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Sticky Situation: How to Dress for the Office in Warmer Weather

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Sticky Situation:

Finally! The good weather is here. The sun is shining. "Bye bye bulky, boring, hello light and lively clothing."

Whether you work in a hip ad agency or in a classic firm of professionals, one thing is for sure, you dress for...? Your client.

As per the second chapter of my book Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility, proper attire is an important element for broadcasting a positive first impression.

Look around you. Observe the newly unveiled spring/summer attires. Turn sideways. Look at your cubicle neighbour. Discreetly look down. He is wearing sandals. You see his big toe. Is it a pleasant sight? Now go to the training room. The trainer is dressed in a sleeveless (à la Michelle Obama) dress. She is energetically writing on the flip-chart and her "cat bellies" (forearms) are dancing to the rhythm of her marker. Are you wanting to giggle at the jiggling? Ladies, I am making fun at me here. I am the trainer that jiggles, so no sleeveless dresses for me. I want participants to listen to what I have to say and not be distracted by this sight.

The more the mercury climbs, the less clothing you wear and the more you expose yourself.

Whether it is +35 or -35 degrees Celsius, what you wear greatly influences the perception of competence, your customers and even your colleagues have of you.


It is at this time of the year that my phone rings for my interactive conference "Dress for Success." Taken from this workshop, here are some guidelines to help you broadcast confidence and credibility, no matter what the season is.

1. Respect your employer's dress code.

When in doubt about what to wear, find out from your HR representative. If you work in HR, now is a good time to repost your policy. You don't have a dress code policy yet? Use this blog post as inspiration to write one. In the meantime, send these guidelines in an interoffice memo.

2. Ladies, follow this "Hand-high and hand-low" guide to determine appropriate cleavage and skirt lengths.

• Place your relaxed hand at the base of your throat. Your thumb is in the little hole. The place where your pinkie falls, is the acceptable limit for cleavage depth.

• Now, place your hand above your knee. Your little finger touches its' top. Where your thumb ends on your thigh is the appropriate skirt or dress length.

3. Avoid sandals.

These three reasons should discourage you from the temptation to wear sandals at work.
• What others see. You will be judged on the quality of your pedicure, or lack thereof.
• What others hear. The sound of flip flops, up and down the hall, will irritate many employees. I guarantee it.
• What others ... sniff, sniff... smell. The smell of "little feet" is difficult to camouflage when wearing sandals.

Depending on your job, wearing sandals can also be dangerous and/or unhygienic.

4. Beach and gym wear are definite no-nos.

The long list of clothing articles that may not be suitable for your work environment includes: shorts, cargos, sun dresses, ball caps, sunglasses (unless you are Lady Gaga), even as a headband, sports shoes, yoga wear, sweatshirts, tank tops and white sports socks (I know gentlemen, they are comfortable, but so are these Socks by William and they are chic plus a great conversation starter).

5. Avoid, spandex, sparkly or transparent fabrics.

They could be perceived as date, bar or boudoir wear.

6. Shhh ... Nobody wants to see your underwear.

They must remain Victoria's Secret.

"What does it really matter Julie if I wear flip flops and shorts? I am just as efficient and dedicated." Perhaps, but your boss could send you home if your outfit does not reflect the image of the company you represent.

Not sure if what you are wearing is appropriate for your work environment? Take the mirror test. Look at your reflection in the mirror and ask yourself "If Ms. CEO or Mr. Client unexpectedly invites me for lunch this afternoon, am I dressed appropriately?" If you answer no, turn around and go back to your closet.

Before unveiling yourself and removing too many layers, think about your image. The vast majority of workplaces have air conditioning. Keep a light cover and maintain your image of competence and credibility, even when the weatherman announces a heat wave.

You have a sticky situation at work or at home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help gone will be awkwardness, embarrassment and faux-pas.