditioned, offices often use less a/c than their southern equivalents, are we’re sweating on the subway platforms instead of riding in air-conditioned cars. It’s a much more mobile city than most, which isn’t to say shorts are appropriate for work, but I do think there’s a difference when you have access to central air and a car.

        • Accountress :

          Oh, Florida. I remember years when they wouldn’t let us have recess until October because they were concerned about the heat.

          But then, I was at the beach when the north was having their April blizzards, so it’s all good.

        • That’s known as acclimation. If you experience those temperatures for an extended period of time (or grew up with those temps) they don’t affect you as much as they would for a (new) transplant. But, if you deal with heat indexes in the 100+ for a week or two total throughout the year, your body isn’t acclimated and can’t necessarily handle the temperature fluctuation as effectively. So – for those of us NOT used to the sauna, some relaxation may be in order.

          • My point is that just because it’s hot doesn’t mean that you should be able to wear shorts or otherwise inappropriate outfits to work. No, you may not be acclimated to the heat, but there are people all over the world who work in hot temperatures without AC and manage to dress professionally.

            And to CFM below, I live in a place that gets into the triple digits so yes, we do have a very high heat index from time to time.

          • My point is you do not have this weather 6 months a year. We are in a heat emergency, its not the run of the mill 100 degree day your talking about. I’ve been in 101 weather before, but we are talking about a heat index of 120. Don’t tell me you have that for 6 months of the year so we should all be able to dress fine, you flat out do not have a heat index of 120 for 6 months of the year.

          • I don’t think we’re talking about being inappropriately dressed, just relaxing standards from the stricter definitions to accommodate the fact that most people don’t have to deal with this sort of heat on a consistent basis – which is different from your situation. And if you aren’t acclimated to the heat (because you don’t have it year round), then a pair of bermuda shorts or a modest sundress may be the answer here.

            I don’t think anyone is suggesting that people that work in warm climates all the time are any less professional those that don’t. It’s just that those of us that deal with anything from 30 below zero to 99 degrees and 80% humidity may not have wardrobe or acclimation to wear the strictest definition of professional at either end of the extreme spectrum. If snow boots are acceptable when its cold and snowy out, I think there should be some (some!) leeway on the hot end.

            So, I’d say knee length shorts are a good compromise. And I respect your right to disagree on the subject.

          • Oy, who cares. There’s no need to get so heated (har har) about something so trivial as one’s claims about weather and the relative duration thereof.

        • There’s no way your heat index gets that high. If you are around, Jacksonville for example, heat index is around 105. Biiig difference between 105 and 120

          • Heat index in Raleigh today was 115, so I’m not so sure there’s “no way” the other poster can be up to 120.

          • That’s exactly what I’m saying, its so high its why its a heat wave. I am in a 119 heat index place today, I was saying she is not in a place where its 120 6 months out of the year.

        • In Florida you have the option of driving to work. Most people working in Manhattan don’t.

          • Have you been in a hot car? They easily get to 120-130 degrees. Sometimes when I get home I am completely drenched, and I get pretty sweaty if I go out to lunch. Driving is a plus if you drive from garage to garage, but if your car is parked out in the hot sun, your car is going to be far hotter than the outside temperature. Some ACs cool down quickly, others (like mine) really do not.

          • I’m in NY. It’s hot. But I’m not paving roadways, I’m making errata sheets. With that in mind, I still dress professionally. Just a lose fitting blouse, pencil skirt. Sandals commuting. Cardigan and heels when I get to the office.

            THere is no reason to wear sundresses to a NY office. That’s my thoughts. Period.

            I’m sorry, but if you think this is the ok to wear a sundress, well, frankly, I find you absurd.

          • Oh man MeID, I had forgotten how cars get in those long Florida summers…I swear if I ever move back I’ll buy a remote starter so I can hide inside until my car is a lower temperature than the center of the sun.

          • My commute involves both a hot car and the T. I drive to the T station and park outside and then take the T in, so I get both the hot car and the hot city commute.

            As for sundresses, they are acceptable in my business casual office, but I get the feeling that people have different interpretations of sundresses. When I say sundress, I mean sleeeveless cotton dress, usually a sheath, but sometimes a-line. I do not mean something that amounts to a beach cover-up.

