10 Tips to Maintain Your Professional Image in the Heat

Keepin Cool Summer StyleExtreme summer heat has a way of tempting even the most polished amongst us to relax our professional style standards.

Even women who have mastered a signature style often slack off in the summer.  Heck, it’s 30 degrees at 8 a.m.!  By the time you leave the office, there could well be a heat warning in place. True, a maxi dress and flip flops may not be on brand with our signature style, but we can make an exception given the blistering heat, right?


You have worked too hard to establish your professional reputation to compromise it with a summer fashion faux pas.  The first rule of a working look is to always keep it professional … ALWAYS.  Further, what feels appropriate on your scorching commute to and from the office will often leave you feeling underdressed and disadvantaged hours later in an air conditioned boardroom.

So how can you maintain your woman-in-charge look in balmy weather?

Follow these 10 tips to beat the heat without compromising your professional style:

1) Choose light, breathable fabrics:  Natural fabrics, like cotton, linen and silk are naturally ventilating.  Synthetic fibres, including polyester, rayon, nylon, acrylic and polypropylene, trap heat and perspiration next to your body.  By letting heat and perspiration escape, natural fibres don’t just keep you cool, they also help prevent sweat-induced body odour.

2) Opt for flowing silhouettes:  A “breathable” silhouette is an important as breathable fabric.  Opt for flowing garments that drape away from the body and allow air to circulate.  Tight fitting, “body con” silhouettes will stifle you, trapping heat close to your body.

3) Layer with a cardigan:  The great paradox of summer dressing is that the more we sweat during our trip into the office, the more we can expect to shiver at our desks in an overly air conditioned environment.  I find the systematic overuse of air conditioning morally reprehensible for many reasons (and not just fashion ones).  As long as I have to live with air conditioner overkill however, a cardigan is a great way to deal with it.  Keeping one at the office helps you travel lightly in the warmer months.

3) Wear light colours:  Dark colours absorb light and hold onto heat.  Opt for summer whites, pastels and light colours instead.

4) Go ‘sophisticated’ sleeveless:  Unless explicitly forbidden by dress code, sleeveless shirts are acceptable in a business casual work environment.  The key difference between ‘sophisticated’ and ‘sleazy’ sleeveless is the amount of skin shown. Spaghetti straps and tank tops are an office ‘no-no’, but you can keep your cool (both physically and professionally) in a sleeveless collared shirt or loose-fitting blouse.

5) Show some leg:  Knee length dresses and skirts are an ideal option to expose skin in the warm summer months without losing your professional edge.  You may want to forgo the classic pencil skirt and other fitted styles in favour of A-line or flare styles that flow away from the body.

6) Wash after every wear:  While I support re-wearing lightly worn clothing for both environmental and garment longevity reasons, this is not the best strategy for a summer heat wave.  Worn garments have skin cells trapped in the fibres which has the effect of making them less breathable and thus making you more hot.

7) Avoid embellishments:  Clothing embellishments, such as rhinestones, beading and sequins, are best avoided in extremely hot conditions.  While visually stunning, they add weight to your clothing, which reduces ventilation and causes clothing to stick to you.  A great summer alternative to the built-in jewellery effect of embellishments is lace inserts and laser cut out patterns.

8) Opt for minimal and lightweight jewellery: In addition to adding weight to your outfit and sticking to your skin, metal jewellery attracts the sun and holds on to heat. Instead of heavy statement pieces, lighten up with featherweight necklaces, stud earrings and dainty rings.

9) Avoid clothes with lining:  Lining adds an extra layer and is usually comprised of non-breathable synthetic fibres.

10) Lighten up your makeup routine:  Even if you’re dressed if your dressed in breezy, white linen, you’re going to feel hot and uncomfortable in thick foundation or overdone makeup.  Perspiration is the arch nemesis of makeup application, so the less makeup you wear, the less you have to worry about the heat ruining it throughout the day.  Running eyeliner and foundation stains on your clothing is not a good look for anyone.  My summer makeup advice is to go light and carry the essential items in your purse so you can touch up throughout the day.  Summer is also a great time to experiment with new and more flamboyant colours, so consider forgoing the foundation and perking up your look with a bright lipstick or nail polish instead.

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