5 Tips to Beat the Heat and Still Dress Professionally

Professional attire may seem at odds with hot weather. In fact, the ubiquity of business suits is one of the reasons offices pump the A/C high in the summer, to such an extent that in Japan the government has sponsored a campaign to encourage dressing down to save energy costs in hot weather. While dressing down may not be the norm everywhere, there are still ways to beat the heat and stay within your office dress code.

Need a primer on professional attire? This 101 guide will help you learn some of the terms used throughout this post.

1. Wear Linen & Other Light Fabrics

Professional attire is often made with heavy fabrics unsuited for warm weather. Next time you shop for work wear, pay attention to the weight and weave of the fabrics in items that catch your eye, and aim to have a variety of weights or weaves to accommodate your needs throughout the year. You can always add a sweater in the winter, so making sure you have lighter, airy shirts and/or dresses will help your wardrobe remain comfortable in the summer. Fabrics like linen, silk, and light cottons feel cooler than others like denim while maintaining a professional look in chinos and button-down shirts.

Additionally, the Art of Manliness suggests lighter jackets, including unlined or partially lined blazers and sport coats, especially when made from cotton and other light fabrics. Speaking of layers, they also emphasize that an undershirt can assist with wicking sweat as well as protect your shirt from antiperspirant staining, which can more than make up for wearing two layers in the summer.

2. Play with Color & Accessories

White and other light colors can help to keep you cool in the summer. If you wear layers or longer clothes in the summer, such as an ankle-length skirt or a headscarf, these light colors can help to keep you cool in addition to the light breeze created by flowing fabric. Alternatively, wearing black or other dark colors can help to disguise sweating, though an undershirt is a preferable method.

Style blog DapperQ suggests styling lightweight basics with accessories – patterns, vests, watches, and more! In the case of workplaces that require warmer outfits, advice blog Corporette suggests keeping cool by using accessories such as hand fans and necklaces designed to be frozen like small ice packs.

3. Ditch the Sleeves

When dressing business casual, workers of all genders are usually able to wear short sleeves in the summer, and in many workplaces it is considered acceptable for women and feminine-presenting people to go sleeveless. There are a variety of professional cuts in feminine styles with short sleeves or no sleeves, such as examples on this Pinterest board.

4. Try Capris, Skirts, Shorts, and Sandals (When Appropriate)

Nearly any summer clothing can be dressed up or down, such as adding a blazer to sleeveless dress. Even so, workplaces will vary drastically in how acceptable items like capris, shorts, and sandals will be. For women and feminine-presenting people, skirts and dressy sandals (such as these) can be acceptable in business casual environments, and even a skirt suit with closed-toe shoes can be acceptable in business professional environments.

However, many work environments still frown upon men and masculine-presenting people wearing capris, shorts, skirts/kilts, and sandals. If you do happen to work in a setting that will allow shorts, this post from DapperQ shows some examples of masculine styles incorporating shorts, and this post suggests unisex sandals and sandal alternatives.

5. When In Doubt… Ask!

Every workplace will have its own policies on dress codes and attire. Some may require a uniform, others will be entirely casual and even allow T-shirts and flip-flops. Therefore, if you ever wonder if a piece of clothing will be acceptable or not, including those mentioned above, just ask… and preferably before you wear it to work.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

By Kyle Inselman
Kyle Inselman Director, Alumni Career & Professional Development