Dressing Cool in a Corporate World

Professional men and women in high-powered careers often struggle during the summer months on how to look polished and authoritative, yet remain cool and crisp when the temperatures climb over 80 degrees. I can tell you that professionals dress quite differently based on where in the United States they reside. In the northeast and Midwest, there is a greater trend to dress more traditionally in professional surroundings, regardless of the heat. If you live in the western or southern states, you already know that we tend to dress more on the business casual side of the spectrum due to the climate challenges. Wherever you live, it’s important to know a few things about dressing to look crisp and polished, no matter how high the mercury rises. In corporate America today we are blessed with air-conditioned offices, so it is often when we are out in the heat calling on a client, attending a function or leaving work that the heat dilemma presents itself.

Remember that your dress sends silent messages to others. It is your visual image that people tend to notice first when forming impressions of you. Make sure your summer look is credible and polished to attract more clients and gain greater career growth. Both men and women can follow these tips to look professional but cool in the heat of the summer:

Summer Selections for Women

  • Wear a professional solid color dress with an open-weave sweater as a jacket or opt for a dressy cotton blouse, and work skirt worn at the knee area. You will always be naturally cooler in a dress or skirt versus a pantsuit. Remember that a light to medium color is always more professional than a dress or skirt in a bold, wild print.
  • Select blouses made out of the natural fabrics like cotton, silk or linen. Looser fitting fabrics also allow the air to circulate and are cooler than tight fitting fabrics. When you also add a lower stylish neckline like a v-neck, scoop neck, or square neckline you will avoid having anything up by your neck, allowing more airflow. However, be cautious that you do not bare too much skin or cleavage.
  • For a jacket, choose a great modern jacket or blazer out of a linen-blend or a silk-blend to look more summery, yet stylish.
  • If your dress code allows you to go barelegged and your legs are flawless, you can do so, but remember you will lose a little credibility here. If you decide to show your gorgeous legs, be sure to self-tan your legs with a product like Jergens® Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer or Clarins® Radiance-Plus Self Tanning Body Lotion to look as though you are wearing hosiery.
  • Here are a few shortcuts to keeping cool if your dress code at work requires hosiery. Try wearing dress trousers with knee-hi hosiery, or select a dress or skirt which, when worn with hosiery will be cooler than a pantsuit.
  • In footwear, select peep-toe pumps which, although cutout in the toe, are still suitable for the office. Other styles of shoes like kitten heels, mules, sling backs or dressy sandals are also an option. However, be sure if you wear these styles that you are barelegged. For any shoe that bares your toe cleavage or your heels, be sure to keep up regularly with your pedicures to look well-groomed.
  • For suits and core wardrobe pieces, stay away from dark colors and black, which absorb the heat. Select lighter-colored fabrics like eggshell, camel, tan, taupe or light grey. Another tip is to search for bracelet sleeves in suits, which expose the lower portion of your arms.
  • If you love wearing your hair long, you will want to wear it up in a smart, stylish hairstyle to look professional and get it off your neck in the heat. Consider wearing a classic ponytail or the front part pulled up and off your face. However, be sure that your hairstyle is not too casual. If you wear a weekend look like a messy bun, it does not blend in with the professional message that your clothes are sending. Try some great pearl, silver or tortoise shell clips or ponytail holders to add a great classic look to your hairstyle.

Summer Selections for Men

  • Hang up those dark corporate colors of midnight navy, charcoal grey, and chocolate brown till late September. Men’s suits and sport coats in light to medium tones continue to look professional but also say you have some fashion savvy about you, that you know that lighter colors are worn in the summer months. Lighter colors will not absorb the heat like dark colors. Look for lightweight natural fabrics like a silk-blend, linen-blend or a lightweight wool blazer or suit which will breathe in the summer heat. Select colors in lighter hues in tan, medium taupe, or a medium gray. These tones look professional and fashionable for summer but you remain credible. That doesn’t mean you have to walk around looking like Matlock in your light blue pastel suit all summer long. One of my favorites that I recommend to all of my male clients is a British tan-colored suit that looks traditional and can be worn with multiple shirt colors and ties.
  • For dress trousers, select a linen-blend, which looks fashionable and stylish. Wear these trousers with a sport coat and a silk-blend shirt for a great summery look. A more business casual dress code may allow you to wear khakis. If you do so, select a wrinkle-free type that will look crisp at the end of the day.
  • Nothing looks more crisp and clean than a white or light blue dress shirt. Select oxford cloth or an open weave cotton that will be cooler. You might also try to explore wearing more pastel-colored dress shirts, like yellow, pink, or lavender, with your softer-colored suits and sport coats. Remember to wear a T-shirt under all your shirts in the summer. The T-shirt will absorb the perspiration and protect your shirt from underarm stains.
  • The one accessory a man wears near his face is his tie. During the warmer weather, choose a tie color background that is either yellow, light blue, pink or purple. This is a great eye-catching way to blend and coordinate your lighter-toned suits with a splash of summer color.
  • In the summer months, feel free to wear lighter-toned shoes like camel, tan or brown with more earth-toned colored suits or dress trousers. With dress trousers, wear a light colored slip-on in a leather weave that looks quite appropriate in the summer months. Set aside the dark cordovan or black shoes, which look best when coordinated with darker-colored suits.

I hope you have found the tips in this article realistic and easy to incorporate into your career wardrobe. When you dress in a corporate environment there is a fine line between dressing professionally, and dressing too casually during the summer months. Follow these tips to wear business type attire in hot weather but remain credible, powerful and authoritative.

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