    • Barrister in the Bayou :

      I understand both sides on this… But I have to add that the humidity down South (i.e. Florida and lets say Louisiana) is ridiculously oppressive. I don’t even need to put moisturizer on my legs in the summer. It is a tremendous difference than NYC on its worst day (BTW: I lived in New Jersey right across from Manhattan for over 20 years).

      I just hope that the heat wave breaks soon for everyone… a girl can hope right? ;-)

      • Amelia Bedelia :

        I agree. I live in DC now, but previously lived in Houston. We are experiencing a heat wave here in DC and I swear, my first thought was “but there is a nice breeze outside! It isn’t that bad!” and then I realized it was because I was used to Houston summers . . . where the heat literally takes your breath away when you walk outside.

    • i like those knee-length shorts! they can look great — especially if you’re on the skinny side — and, like Kat says, dress them up with a nice blouse and heels. Much like a skirt, but more comfortable, and yes, better ventilation than full-length pants. I obviously work in a casual office.

      I have nothing to add on the heat index debate :)

    • I think rules can be broken this week. 22 people have already died from the heat wave – I’d rather stay healthy in a sundress than get heat stroke in a sharp suit. If the A/C works in the office, throw a cardigan over the sundress. Otherwise, bare those arms and legs and stay cool.

      • S in Chicago :

        Has this weather finally created an opportunity to wear the unicorn of the working girl wardrobe= that “mythical” shorts suit that looks OK to wear to the office?

        I’m still dubious. :)

        FWIW, I’ve been wearing dresses with short sleeves all week and and have been pretty comfy (well, as comfy as you can be in Satan’s sauna :) ). Yesterday was a cotton sheath that was paired with a cardigan once I walked in the door.

        • Anonymous :

          I live in Florida: I have live in Miami, Orlando, and Tallahassee. The HOTTEST I have ever been was in Tennessee during a heat wave there. I almost passed out walking down the street in the evening after the sun went down. I think there are many places that are warmer than Florida because we get an ocean breeze no matter how hot it is!

          • Oooo – This! Not so much from the Florida point of view, but from that of the Upper Midwest, where we DON’T have a nice big body of water to help regulate the temperature. Instead we get stuck with the extremes (and a nice change of seasons) – cold winters and hot summers. And in some years (like this one) really cold winters and really hot/sticky summers.

            Go plate tectonics.

  10. Anonymous :

    I suspect a sundress with blazer or cardigan is fine.

    But let’s be honest, unless you’re dressing “sexy” (whatever that is for your body type) men can’t tell a darn thing about what women are wearing. The only people who judge women about what they are wearing are other women.

    • Not true. My male boss has explicitly dinged female interviewees for not being appropriately attired. None were dressed sexily, just not in formal enough business attire, which makes him (reasonably) assume they also won’t dress as formally as our job requires.

    • Respectfully disagree…when I was at a firm, a male partner in another group looked at my shoes and asked me if open toe shoes were acceptable under our dress code. There are a lot of men who are oblivious, but not all…

    • associate :

      Be careful with this assumption. My male boss made fun of me for wearing capris once to work (momentary lapse in judgment on my part) a *year* after I wore them.

      • I was kind of broke when I started my current job, and when winter came I kept wearing my big puffy down coat. Around February when winter clothing went on sale, I bought a wool one. The first day I wore it, my male boss said “Ruby! You look like a grown-up today! What happened to your puffy jacket?”

        I nearly died.

      • I can sympathize. I saw an investigator yesterday on the street who I had met a year ago. She said, “Your new job is treating you well. When I first met you, you looked like a kid!”


        Credit goes to Corporette, and to my awesome hairstylist, from whose salon I was just returning. :)

        • Anonymous :

          Oh, men notice, and they judge, too. Plus, they think toes are sexy so remember that when you are wearing open-toe shoes.

  11. I’m wearing sleeveless (that flies in my office) dresses that are not lined or overly fitted. Short of being naked, I’m not sure I can dress more heat appropriate. And the dresses are very professional, assuming you work in a place where shoulders are not seen as provocative.

  12. Early threadjack, but can’t wait to get some opinions from the hivemind:

    I used to have really long hair; touching the seat of the chair (chose that by a narrow margin over B**t length).
    Yesterday, in keeping with many other changes, and wanting to rock the thirties, I went to a stylist who cut a foot and a half off. Now its, erm, well, 4-6inches from the shoulder; wouldn’t cover my bust.

