Stylish Summer Dress Pants for Work

summer dress pants for womenLightweight, summer dress pants can be difficult to find — you want to look professional, yet be cool, and of course you don’t want to look like a wrinkled mess.  It’s been a while since we talked about lightweight pants for work, so let’s discuss. Ladies, do you prefer to wear pants year-round — and if so, what fabrics and styles do you prefer in summer? Any classic pants you buy year after year in new colors? 

Some general tips at the outset:

    • Watch the pockets — painters’ pockets, cargo pockets, and even regular five-pocket styles can be too casual for most offices (but know your office!)
    • look for details like pintucked creases down the front (for example, these Theory pants) — the pintucked creases have a way of keeping the look sharp and structured even as the pants loosen up through the day
    • check out our tips on how to avoid sheer pants if you’re leaning towards wearing white pants for summer

This post contains affiliate links and Corporette® may earn commissions for purchases made through links in this post. For more details see here. Thank you so much for your support!

Summer Dress Pants in Stretch Cotton

For a more conservative business casual office, stretch cotton is probably the first line of defense. These are widely available in ankle pants; you can also find some stretch cotton trouser options.

Pictured below: onetwo / three / four 

Summer Dress Pants in Cotton Pique

Textured cotton pique pants can be lighterweight than regular cotton, but hold their shape a bit better — and they wrinkle a bit less than linen trousers. (See also: micro ottoman pants like these.)

Pictured below: one / two / three / four

Summer Dress Pants in Seersucker

Seersucker options can be great (particularly in certain parts of the country, like DC, where they have Seersucker Thursday!) — and they often offer matching blazers for women.

Pictured below: one / two / three / four

Stylish Summer Dress Pants: Linen (The Last Resort)

Linen is the obvious choice for hot summer days — but it’s so hard to find a great pair for work. Still: here are just some days where you need to be in a suit or something else Very Professional, weather be damned — a summer associate lawn party, an old courthouse, some other sweltering summer event — and linen is the obvious choice here.  Note that a cotton linen blend will wrinkle less; also note that the closer to 100% linen an option is, there may be opacity problems (yay) and shape-retention problems (i.e. serious stretching out). (Another warning: you may think that palazzo linen pants are a classic for summer… but I don’t wear mine anymore after my pre-schooler asked why mommy was wearing pajamas. So… maybe keep those for the beach.)

Pictured below (all linen blends): one / two / three / four

lightweight, stylish summer dress pants for women can be hard to find -- particularly if you're working in a conservative office! You don't need to swelter through the summer, though: we've rounded up the best options for where to find breathable summer pants. Updated 2018!

the best lightweight summer dress pants for women


  1. multi-way dress undergarments :

    Threadjack: I bought one of those multi-way dresses and I’m trying to decide if it’s worth purchasing a strapless adhesive [email protected] to wear with it. I’m a 34D, so I can’t go [email protected], and the stick-on cups generally just look like I pasted shoulder pads onto sagging b00bs. I want something that has some lift and support, and I know there’s some adhesive [email protected] that have an underwire. Any recommendations? Alternatively, can anyone attest to the staying power of the multi-way dress if you were it to dance at a wedding reception? Everything is all fine and good when you first put it on and you’re just standing there… but will I just end up with saggy b00bs by the end of the night if I don’t wear a proper strapless or regular [email protected]?

    • Also a 34DD :

      I’m super curious about this as well. Strapless bras don’t work well for me because I need the lift of the straps; same with stick-on cups.

      • I’m a 32DD and have found that a high end (like Wacol or Chantelle) underwire strapless bra stays up just fine and I definitely need lift. That doesn’t help if the dress is backless like what the OP is talking about, but is great under everything else.

        I can’t imagine the dress would stay well if you are moving a lot. Consider going with the WHBM genius dress instead. I does have several options, but all would cover at least a conventional strapless bra.

        • JuniorMinion :

          Seconding Wacoal. I have a strapless br* from there that is a godsend.

          • newbinlaw :

            do you ladies know which one it is? Looking on amazon and would love a rec that’s on Prime. I’m small-busted (30D) but need the lift and support for that reason, otherwise i look flat as a board.

        • Going down a band size from my regular bra size helped a lot in the strapless bra department (also a DD)

        • multi-way dress undergarments :

          I do need a real strapless as well, so maybe one of those will work for the dresses that accommodate a band across my back. I really love some of the backless/mostly-backless options for styling the multi-way dress, but alas, I might just have to skip those :(

  2. Looking for cheap-ish jeans recommendations for work (on the casual side of business casual where jeans with a nice blouse are okay). I’m looking for skinny jeans in a sturdy enough material that they don’t just look like jeggings and will hold up over time, in a dark wash, for less than $50 (preferably less than $30). I’ve seen lots of recommendations here for the Old Navy Rockstar jeans, so I plan to check those out, but I was wondering if anyone has other winning suggestions in the same category? Thanks!

    • Also- what are your favorite shoes to wear with skinny jeans for work? My go-to shoes are black wedges or black flats, and I sometimes incorporate a wingtip Oxford, but I’m in the market for new shoes. Perhaps another wingtip style, either lace up or slip on? Or a fun flat in muted-but-exciting colors.

