If you can’t figure out what to wear to work in summer, you’re not alone.
When it comes to office wear, the rules are all over the place. “Business casual” is the general guideline for most workplaces, but it means different things for different industries and positions. Law positions are going to call for a more conservative look than IT positions. Creatives can get away with wearing things that client facing employees can’t.
The rules are often unspoken. My office doesn’t have a dress code, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I can show up in flip flops and hotpants (er, not that I would…I’m just saying) or a disco dress (which I totally would do). Other times they are spoken – and generally accepted.
Fashion choices most people agree you should eschew for work include:
- Short skirts
- Short shorts
- Inappropriately high heels (often the kind that have platforms)
- Spaghetti straps
- Disco dresses (grudgingly)
When it comes to other choices, there are opinions a plenty out there.
The following are subjects of some debate:
- Open toed shoes: In a recent article about workplace dress codes by my fellow writer Kim Hughes, Byron Thomas, career development director at Toronto’s Herzing College, rails against these.
“There is no excuse for open-toe sandals or shoes. I don’t care how pretty your pedicure is,” he says. “Nobody wants to see your toes. Even if you think people aren’t looking at your feet, they are. It’s just bad so don’t do it.
I think he’s a bit overzealous. I’m wearing open toed shoes at work right now, and nobody has screamed. There are also several other women here whose toes I can see.
Flip flops: Taking the question of open toes further, let’s factor in the slip ons that make that onomatopoeic “flip flop flip flop” sound as you walk around the office.
Beachwear? Casual officewear? Both?
Many seem to agree that the flip flop takes informality just a step too far. And that the noise they make is terrible. Not everyone, though.
“I wear flip flops at work all the time,” says Grace, who works at an ad agency.
Tank tops/sleeveless dresses: While many will walk around with shoulders bared like brazen beasts, this apparent flouting of decorum causes some to wring hands and fret.
I’m wearing a tank top today, while a female co-worker would never dream of showing up with shoulders uncovered.
Is the shoulder really that big a deal?
Sequins: I own a lot of sequined tops and, therefore, work them into the work wardrobe. Others, however, say the sequin has no place in the office. I ignore these people.
Leggings: There are those who think leggings are an acceptable substitute for pants, and those who think those people are crazy. And probably some who fall in between.
We recently ignited something of a debate on Facebook with this article.
It seems we will never all see eye to eye on this incredibly fraught topic, and must agree to disagree, lest we tear each other apart.
It’s interesting to note that these are specifically female problems. Men don’t generally come to work in tank tops or short shorts. I will leave this observation here without comment.
Regardless of where you fall on each of these arguments, perhaps you will find some of these tips on dressing for work in summer helpful.
- Bring layers. Always have something to throw on handy, in case you suddenly find yourself feeling underdressed. A shawl, cardigan or blazer can make a strapless or spaghetti strap dress office appropriate.
Keep a pair of shoes in your desk. Travel in your sandals, flip flops or sneakers. Change into your nice shoes. I do this all year round.
Dress up with accessories. Even jeans and a t-shirt can be made to look professional with the right shoes, earrings and bracelet.
Err on the side of a loose fit. You’ll be cooler in a loose fit, and things won’t bulge out where they shouldn’t.
Go with the flow. Particularly if you’re new. Watch what your boss and coworkers do, and follow suit. That doesn’t mean you have to look like everyone else if that’s not your style. But don’t wear flip flops (or disco dresses) if nobody else does, even if it’s not technically against the rules.