05/23/2012 03:21 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Suiting Up When the Temperature is Up

Sarah McGiven

It seems naturally easier to look and dress more professionally in the fall and winter, when conditions beckon us to cover up in layers of wool and knits. While my heart aches for the gentlemen I pass on my morning commute, braving scorching hot days in dark suits (while making it look so handsome), it is possible to feel comfortable and look pulled together during the warmer months.

  • If you are in an active job or commute to the office on foot, a pair of stilettos might not make sense for an entire day. That doesn't, however, mean the same shoes worn to mow the lawn on the weekend are the answer. A pretty pair of flats or loafers are both functional and chic for the office, or for commuting.
  • Work-worthy fabrics shouldn't be too sheer or tight (check in natural lighting to see if your underthings are showing through). Ensure that the neckline and sleeve-cut mitigate any rogue bra straps from peeking out.
  • Keep a basic blazer at the office and toss it on when the air conditioning is cranked, or when a meeting calls for it. In the same vein that leggings are not pants (they aren't), camisoles are not tops.
  • Fewer things ruin an otherwise polished look than seeing someone who can't walk in her heels. Only buy shoes that you can comfortably get around in. Feet should be kept groomed and neat -- otherwise please don't show them.
  • Open-toe shoes are often verboten in very corporate environments, though an inventory around the office or a scan of your HR policy should confirm if they are welcome at yours. If there's a green light on open-toe shoes, they should still be office appropriate, so no flip flops, or strappy stilettos -- nothing too beachy or cocktail-party.
  • Skirts and dresses can fit differently without tights on underneath. Try them on to check they aren't too sheer or too short to be worn with bare legs to the office. If you can sit comfortably in a skirt without having to tug at the hemline, then it is likely a good length -- and that is usually an inch or so above the knee. If you are braving a hemline that is a bit shorter (please, not too much shorter at the office), keep the rest of your outfit and shoes more modest to balance the look.
  • If the idea of adding powder to your face on a hot day feels icky, try blotting papers instead to soak up grease and freshen up.