Top Ten Summer Office Wear Tips For Women

By Joanne Blake | Dress & Image

Jun 17

Does Your Summer Office Attire Make You Look Unprofessional?

Ahhh, summertime and the living is easy. Or should that be “summertime and the clothing is cheezy” ?

I was just interviewed by Laura McMullen, the careers editor at U.S. News for an article on summer dress for success advice entitled Does Your Summer Office Attire Make You Look Unprofessional? Click this link to read her great article on summertime dress tips.

Summer dress tips - Does this make me look successful?

Don’t sunburn your career

We love summer because our Style for Success phone starts ringing off the hook as desperate organizations seek some help dealing with summertime casual wear blues.

Business wear gets less businessy and casual days go right off the road into the ditch.  Summer in Canada and the USA finds bare midriffs, cropped tops, low-rise pants or shorts and that’s just at the law office. Ha-ha, you laugh but it’s often true.

The dreaded CLMs

Much as we like the extra business, as your corporate image consultant and coach, I would rather pre-empt any image inspired blips in your career by supplying you with some tips to avoid summertime CLMs – “Career Limiting Moves”.

So before you decide to let it all hang out, consider the power of your image to affect your employer, your clients and your career. Below are some of our summertime dress for success tips or CEMs (Career Enhancing Moves).

This is part of the advice I give my executive coaching clients to build their success.

Tip 1. Check your brand alignment

Think about your industry and your organization’s brand. Does your summertime dress still promote and fit in with your organization’s image.

Tip 2. Question your career goals

Ask yourself the following questions:

What are your career goals or aspirations? Does your more casual summer dress still make it easy for others to see you as the professional you are? Or is it a CLM?

What traits or adjectives do you want to be known for?  Does what you are wearing enhance or diminish that image?

Tip 3. Sandals or scandals

Sandals are okay if your corporate culture is creative/less formal. But remember your feet will now be in the spotlight becoming a focal point so make sure you get regular pedicures. Point to consider  –  Flip-flops in the office are not a CEM – Career Enhancing Move. Flipflops can also turn you into a loud-walker in your office, a definite CLM.

Tip 4. Revealing Victoria’s secret

Sheer fabrics are in this year. Select undergarments that are smooth with a ‘skin tone’ shade so they don’t show through. With more whites and summer’s sheerer fabrics, a dark bra will only be a good choice if it matches your skin tone.

Tip 5. Capris/culottes/leggings

Best worn for Casual Fridays. If you’re in a more conservative office environment, as a CEM, team them with a coordinating jacket to maintain your authority. The same goes for leggings – always, always team them with a top that covers your derriere/tush.

Tip 6. Dresses for successes?

Dresses are becoming a fashion staple, but many of them are sleeveless or thin-strapped. In a professional office, the more skin you show equals less credibility and power. CEM – keep a cardigan or jacket handy to wear over the summer dress at client/power meetings.

Tip 7. Don’t bare all your assets

It’s all about your business credibility. Your face should be the center of communication. Do the ‘dip test’ for cleavage, remember the creep factor for short/slit skirts and do the ‘reach test’ for tops. CEM –  think twice about bare midriffs and shoulders.

Tip 8. Casual hair day?

Just because it’s summer don’t neglect your hair. Wearing scrunchies or just pulling it back in a high ponytail may be fine for the weekend; at work it will diminish your professionalism.

Tip 9. Hose or Hoser

Your decision to wear hosiery should be based on several factors; your corporate culture, your personal style and the styling and fabric of the dress you plan on wearing.

If your industry or business culture is relaxed then wearing hosiery is not essential. Of course well-groomed tootsies are required.

Dresses in fluid fabrics can be paired with sandals without hosiery. Dresses that are more formal/tailored in fabrics that have a tighter weave are best worn with hosiery and pumps.

Tip 10 – Gym or beach?

Watch out! If you don’t need to change your clothes from the office to go to the gym or the beach, you are dressed way too casual for most office environments.  If you ever look in the mirror and ask yourself “I wonder if this is too casual for my office”, the answer is, it probably is.

Bonus dress for success tips

Observe how your peers/colleagues dress and aim to be dressed in the top 25%. A career enhancing move – when in doubt, leave it out or check with your HR department.

So follow the CEM advice to enjoy the summer without undermining the power of your image.  And keep in mind one of our best dress for success tips for achieving your career aspirations – dress for the job you want, not the job you have, even in the summer time.

Free tip sheet to print and share – Top 10 SUMMER WEAR DOs and DON’Ts pdf

Check out my fun interview with Laura McMullen, careers editor at U.S. News in her great article Does Your Summer Office Attire Make You Look Unprofessional?

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Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian corporate image consultant, executive coach and speaker

About the Author

JOANNE BLAKE Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

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