    Problem is, being unadventurous, I always had it in a bun or a low ponytail before.

    Now that its layered and short(er) I don’t know quite what to do with it. It used to be long enough for a bun made all of hair – quite different to the methods discussed here.
    I tried twisting it up today and securing it with a big claw but beyond that, my imagination fails me entirely.

    I know this was discussed a while back but since I was in a different hair length category altogether at that point, I wasnt paying attention to suggestions for this length of hair.

    There were links to some great websites, I do remember; would be grateful if someone would like to share those again.

    My hair is also wavy, ultra-frizzy and thin so anyone out there who might like to share pratical tips on how to tame my flyaway mane?


    • My hair is a few inches shorter than yours and I regularly put it in a bun, and I’m not sure what the bun would be made of besides hair? Do you mean you didn’t use any pins? If you’re looking for better hair accessories, I highly recommend the Goody Spin Pins that everyone on this board seems to use now. It works great. I also like to do a pony, and use one of those elastic that has a little tortoiseshell plastic cover on the top that makes it look like a barrette instead of an elastic. Or you can make a pony, then wrap a piece of hair around the band to cover it and pin it from underneath with a bobby pin.

      For frizzy hair I like Garnier’s anti-humidity smoothing milk.

      • Thanks!
        No I meant without the sponge doughnut thingy – but yes I could twist my hair around itself without anything at all.
        I couldn’t get spin clips yet although I should get some sent through to me soon.
        Thanks for the tip about the Garnier smoothing milk. I live in the tropics so that should be about right. Never seen on the shelves though :(

        • I get it at CVS or RiteAid. It’s this: http://www.drugstore.com/garnier-fructis-style-sleek-and-shine-anti-humidity-smoothing-milk-strong/qxp162663.

          I think the doughnut thing is just to make your bun look bigger – it still works fine without the doughnut so long as your hair is long enough to twist in a circle at least once.

          • Thanks again, Duckie, but like the L’Oreal website, my country is not a country as far as this site.
            I mailed L’Oreal about this yesterday, but no reply.

          • @May – not sure where you are, but I’ve seen Garnier products in nicer supermarkets in large Central American cities.

    • Buy Curly Girl: The Handbook. http://www.amazon.com/Curly-Girl-Lorraine-Massey/dp/0761123008

    • I think a low pony (no matter the elastic), chignon (fancy term for a bun), or clip are all legit.

      But now that your hair is shorter, you have more options for wearing it down. You can straighten it with a flatiron, you can blow it out with a larger round brush for waves, you can stick some mousse in it and leave it curly. I wouldn’t try these options at work just yet, but the shorter length will let it respond to products in a different way, too. So have fun!

    • With our horrible heat I’ve been doing low buns, pulled back the second I get out of the shower, and held with 1 or 2 of the baby sized claw clips underneath, near the nape of my neck. I’ve seen a few others in the office (more senior than myself) doing the same thing and I’ve got to say that with, like you, baby fine hair, plus all this heat, having everything pulled back right now is amazing.

      • Thanks all!

        Shall try out what you have all suggested.

        Liek the idea of getting adventurous with it later, too.

        Yes, that describes it perfectly – baby fine hair.

        @Ruby – I’m in Asia. The furthest Garnier has gone so far, is to stock supermarket shelves with “Long & Strong” shampoo and Conditioner. All this cultural obsession with long hair… sigh.

        Took me a while to get out of that too, I guess, so look who’s talking!

        • Ah, for some reason I read “tropical” as Caribbean. Not sure why… I am descended from a country with a Caribbean coast myself, so I guess it was on the brain.

    • The sock bun. This girl is charming.


      • She is adorable. I saw that video probably a year ago and it is one big reason I have grown my hair longer and minimized my layers. Previously, I was always a long layers gal, but I find my options for updos are much broader now that my hair is closer to one length.

  13. Is anyone else experiencing issues with D.C.’s extreme tendency to over air conditioning? It’s so cold in my office and on the bus that I’ve been wearing cardigans all week anyway – the time that I’m outside, it’s such a relief to be out of the frigid air that the heat doesn’t bother me.

