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Dressing for Work: How Do You Keep Your Cool?
Dana Lynch, Elements of Image

It###s no secret, it###s HOT outside! Now, let me share a secret. Some days when it###s really hot and I###m trying to decide what to wear for work, I stand in front of my closet thinking, "All I really want to wear is a pair of shorts, a tank top, and flip flops." However, since this isn###t a reality, I###ve put together some great tips for what to wear to beat the summer heat and still maintain your authority, credibility, persuasiveness, and overall professionalism.

Don###t forget your homework! The first thing to do when deciding how to dress in these "dog days of summer" is to consult your company###s dress code. Unfortunately, many of the dress codes are a bit nebulous these days, so your next strategy is to "Follow the Leader." Look to executives, mid-level managers and other authority figures in your industry, and take your cue from their mode of dress. Certainly, light colors are much cooler than dark colors. Think of camel, tan, khaki, off white/winter white, or white for your suiting. Fabrics to rely on include cotton, linen, silk, tropical weight wool, and cotton blends.

Top Choice

Most of us are lucky enough to work in an air conditioned office; so often times it###s coming and going from work that poses the biggest challenge. If you prefer blouses over shells under your suits, sleeveless and short sleeved blouses are an option. Sleeveless and cap sleeved shells, or tank tops, made of a fine fabric, are suitable as well. Keep in mind that it###s acceptable to take your jacket off in your personal workspace, but keep it handy for strolls down the hall and interaction with others. A little more on the casual side, a new warm weather option is the short sleeved sweater set. Choose one in a fine-gauge knit, and you###ll benefit from the clout of the sweater set while staying a bit cooler. Beware; baring your arms isn###t the best option for serious meeting/client days. Keep a neutral colored jacket in your office at all times for unexpected meetings and client visits. If you have an extremely casual dress code or you###re engaging in activities where you need to be able to move easily, a long sleeved, crisp, cotton blouse worn open over a modest tank top is a cool, comfortable option.

Isn###t Capri in Italy?

Skirts also provide some relief from the heat. The important thing to remember is that skirts should remain tailored no matter how high the mercury rises. Avoid extremely lightweight, cotton skirts with large prints. They just seem to scream, "summer and leisure." As with all of your business wear, the messages you want to aim for are that you###re serious about work and ready to do business. Look to more traditional, structured styles with a small print if any. Knee length and longer will be the most appropriate for the office. Dresses are back in style! A tailored dress is a wonderful, easy alternative. Again, "tailored" is the key word. Short sleeved and ¾ length sleeved shirt dresses made in firm fabrics are a great choice. Wrap dresses are another good choice. Be sure they###re not too tight, clingy or low cut. A camisole underneath is a great solution if this is a concern. Lastly, classic sheath dresses worn with a matching blazer work well for traditional, business professional dress environments. The last garment type I###ll address is capri pants. Because of their casual nature, capri pants are best for the very most casual environments, i.e. non- meeting and non-client days, and for casual Friday. When choosing capri pants, select those fabricated in tailored fabrics, such as cotton sateen and tropical weight wool. Pair the capris with tailored tops, jackets and closed toe shoes for the most professional look.

You want me to wear what?!

Traditional advice on professional dress dictates hosiery and closed toed shoes, especially with skirts and dresses. In study after study, women are seen as more credible and professional when wearing hosiery. Open toe shoes, a.k.a. sandals, bare a lot of skin. Additionally toes can be very distracting. However, I know I###m seen as the "big, bad wolf" when I pass along the previously mentioned advice. I###ve rarely met a woman who doesn###t shudder when I mention pantyhose. Here are a few tips to get you through the hosiery and shoe dilemma on hot summer days. A skirted business suit requires some type of hosiery. If you have the occasion and you###re going to the trouble to be this formal, you don###t want to kill your look with bare legs or open-toe shoes. Thigh highs are much cooler than pantyhose. Try barenecessities.com. (Although I haven###t tried them, SPANX has a good track record.) Also try "summer weight" ultra-sheer pantyhose. Ten denier or less nylon will be coolest. Before you decide to forgo hosiery, check out your legs. If you have broken veins, (hey, it happens,) bruises and scrapes, you may want to re-think it. A little color is also good! Mystic Tans and sunless tanning lotion can help.

This little piggy went to market

When your dress code dictates closed toe shoes, slingback pumps are a cooler alternative to traditional pumps. If you###re going to show your feet and toes, your pedicure must be impeccable! Along with perfectly painted toenails, you###ve got to keep the dry skin in check. In terms of colors, traditional reds and corals are better than colors that might match your swimsuit. Also, those cute little flowers they always push at the nail salon are a bit too beach-like for the office. Now that you###ve got your feet looking great, select sandals that aren###t too bare, meaning more substantial straps and no thong styles. (It probably goes without saying, but save your flip-flops, Birkenstocks and Crocs for weekends.) Lastly, like any accessory, summer sandals need to be part of your outfit. Neutral colors like camel, chocolate and black be versatile. If you###re a "shoe-a- holic," there is a plethora of gorgeous colored shoes on the market to match your business appropriate outfits.

Stay Cool!

Even though summer is hot, and playtime is so alluring, following these tips can help you feel fresh and cool, while maintaining your professionalism you worked so hard to gain all winter, spring and fall. Sending out non-verbal messages through your image that you###re serious and ready to do business even in the sweltering heat can give you the competitive edge in the workplace that will help you achieve success! Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Or if you###d like help summerizing your wardrobe, feel free to contact me! There are some amazing bargains to be had in the stores! Click here to schedule an appointment! http://www.elementsofimage.com/

Dana Lynch is the owner of Elements of Image, an image consulting firm specializing in taking the stress out of getting dressed and teaching professionals how they can use the power of image to gain an edge in the workplace. Visit http://www.elementsofimage.com/ for more information and to subscribe to Danas e-Style Tip of the Month or contact Dana at 303-463-4839.