    • I used to wear the ON jeans but got frustrated by the inconsistency in sizing (same style, same number, different wash? Won’t fit!). I switched to the Loft modern skinny jean (I think that’s what it is called). Comes in different cuts, including curvy, if that’s needed. Have them in two washes and white (fantastically opaque!) and I’ve never paid more than $35.

    • JuniorMinion :

      I like Asos – especially their mid rise skinny jeans. However, they do run small. I tend to be about a 4 in Old Navy and the 30 waist from Asos fits me pretty comfortably. I am also pro breathing and eating in my skinny jeans so YMMV.

      • JuniorMinion :

        Also I am a 27 in Joe’s Jeans… I think they are closer to a “curvy” skinny jean cut.

    • Anonymous :

      I found some at the Gap. In hindsight I wished I had bought the real straight jeans rather than skinny though – only difference was slightly wider calf/ankle opening.

    • I recently tried the Apt 9 pull on skinny jeans from Kohls and am a big fan. I think they are $40 full price but everything at Kohls is always on sale plus you can use a coupon.

    • newbinlaw :

      I love the Articles of Society brand. I used to wear Old Navy Rockstar exclusively but recently “upgraded” my wardrobe to this brand. It is sold at Nordstrom and Nord Rack but is really affordable and flattering. They have that great stretch, but are better quality and look more professional than the Rockstar and are thicker than jeggings.

      You don’t say what your body type is, but the different cuts (Sarah, Mya, etc.) work for different shapes. They also go on sale frequently for super cheap.

    • Anonymous :

      American Eagle Outfitters! So comfortable and wear like iron.

  3. Anony Mouse :

    Really wish the ankle pant trend would die already. I have a 34″ inseam and hate looking like Steve Urkel.

    • Anonymous :

      I don’t like the trend because I live in a cold place and like wearing socks. Ankle pants do not go well with socks.

    • lost academic :

      Seconded. It will never look good on me. 36″ here.

    • Meg March :

      I hate it too. I think it probably looks fine to others, but I got made fun of too many times as a kid for my “high waters” to be comfortable in deliberately shorter pants.

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        Woah! High waters was the middle school bullies’ nickname for me. I’m not the only one! 7th grade was rough.

        • +1

          I recall such deep insecurity regarding whether my pants were long enough. My mother did not share this insecurity and preferred that I ‘stop whining and put on those perfectly fine pants.’ To be deemed to be wearing high waters was to be socially shamed.

    • Anonymous :

      Ha, I’m the opposite! I like being able to buy full length pants and have them look intentionally ankle-length! Although all the cute ankle pants look like frumpy capris on me…

    • Same here, and I have a 28″ inseam. I don’t think ankle pants look good on very many people

    • I was just having the same thought this morning…I need at least 33″

  4. Boston Biotechie :

    Plug for the Talbots Hampshire pants – so comfy but also structured and professional looking. They are quickly becoming my go to (well, they were until the temps plunged back into the 40s this morning…)

  5. newbinlaw :

    might be too late in the day but need shopping help or advice!

    Going to a wedding that is “Black Tie” and at a fancy venue. I bought a beautiful long gown for this event. It is more fitted and a solid color, so not as fancy as a ball gown or something, but still very formal. I was just told that people, including mothers, etc. are not wearing long gowns.

    Aside from the fact that I am developing a pet peeve about this (this is the 3rd person I know who set an arbitrary dress code for their wedding and then didn’t use it), will my dress still be appropriate? I don’t want to be overdressed or too flashy for a few reasons, in addition to just common etiquette. I’m not sure I can return the dress at this point, but if I could, should I wear a c*ktail dress instead?

    • If it were me and I liked the dress, I would wear it and enjoy my chance to be at a swanky venue all dressed up. I would guess that if other sane people are invited to this wedding, you would not be alone interpreting a black tie dress code to mean that you should dress in black tie attire. (I too am incredibly frustrated by dress code creep). In my circle, I’ve been noticing a lot more friends wearing long dresses at weddings that are not explicitly black tie – so maybe that will pan out for you as well – and regardless, I have never noticed a long dress looking too flashy! I’m sure whatever you decide, you will look lovely.

      If you do decide to go with the long dress, wear your hair down and go with more casual jewelry/shoes/bag (contrasting color, etc) to make it look like you’re just a naturally classy person with a good sense of style!

      • newbinlaw :

        Thanks. this was my inclination and super helpful. I think not doing some fancy updo and just doing hair down will help a lot.

  6. I am loving the AG Caden pant for summer. It’s ankle leg, which I like, and is in a nice light fabric.

  7. I’ve been looking for business casual pants and found some nice deals at Lands End. My husband likes their chinos but wondering how they are for women’s. Any other recommendations?

    I’ll be an associate at a midsized Midwest firm in the fall (assuming I pass the July bar) so I’d appreciate any advice building a business casual wardrobe that helps me look age appropriate and not like a student!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Thank you for commenting. On the off chance that your comment goes to moderation, note that a moderation message will only appear if you enter an email address. If you have any questions please check out our commenting policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.