It’s getting hot out there, so take off… That may be a hit song with a good beat, but of course the concept doesn’t work in a business setting.  In fact, most of what you wear to keep cool in the summer, probably isn’t right for even a casual business environment.   

“People may think anything goes in the warmer months, especially if their company is casual or relaxes their summer dress code,” Brandi Britton, district president of staffing firm OfficeTeam, told Business Insider. “But it’s still important to follow guidelines and dress professionally.”

“As with all dress codes, casual dress can mean different things at different companies,” etiquette expert Anna Post wrote in Reuters. “One standard that helps define appropriateness is to ask yourself: ‘If I were to have an unexpected meeting with a client or the chief executive, could I go dressed in what I have on?’”

In a survey from OfficeTeam, 80% of managers said clothing choices could affect an employee’s chance of getting promoted. The same survey found managers say tank tops, “cold shoulder tops,” and shorts are less acceptable now than even five years ago.

Here are some items to avoid wearing to the office this summer.

Tank tops or halters

While there are plenty of work-appropriate sleeveless tops for women, tank tops and camisoles should serve as undergarments in the workplace. Layer it under a blazer or sweater.

As for men, only lifeguards should bare their shoulders at work.

Bare midriffs

Whether you have iron chiseled abs or not, crop tops are fashionable, but most likely not appropriate for your office.

Some environments might allow it. Alexis Bennett of Self Magazine wrote about her experience wearing them for a whole week. Mind her disclaimer, though: “I work at a magazine where women are always expressing their own personal styles.”

Short, skirts and shorts

Clinton Kelly, co-host of TLC’s “What Not to Wear” reality series, told employment website that women could consider shorts that reach the top of your knees — and no shorter. But men should steer clear of them entirely.

“Generally speaking, shorts aren’t appropriate for professional environments because they can show too much skin, and that can be distracting,” Britton told Business Insider.

And no cut-offs, ever In general, frayed or ripped clothes are a no-go. Ripped clothes that show a lot of skin are a double no.

With shorter length skirts in style again, Kelly’s statement may be stretching it a bit, but definitely there’s a range of acceptability for skirts.  See the side box for a longer discussion. 


“Stick to a smarter denim pick if your workplace allows jeans, and save the frayed jeans for the weekends,” said former Teen Vogue editor Mary Kate Steinmiller to Who What Wear.

Anything you bought for the beach or swimming pool

You can group cut-off shorts in this category, as well as swimsuits, sarongs, and anything else that says “beach” more than “boardroom.”

Anything strapless

For women, sleeveless shirts are a workplace staple, but tube tops and strapless dresses are definitely not office-appropriate.

“The more skin you show, the less influence you have,” Post wrote. “Do you really want to work harder to earn the respect of your co-workers and boss?”

If you really must wear that strapless top, layer it under a blazer or cardigan.

Flip flops

Managers told OfficeTeam that flip flops have become less acceptable in the last five years.

“It’s hard to take people seriously with flip-flops on,” Britton of OfficeTeam told Business Insider. “People may question if your work ethic is as relaxed as your footwear.”

And, as Business Insider’s Dennis Green summarized about men’s feet in the ubiquitous sandle, “No one needs to see that.”

Men: Don’t try to get around the “keep your feet hidden” rule by sporting socks with your sandals.

It’s a clear fashion faux pas, and one that you shouldn’t be committing at the office. ADVERTISEMENT

Yoga pants

Avoid yoga pants at work.  The super-tight pants aren’t professional or tailored enough to be seen in the office.

Visible underwear

That means no low-rise jeans with boxers or undies peeking out, and it also means no bra tops or bra straps. Save that for your Saturday night.

Unbuttoned shirts

Men are particular offenders of unbuttoning their shirts just a bit too much in the summer.

“If you see chest hair, then you’ve gone too far,” Sandy Dumont, a Virginia Beach image consultant to corporations and individuals, told Money Magazine.

Sunglasses (indoors)

Society in general can agree that sunglasses indoors look ridiculous. Don’t wear them propped on your head all day indoors, either.

Anything sheer

Light and thin clothing can be a relief in the summer. But find another way to cool off on your walk to work.

“My office attire pet peeve is sheer clothing,” said Hillary Kerr, co-founder of Who What Wear. “Whether it’s a thin t-shirt, a diaphanous blouse, or a slightly transparent dress or skirt, it’s just not right for a professional setting. Save it—and the pretty bra you wear with it—for the weekend or some other off-duty situation, please.”

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