How to dress for success without being a hot soggy mess: Summer Work Wear Edition

How to Dress for Success without being a Hot Soggy Mess: Summer Work Wear Edition

by Silk Allen


(Plain Press, August 2019)            Getting dressed for work during the scorching hot, dog days of summer can be stressful, no matter your profession. The heat doesn’t care if you work from home, in an office or an art gallery. Trying to look good in 100-degree weather without melting is an extreme sport for all involved. Spending precious minutes standing seminude while staring off into the black hole that is your closet is not how you should start any morning, and we won’t even get into the commute. Driving, walking or taking public transportation to work with no AC should be a crime– and it actually is, as evidenced by the huge sweat stains on the back and under arms of your favorite top. Finally, you arrive to work and get some reprieve from the heat which feels great until two hours pass by and now you are freezing to death and sneezing all over your co-workers. No more!  I am here to help.  Read on for my summer work wear style guide:


   Tees: Stock up on easy to wear t-shirts with pockets, trim or any other decorative embellishments that can be worn with trousers and skirts during the week but will also look great with jeans and shorts on the weekends. Go for different colors, fabrics, and cuts and play around with the neckline for variety.

   Sleeveless blouse: Stay away from cotton tank tops and tanks with thin spaghetti straps, but a sleeveless blouse in a bold summer color will look fantastic tucked into a fitted skirt or when paired with your favorite black slacks. They can add a much-needed burst of color to your wardrobe and would look great under any jacket or blazer.

   White button down: This year-round staple will come in handy on those days when you are running behind and can’t seem to pull together an outfit quick enough. Wear it with dark slim cut pants and pumps or wide leg trousers and flats for a cool, sophisticated and classic look. And, of course, you can tie it at the waist and rock it with a denim skirt, wide brim hat and sandals for a Saturday outing.

   Printed blouse: A long sleeve blouse with a fun print (lemons, hearts, animals, hound’s tooth, etc.) will add playfulness to any outfit. Roll the sleeves up and tuck it into your favorite pencil skirt, wear it with a bright pair of cropped pants, or layer it underneath a sleeveless shift dress and belt it.


   Midi/swing skirt: It’s true that pencil skirts are perfect for the office, but the silhouette can’t be worn by everybody. However, midi skirts and swing skirts are flattering for everybody who chooses to wear them and are perfect for the summer heat because they won’t cling and stick to your skin. Find a few in bold patterns and wear them with your sleeveless tanks for an effortlessly cool outfit.

   Wide leg pants: Wide leg pants are the perfect alternative to skinny jeans and fitted pants that offer no ventilation. Some of them have elastic waists and are easy to pull up and go and will look amazing with a pocket tee, sleeveless blouse or your white button down and you can wear a pair of slides or sandals to complete the look.

   Trousers: A trouser pant in a dark color screams business, but why not go for a less basic punchy color like hot pink and pair it with a lighter pink top for your own take on monochromatic dressing? Throw on your favorite pair of printed flats or tennis shoes and be ready for all the compliments that you are sure to get.

   Cropped pants: Let your ankles breathe, every once in a while, and buy yourself a few pairs of cropped pants. Even if you are petite or on the shorter side, you can wear cropped or ankle pants as long as you pair them with the right shoes. Stay away from straps that cut you off and create weird lines at the ankle. Go for a thick chunky heel, or a pair of pointy flats to help lengthen your look.

One pieces

   Jumpsuit: There is a jumpsuit for every body-type; you just have to find one that works for you. Look for breathable fabrics, an elastic or a belted waist, and be aware of fit. To make a jumpsuit look as professional as possible, stay away from tight body contouring styles in stretchy fabrics and go for something more structured and flowy. To really nail the office look, wear it with an oversized, printed blazer.

   Wrap dress: The most universally flattering dress on the planet is also perfect for summer, so make sure you have a good selection of wrap dresses in a variety of fabrics and prints at your fingertips. Wear them with almost any shoes– sandals, heels or flats, and keep a small clutch in your work tote with extra makeup and jewelry if you decide to go out for drinks after work.


   Kimono: Flowy and thin enough to knock the chill off your arm and stylish enough to add interest to any outfit, kimonos are having a moment right now, so you can find one in many colors and prints, but the most popular ones seem to be doused in florals which look perfect and add a little razzle dazzle to any plain top and bottom.

   Blazer: Leave your boring black blazer at home until the temperature drops and shop for hot pink, neon yellow, electric blues, plaids and striped styles with 3/4 sleeve lengths in lighter fabrics. Don’t be afraid to scour the racks of those fast fashion stores you see all the teens shopping in, because they have great affordable choices that you won’t find anywhere else. When you find one or two that you like, try it on top of everything–your dresses and jumpsuits, your white tee and cropped pants, your sleeveless blouse and skirt… and see how much excitement it adds to your current wardrobe.


   Stacked heels: The stacked or block heel style of shoe has been popular for the last few seasons and with good reason– they are incredibly stylish and super easy to walk in. Try an open-toed version in a color that you have never worn before and you will be surprised at how many outfits will work with that style of shoe.

   Mules: What shoe looks great with cropped pants, wide leg trousers, a wrap dress and your midi skirt? Mules! It doesn’t matter if they are flat or have a heel, mules offer a sexy, but casual slay to any outfit and allow your feet to breathe with ease. Go for a black, red or animal print to get the most wear out of them.


   Work tote: Women already have the weight of the world on their shoulders, so there is no need to add to that by carrying around TWO bags like I see a lot of women do. Find a large tote in a summery but neutral color and make sure it is large enough for everything you need. It doesn’t have to be expensive or look fancy, it just needs to be able to hold your laptop, personal items, and a lunch bag and make sure the straps are long enough to sling easily over your shoulders.

   Sunglasses: You can’t go wrong with moderate to large size shades in black or tortoise shell. Since they won’t actually be worn inside the office you can alternate between a trendy pair or a classic pair. They are the perfect outfit toppers and a great way to protect your eyes from the sun. Make sure you have a case to throw them in, so they won’t break or scratch the lenses when it’s time to take them off.

I would love to help you look cool and stylish for the remainder of the summer, so if you prefer one on one advice, don’t hesitate to email me for affordable personal styling services:


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