    (Though my little window AC unit at home is not really keeping up, poor thing.)

    • having that problem in my library! my legs are frozen

      • My legs would be, but they are wrapped in the pashmina that I keep in my office at all times because of the AC. Glad the AC is effective, but sheesh! If people have to keep snuggies at their desk (not joking), maybe turn the temp up a degree or two.

    • I have that issue too. I get so cold all day that walking home actually does not feel warm at all (admittedly, I have less than a 10 minute walk).

      • My walk is 20 minutes, and I hardly feel the heat until about 10 minutes in!

    • I love love love the bus in DC in the summer. It’s so nice and cool, and such a relief after standing in the bus shelter wondering where the heck the bus is.

      My agency doesn’t seem to share that extreme tendency to over air conditioning. Perhaps I need to find a new job.

    • My office usually isn’t that bad, plus I have a window so can regulate the temperature a bit by closing and opening the blinds (I face east), but this week it’s been a bit chilly. As I mentioned somewhere else, I think they need to over-chill places to combat the humidity.

      Is anyone else bothered by the air quality in DC, even though they spend most of the day inside? I go from my air-conditioned apartment to my car in my underground garage to my office, with just a brief walk outside from parking structure to building, and my airways still feel rather inflammed and I feel short of breath. This seems to happen more and more lately when it gets really hot (like mid-90s). One reason I worship AC – I cannot imagine trying to breathe in this weather without it!

      • I’ve been noticing that too. That’s one of the problems with my window AC – it does nothing for the air quality in my apartment, which has been getting steadily worse.

        • Have you changed/cleaned the filter in your AC? It helps the air quality in mine but I find I have to clean the filter pretty much every two weeks.

      • Yes. I have severe asthma and I basically can’t go outside on code orange days. It’s bad.

    • Sadly I’m experiencing totally the opposite – one of the cooling things at the power station for our building just went down . . . I’m voting for an early day if it doesn’t get fixed soon. And, I completely agree with the other poster about the air quality. Just walked outside of my building for lunch and felt like I walking into a thick wall of smog.

      • Yes on the over-AC – I was freezing yesterday, although today it feels relatively normal. I usually feel great for at least half my walk after work, no matter the temp (maybe not today!).
        I haven’t notice the air too much, but my husband has been having some problems breathing lately.

    • It’s freezing in my office. I’m tempted to turn on my spaceheater.

    • It is so annoying! I walk around in pants and 3/4 sleeve tops. It’s summer! I go from freezing cold to sweltering hot.

  14. Kathryn Fenner :

    I’m curious–even when I worked in a law firm in Portland, ME, it was airconditioned–are your offices not air-conditioned? Is it only the commute they are helping you deal with?

    I have lived most of my life in sultry SC, and I find that the fewer pulse points (wrists, elbows, armpits, ankles, knees, crotch) I cover, the cooler–the crotch stays a lot cooler in a skirt or dress, and shorts are cooler than capris, and a maxi dress makes me want to scream in humidity. A sleeveless, knee length dress or skirt/top combo, with a short-sleeved jacket or cardi if required for propriety is the ticket.

    • SF Bay Associate :

      My friend in DC has been freezing water bottles which she rolls on her pulse points on her wrists and neck during her Metro commute. She ways it makes a huge difference. When she gets to her office, she closes her door and rolls her bare feet over the ice bottle she leaves in the office freezer for just such a purpose.

      • I do this! It’s great. Did it in DC with frozen water bottles and almost frozen cans of coke and do it now occasionally in california. An almost-frozen can of diet coke is easy to throw in your purse and surreptiously carry around too, (just looks like you’re about to drink it) in case you’re in a situation where conspicuously rolling it over your pulse points would look odd. In a pinch, I have used cold tap water on my wrists and/or ice cubes from the office freezer on my hands and wrists.

        • Cooling your feet makes a huge difference. If I am somewhere I can take off my shoes (like my office with the door closed), I do. I never thought of a frozen bottle…thanks for the tip.

      • This is going to sound weird, but I find that cooling my ears (damps hands, cold beverage bottle) helps me feel cooler. Elephants cool themselves by flapping their ears, after all. Or maybe I just have big ears.

        • Well, you’re ears do have a fair amount of surface area, are pretty thin, and (I think) have a fair amount of blood flow through them, so it would be an easy place to help suck some heat out of your body. I think it makes total sense.

