Style goes hand-in-hand with professionalism just as heat goes with summer. But put the two together and the outcome can be disastrous for both men and women alike. Your wardrobe is pivotal in establishing a positive reputation in the workplace; however, staying cool in the scorching temperatures is also important. How do you find the right balance?
“It takes a little planning ahead of time but looking your best and staying cool in the heat is very doable,” Sharon Schweitzer, a former employment attorney, international etiquette and cross-cultural expert, said. “In fact, it’s a time of year that really lets you get creative and gives you options.”
- Mirror, Mirror: Start with a thorough evaluation.
Be sure to have a full-length mirror installed in your home. When you dress, you can do a 360 in the mirror and analyze your presentation from another perspective. “Observe your image as the prospective hiring manager, CEO, or top client,” Schweitzer said. “Ask yourself: Do I build trust and inspire respect from the interviewer’s point-of-view? If the response isn’t 100% positive—reconsider your attire.”
- Don’t forget the crucial pops for personality.
While a corporate wardrobe may sound like a downer for some, it can be personalized with additional small touches that express personal taste. “Pops of color such as scarves, pocket squares, and statement jewelry are fun ways to tastefully express yourself without overdoing it,” Schweitzer said. “There are many men that love to accessorize a suit with a creative pair of socks or a fun tie. Be mindful to avoid tackiness and stay in the stylish realm when playing with personal pops.”
- Separate outfits for work and play.
Where many professional go wrong during the summer is dressing down or going too casual for a workplace setting. Don’t let this happen to you.
“Purposefully divide your wardrobe into categories for more professional meetings, and for parties on the weekends. Organize the pieces accordingly to leave no room for confusion. Then you won’t pull out the denim cut-off capris for a weekday client dinner,” Schweitzer said.
- Outfit preparations are a must for the organized professional.
Prepare for the week ahead on Sunday and prepare for each day of the week the night before.
“Check the weather and style an appropriate wardrobe. Be sure it’s clean and pressed so you are not scrambling to find an unwrinkled blouse early in the morning,” Schweitzer said.
- Some environments determine different protocols.
No matter the industry, some clothing items, and trends are off-limits due to their lack of professionalism.
“Overly casual clothing such as athleisure, flip-flops, worn tennis shoes, jumpers, shorts, and capris are unprofessional,” Schweitzer said. “Avoid showing too much skin. Backless and strapless tops, crop-tops, short-shorts, miniskirts, sheer fabric, and spaghetti straps are reserved for social events on the weekend.”
What about those sleeveless tops? “Organizational culture determines the answer to this on a case-by-case basis. Bring a lightweight linen jacket or summer sweater to cover your shoulders in the office,” Schweitzer said.
Temperatures play a role in an appropriate wardrobe. As a polished professional, it’s your job to know the difference between right and wrong. Learn how to keep cool while still looking your best.
Sharon Schweitzer wrote this post. Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, attorney, and the founder of Access to Culture. In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE Centre and the Intercultural Communication Institute, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, and Fortune. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide (Wiley 2015), now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards and the 2017 New York City Big Book Award for Multicultural Nonfiction.