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Show Some Leg

Settling the debate on proper office attire.

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Illustration by Kagan McLeod  

For Men
Never, ever wear cropped or Capri pants to work, unless you work in flood management. They’re only eight inches shorter, but those eight inches are the difference between dignity and arrogance. Shorts are also out of the question. If you think people want to see your calves, you’re wrong. But don’t go too bulky—wear light cotton or linen pants. (No jeans.) A little less fitted is fine, and bold summery colors are cool—even apple-green is defensible—but must be worn with a simple solid polo or button-down. Please, keep the shoes neutral; it’s a fine line between casual chic and Chuckles the Clown.

Up top, skip T-shirts in favor of the minimum requirement: a short-sleeved polo. Short-sleeved collared shirts are fine, too, but make sure it’s tailored (i.e., not tentlike). Striped, printed, and vivid-hued long-sleeves are great, but avoid any print that makes you look or feel like Don Ho.

Flip-flops and sneakers are an obvious no. But what about mandals? Don’t—male toe cleavage is hard to justify. You’re better off with open-back slides; they look like a shoe when you’re standing, but you can kick them off under your desk. Loafers are even better. And whatever you wear, get a pedicure.


Illustration by Kagan McLeod  

For Women
Rule of thumb: If it’s fashionable but it makes you look like a ho, it’s not good for the office.

No-nos for women in the summer workplace: strapless tops, plunging tanks, low-cut blouses and skirts, or shorts way above the knee (although tailored Bermudas are okay, with a shirt or lightweight sweater). Sundresses should also stay in your closet between Monday and Friday. You can use your fashion savvy, though—for instance, a shrug over a slightly risqué tank takes it from inappropriately scanty to quite of-the-moment.

Shoe-wise, women have more flexibility because their feet generally look a lot less disgusting than men’s. Slingbacks are generally fine, strappy sandals are borderline, flip-flops are verboten. Of course, here, you might already have a dress code mandated by your company.

But most likely, you don’t. So if you’re confused, and you forget all the above advice, heed this: If you’re unsure whether something’s appropriate for the office in the summer, upgrade by just one level—polo shirt instead of T-shirt, blouse instead of tank top. That way, even if you’re having a summer fling with your boss, you still look like you’re not.

See also:
Summer Workplace Fashion

Summer Fashion Still in Stores


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