How to Combine Office and Summer Wear – and Enjoy It!

3 golden rules (in order of relevance!) to help you rock your summer office look.


Summer is here. You have been waiting to put away your dark and heavy suits in favor of lighter, more relaxed attire.

Fortunately, even some of the most formal workplaces institute a business casual code, which gives more comfort and freedom with styles, materials, and colors. But wait: how much casual is “good casual” for the office? When does it start to be “bad casual”?

It is frustrating that business casual is nowhere clearly codified. And when people add to the confusion by talking about “smart business casual,” the frustration may undermine your initial excitement about summer clothes.

Pero no te preocupes. No need for therapy here.

These 3 golden rules (in order of relevance!) will help you rock your summer office look:

First Golden Rule: always look professional (the business element)

Summer business casual starts by ditching the suits, but it is not an exact science. Bermuda shorts may be okay for a creative company but not for a financial institution.

This is challenging because you want to make sure to look professional at every given moment. An important impromptu meeting can take place regardless of the season, and you don’t have a second chance to give a first impression (cliché, but true).

While every workplace has its own rules, there is a baseline for what men and women should avoid:

  • Overly revealing attire
  • Workout wear (and why not also jeans!)
  • Tank tops, halter tops, sleeveless shirts and T-shirts
  • T-shirts and untucked shirts
  • Flip flops and sandals (closed toe always preferred)
  • Items that are too tight, too short or too loose
  • Stains, wrinkles, tears (yes)
  • Nails and hair left to self-determination (women and, yes, men)

The rule of thumb is easy: when in doubt, don’t wear it! (Remember you have one shot at first impressions!) And then ask HR.

Second Golden Rule:  think about your body (make casual work for you)

Once you have the business element down, it is time for casual! And you have to make casual for work your wellbeing and body type.

Beware of changes of temperature. I live in Berkeley, CA, where summer is a notional category. But I lived in NY for many years, and during the summer, I boiled in the streets, and froze the second I entered a building. I got sick a lot. It took some time to adjust to this abrupt change of temperatures (despite the hot summers in Buenos Aires, where I grew up, ACs at the time where not in vogue).

These seven tips will provide suggestions on what you can do:

Tip 1: Opt for breathable and light fabrics

Fabrics like cotton, linen, and silk keep you fresh, so you can cover more skin, and be temperature comfortable in the office and outside.

~ For a wrinkle-free look, favor a linen blend of natural and acrylic.

Tip 2:  Layer

Layering light breathable fabrics allows you to have versatility for different temperatures while conveying a polished look.

Always dress for your body. I know you think you do. But enthused by the summer, you may rush to embrace the trend of the season, which may not be the most figure-flattering style for you. There are no “must-haves.” You have to choose clothes and styles that are a good fit for you.

Next- Tips 3-7

Mara Kolesas
Mara Kolesas
Mara Kolesas, Ph.D., is a style with substance expert, based in Berkeley, CA, who provides intelligent styling for professionals. She grew up in Buenos Aires where she breathed style from an early age. She went on to a career in political science, studying for a doctorate in New York City, and later lived in Florence, Rome, Berlin and Beirut, where she pursued my two passions: she studied and promoted citizen empowerment, diversity and inclusion, and she explored small boutiques, helping friends find outfits that gave them joy and confidence. Along with her artistic eye and knowledge of fashion, she brings analytical and social expertise to a field with superficial associations. Twitter