    • We are having power outtage issues at my building, so they cut the AC back to the mid 70s; it’s usually about 68. We didn’t get a nod to wear temperature-comfy clothes though. :(

  15. When it is this hot out (NYC), I usually wear a sleeveless top and a non-pencil skirt – something A-line or more flouncy. Pencil skirts seem a bit hotter to me.

  16. “who wears denim to be comfortable during a heat wave?”

    This. Exactly. My company sent out an email last week (yes, I know halfway through the month) stating that we can wear jeans every Friday in July. I don’t want to wear jeans now! I’ll be wearing a sundress tomorrow.

  17. Sorry for the threadjack (great topic!), but I’m interested in your self-tanner recs (for body and face). I’m in a wedding next Saturday and want a color boost. I live in a smallish Midwestern town (we have a Target, for example, but the closest Sephora is 45 minutes away) so easy shoppability/shipability is important. Thanks, ladies!

    • Maddie Ross :

      I don’t use any self-tanners, but for a bronzed glow, I use a Korres bronzer in “warm” on my face. It always gets good reviews (i.e., the “have you been out in the sun / on vacation” kind). I also use Lorac’s Tantalizer on my legs and arms. It’s got a bit of a sheen to it, but it provides a good non-fakey tan color. Both are available at Sephora, and probably other places.

    • I personally really like the Jergens self-tanner for both body and face. I have very pale skin and use the “fair to medium” lotions. It builds gradually – so you’ll need to use it 3-4 days to see a “tan”, but it results in a natural color. The only downside is the body lotion has a bit of a weird smell when you first apply it.

      • anon-oh-no :

        I use this, but not the total self tanner — the stuff that is basically tinted moisturizer. it works great. we may be tlaking about the same thing though, b/c the smell is icky.

    • I use Jergans on my legs every now and then, and it seems to work well (which is good, as a redhead, tanning’s so not my thing!) to give some overall color and hide the leg uglies. I sometimes mix it with lotion (about half and half) to do a more gradual color.

      One thing that I find is that there are some parts of my legs that the tanner “sticks to” more than others. I defeat that by putting lotion on those areas (both knees and the line that runs down the front bone on my right, but not left for some reason, leg) before I put on the tanner.

      • I also use the Jergens gradual lotion, in the Fair to Medium shade, on my legs only. I haven’t had the problem Lyssa describes with “sticky” areas. I do, however, try to avoid the rough skin on my ankle bones. I have very light skin and even though the bottle suggests using the gradual lotion daily or at least for 2-3 days, I find one application gives me the color I’m looking for.

        I don’t have a suggestion for the face. I’ve never used self tanner ther.

    • I like the Neutrogena aerosol spray — can’t remember the exact name. It takes less time than a lotion, and it’s a good color. The downside is that you need to do it in your shower, lest your get the spray everywhere!

    • Do you have a salon that does the airbrush self-tanner? Applying self-tanner on my own makes me nervous because I’m not too experienced with it (but you may be). I found the best results from going to a salon that has technicians that apply the tanner with an airbrush gun (?) . The look is even and it doesn’t drip. It lasts for about a week, from my experience.

      • This has always worked very well for me. It’s not that expensive (I’ve found between $20 and $30) and I’ve never experienced it looking “fake” or splotchy.

    • I have used the Jergens lotions referenced below. It’s just OK on me, maybe because I’m so pale. I’ve gotten the best results from the spray tan booth at the local tanning place (did you see that episode of Friends where Ross does it? It’s pretty much like that. Very weird experience, like a human car wash, but good results.) I really want to try getting airbrushed at a salon next.

  18. To the southerners who think this is crazy: I grew up in South Carolina, now in NYC, in an air-conditioned office but a.) the commute is ungodly – news outlets are reporting is 5-15 degrees hotter in subway stations, plus walking to and from buildings, and b.) the old building I work in is weirdly air conditioned. The new wing has good, cold A/C; my wing is adequate, and the passageway and stairs in between buildings is not air conditioned at all (indoors, and no air flow, so it’s horrible). This kind of very humid, unexpected heat is definitely much harder to deal with in the circumstances here.

