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5 Ways to Dress Professionally in the Summer Heat

You’re running to work, trying to get there a few minutes early to impress your boss. Your bag is weighing heavily on your shoulder, and by the time you get to your cubicle, you’re dripping sweat, desperately wanting to take off the wool pants you’re wearing in the 90-degree heat.

In the summer, it can feel natural to start exposing more skin. However, style guru Jess Galfo of Dressed by Jess advises that staying stylish in a summer office can be done without getting noticed for the wrong reasons. “I swear by the Three C’s: conservative, classy and chic,” she says. “It’s important to be noticed for your hard work, not your tight clothing, plunging neckline or short miniskirt.”

Dressing the part for your summer internship doesn’t mean having to sacrifice the comfort of staying as cool as possible in the office. “Your summer wardrobe should combat the heat with breezy, lightweight alternatives,” Galfo says. “Reach for fabrics that are breathable, such as linen, silk and cotton.”  Every office culture is different, so before you start shopping, make sure you check with your supervisor about dress-code guidelines! Here are some safe bets that’ll keep you looking and feeling cool all summer long.

1. Jump on the jumpsuit trend

Whether you’re checking out the fashion runways, Googling your favorite celeb’s street style or just walking around town, you’ve likely seen jumpsuits everywhere. While this new fashion trend often features plunging necklines and bold prints, there are also simpler versions that can be appropriate for the workplace and can be a lighter alternative to tight, thick pants and a heavy blazer.

Because jumpsuits can appear casual, dressing them up with office-appropriate heels and jewelry are a must to make them look sleek and professional. Stick to one in a basic color with a higher neckline, like this jumpsuit from ASOS ($95.27).

2. Take it to the maxi

If you’re looking to keep your legs covered without turning to the heat-locking, heavy material that business pants are often made of, a maxi skirt (or dress) can be a great alternative. If you choose to rock this look, remember to avoid sheer fabric, slits, over-the-top patterns and body-hugging fabrics. Even if you’re looking to gain style points, it’s important to keep it professional!

Pair a maxi skirt like this one ($16.99 at Charlotte Russe) with a dressy blouse in a nicer material such as silk to make this look office-ready.

3. Short(s) and sweet

It can be hard to tell if wearing shorts to work is appropriate or not; it really depends on the office. Your safest bet is to ask your supervisor about this before you do it or to simply follow her lead.

“If you are still in question if you can wear shorts to work, stop and ask yourself, ‘would my boss wear shorts?’” Galfo says. “If the answer is no, then I suggest you stick to dresses, skirts and lightweight pants.”

However, if you do find that this trend is acceptable in your workplace, we’re here to help you find the most professional pair.

Leave your favorite denim shorts at home and opt for dressier pairs. Style them with a blazer or nice blouse, depending on your workplace. A good rule of thumb: shorts should be longer than your fingertips when you put your arms at your side, but much closer to your knees.

Every office is different, so it’s important to wear this trend carefully. “If you work in a more creative field, like fashion, for example, then you can be more bold with your outfit choices,” Galfo says. “Little Chloe shorts paired with an H&M basic tee, statement necklace and pointed pumps scream super sleek and ultra-feminine.”

For a safe bet, try these boardwalk shorts in black, navy or khaki ($49 at Ann Taylor).

4. Dress it up

As long as they fit with your office’s dress code, dresses are the perfect way to look (and feel!) cool in the blazing summer heat. However, that doesn’t mean that you can wear your favorite going-out dress or anything with a short hemline. Dresses for the office should cover your shoulders, should have an appropriate neckline, shouldn’t be too tight and should be a conservative length (see the fingertip test mentioned earlier for shorts for a good guideline).

“Flaunting necklines are not appropriate for the office,” Galfo says. “Instead, reach for high-rise necklines with a rounded or squared finish. This flirty geometric-print dress by MANGO [$39.99] paired with a colored cardigan is corporate-girl approved!”

If your dress has smaller straps, throw a light sweater or blazer over it for an even more professional look that will still keep you cool. If you’re in an office environment that allows it, play with color and prints to add a little bit of flair to your basic professional wardrobe!

5. Pencil it in

A true classic, pencil skirts are a perfect, timeless example of office-appropriate clothing that helps you avoid burning up under the summer sun. No matter how strict your office dress code is, a pencil skirt is an item that’s appropriate in any setting. “They are simple, yet stylish,” Galfor says. “The key is to choose a high-waisted style that is not severely hip-hugging.”

Dress it up with a blazer or wear it more casually with a blouse or peplum top. In general, Galfo says that when deciding on colors, it’s best to stay neutral (black, gray and beige are great go-tos).

For a basic look, try this pencil skirt ($69.50 from LOFT) and spice it up with a brightly colored necklace!

Not sure where to start looking for your corporate-approved summer outfits? Galfo recommends Topshop, H&M, Zara, MANGO, Urban Outfitters, LOFT, Gap and Kohl’s. Happy shopping, collegiettes! 

Abby is a University of Delaware graduate with a degree in English. Along with writing for Her Campus as an entertainment blogger, she has interned in the editorial departments of Cosmopolitan and Us Weekly. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!