    I’ve been bringing a change of clothes, towel, and washcloth to freshen up when I get in in the morning, and because I need to go out on calls throughout the day today, I’m wearing a sundress with a pattern that conceals sweat for the most part. I’m the most superior woman in my office so I’m setting the standard there – I still look professional, and honestly, I think I look much more professional than if I was dressed up and horribly sweaty. I’ve also noticed several golf shirts (the “tech” material polo shirts) on men today in my office and others that are generally not polo shirt places.

  19. At my admittedly casual consulting firm, I’m wearing a flouncy black and purple sundress. The intern is in a maxi dress.

  20. I am wearing a sleeveless linen dress and a short sleeve cardigan with open toe sandals today. While those of you who live in the south may be used to this heat for 6+ months a year, here in New Hampshire we are breaking records with the heat we are getting this week! While no one is wearing shorts (yet), the dress code has definitely relaxed.

    PS – I agree about denim. You would have to pay me big $$$ to put on a pair of jeans right now … but a pair of denim cut-offs for after work would be a different story.

    • Yup. Short-sleeved lightweight cotton dress and open-toed sandals here in Boston (97 degrees here with a heat index of 104).

      Kady, if you’re here, I’m wearing the Boden dress today, but unless you’re wearing yours and will be at South Station around 4, I think we’re good. Dreading standing on the underground platform at the station to wait for the T. I nearly passed out yesterday.

      • Nope, not wearing mine today, and I won’t be getting to S. Stn until probably 6. I can’t deal with woven and lined dresses in this weather. It’s all jersey for me today (and tomorrow too, according to the weather report). Thanks for thinking of me!

  21. Anonymous :

    I’m wearing this today http://shop.uniqlo.com/uk/goods/068701 (it’s a lot less drapey when worn)

    I find that dresses are the only way I can bear the heat wave. When I tuck a shirt into a skirt or pants I sweat on my waist…

  22. Anonylawyer :

    Tomorrow I plan to wear a spaghetti strap seersucker sundress with a thin, white cardigan to make it office appropriate. My office is business casual (but towards the “casual” end of the spectrum) and we are allowed to wear jeans on Fridays.

    • Is your sundress from Brooks Brothers, by any chance? I think the straps on that one are slightly wider than actual spaghetti. Fettucine maybe? And it’s knee-length.

      Thanks for reminding me. I’ll have to pull it out.

    • anon-oh-no :

      I have this dress. I have the matching jacket too. I love it and it would be perfect this week. alas, its from 2 babies ago, so all that fits still is the jacket.

  23. lawtalkinggirl :

    Not to rub it in or anything, but up here it is a cool 59 degrees with a light breeze…

    • TheMightyB :

      this upsets me more than an exposed zipper! Congrats on your nice temperature though.

    • Anonylawyer :

      See, I’d much rather deal with 100 degrees than 59 degrees. That’s cold to me! I am happiest between 78 and 82 degrees.

      • Agreed!

      • Alanna of Trebond :

        Same! I actually don’t mind the weather here in NYC now. I think the people on the subway find me crazy, because we have a business formal office and I don’t really take off my jacket in the tunnel.

    • lawtalkinggirl :

      I turn into a hot sweaty mess anytime the temperature even flirts with 80 degrees. This is one reason I live where I do!

    • Are you in Seattle too? This cold summer is depressing the heck out of me.

  24. I think shorts can work! I’m a a legal non-profit and one of our senior attorneys wears knee-length shorts in very nice ensembles. It looks kinda like this: http://a.abcnews.com/images/GMA/gma_haesther_060420_ssh.jpg (the image on the right). She often swaps out a cardigan for the jacket and always has a higher neckline and closed toed shoes (though, on non shorts days I’ve also seen her wear very nice looking thong sandals).

    Anyway, she pulls it off beautifully and looks polished in our business casual office.

  25. I think comfortable casual could also mean – okay to wear sleveless, or short sleves when normally you have to wear long sleves.

  26. I live in Atlanta and go to London on business several times a year. Summer can be murder – no ac on the very crowded underground, and a lot of offices have questionable ac. I purchased this dress from TM Lewin on my last trip:


    It’s high quality cotton, fits beautifully, is fully lined, and I’ve worn it with a black or beige jacket and nude color pumps for all sorts of meetings in NYC and Atlanta since. They do sell and ship to the US, and this particular dress is marked down from $450 to $225. I think the sizes may be UK sizes – check their size chart…

  27. I live in Miami and am in a business casual office. Luckily the temperature hasn’t been too high lately but when it gets really hot anything goes. I feel for you ladies suffering through the heatwave. Hang in there!

  28. Lefty lawyer :

    Loose-fitting sleeveless dress with silk jacket. Keep jacket on in office, take it off out doors. Hair in french twist.

  29. Speaking of heat, what do I wear for dinner and drinks in NYC this weekend? I’d usually wear skinny jeans and a fun top but might melt in that this weekend.

    • Corporate Tool :

      I’d say a sundress and pretty sandals with flashy jewelery. Everyone knows it’s a billion degrees.

  30. Sandals, no hose, sundress (not the strappy one you wear clubbing, loosely fitted, not tight anywhere) or cotton skirt with no waistband, sleeveless shirt designed not to be tucked. If you usually wear make-up, skip it.

    And watch that you don’t get testy in the heat wave.

    I’m living in Tampa, but grew up in Ohio. I think high temps in the midwest are higher right now than here, but what gets me is it never cools off. Even at night it may or may not go below 80.

  31. Anne Shirley :

    Since I guess I can’t call out sick because of the heat, today I’m wearing cotton capri pants (closer to ankle than to knee), a silk blouse with those nice cap sleeves that have no fabric over the underarm, and sandals. Counting the days to vacationing on Prince Edward Island.

  32. Anon Canadian :

    If today’s temperature reaches at least 33C (91F) then my Canadian city, Toronto, will be in a heat wave as it will be the 5th day in a row. It probably will because the temp at 10am this morning was already 27C (82F). Yesterday it got to 49C (120F) with the humidex and broke a record as the hottest day in July in Toronto since 1988. I think we’ve been about 5 degrees above our average July temp all week. With all that said, I’m in short sleeve knit top and khaki bermudas in my extremely casual office (I’m not the most casual person today by far) and I’ve got a long heavy sweat drapped over my legs because the air conditioner is too much for me.

  33. I’m wearing sundresses with a cardigan in the closet. With our heat index hovering around 116, I told my employees to wear anything they wanted to work yesterday and today. We don’t have any meetings this week, and we just go straight to our department and pretty much stay there for the day. My folks all walk or bike or metro to work, some for an hour or more, and it’s just inhumane to expect them to wear usual business clothes. I am asthmatic, too, and I’m going through inhalers like they’re chocolate candies. I told them they could change into work clothes once they got here if they wanted, and change back when they were going home, but if they wanted to just wear their shorts/skirts sans hose/capri pants all day, that was fine with me.

  34. Anon gov atty :

    Wednesday I wore a black cotton sleevless dress with a full skirt. Thursday I wore a black linen sheeth. Both days, the minute I entered my office, I put on a cardigan.
    Today, I am mixing it up a little by wearing a light weight short sleeved blouse with a knit flared skirt (American Apparel), and closed toed ballet flats. My office doesn’t seem to have a formal dress code (for instance one of the senior attorneys regularly wears yoga clothes to the office (and by yoga clothes, I mean apparel specifically designed for yoga), hence getting away with wearing a Dov Charney creation.
    I have had luck pulling my mid-lenght hair up into a twist/bun like creation, and securing with a clip. I do this in part to keep my hair off my neck, and in part to hide the number the humidity has done on my wavy/curly hair.

  35. Mountain Girl :

    High 80’s for us today but a quick drive into the mountains and we can see snow.

    And, I guess one of the benefits of getting older is no longer suffering from the intense AC in the buildings. I guess hot flashes are good for something, right?

  36. No Drama Momma :

    Thanks for the tips! Skirts and dresses have saved my life this summer. I would literally look like a hot mess if I tried to wear pantsuits to work, especially this week. (Hey! Look at that! I used the word “literally” correctly!)

  37. Lex Caritas :

    it’s about 60 degrees fareniheit in London, grey cold and miserable!

  38. I have a gamut of ruffled shells that I can wear outside and toss a thin cardigan over when I’m in the office. That’s my favorite “heat wave” solution.

  39. Lex Caritas :

    I hate to tell you this but it is 13C/55F today in London…..we’re all complaining about the miserable cold wet weather!

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