Being Stylish While Being Cool

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Today it is over 80 degrees in The Nation’s Capital… and today I have seen some of the worst work fashion travesties in months! Ladies, just because it is warm out does not mean decorum, class and style should go right out the window. It really is possible to stay cool and be cool about how you do it.

1. Respect Your Profession. Even when I worked at a very trendy fashion boutique, I didn’t flash a lot of skin. I respected my company, and the clients who shopped there, so I chose to enjoy the summer months with a bit more skin showing, but not letting it all hang out. Unless you are a lifeguard, a waitress at Hooters or a car show model, there is rarely a reason why you should have your stomach showing for work (this includes those shirts that barely hit your waistband and show an inch or two every time you swing your arms or reach for something off a shelf). Tube tops, backless halter tops and dresses, and short shorts are included. Your office may be very casual, but as my old boss at that trendy boutique said, “one should dress not for the job she has but the job she aspires to have.” Upper management is rarely seen in beachfront cantina-worthy attire, and those who are, they are rarely respected by their subordinates.

To keep cool, a sleeveless top or dress that is loose enough to let the breeze flow will do nicely. If you must wear that gauzy halter sun dress, pair it with a thin cotton cardigan. Adding a couple extra inches to your shorts will not cause heat stroke and no matter your figure, your colleagues will thank you for dressing with respect.

2. Flip Flops are NOT Shoes. Flip flops are terrible for your feet, dangerous on wet streets, make horrible sounds when you clop around and are not the footwear of stylish women. Flip flops are for the beach, running around your house, the pool and maybe a trip to the grocery. Consider a thing made out of leather, suede, patent or fabric that has a more substantial sole. Another great alternative is a traditional sandal. To work so hard and spend so much on a lovely blouse and trousers and then kill it with your rubber thongs from Old Navy or Reef… it just doesn’t make sense.

3. Shine a Light. On your light-fabric and light-colored clothing, that is. Yesterday while walking to the train, a beautiful woman was walking ahead of me. She had on adorable mules, a teal twinset and a mint-colored linen bias-cut skirt. Oh, and purple striped bikini underwear with pink lace trim. Getting a quick glance in your full-length mirror may not tell the true story about your garments. Have a light shine behind you, and then move as if you were walking. Get a hand mirror, turn around and examine your back view. If you can even slightly see your undergarments, they will be on full display once you are out in the midday sun.

Can’t stand thongs? There are many styles and fabrics of underwear that are made to be invisible under garments. Choosing a lightweight fabric in your skin tone that is free of decoration is a good start. Also, to save time and stress when dressing, don’t purchase items that are prone to being transparent (light colored linen and thin cotton, unlined white trousers, light colored nylon). You’ll never see me in a light colored skirt that isn’t made of a very heavy fabric or comes with a lining – too much trouble, too much worry and not worth my time or money.

4. Heat Does Not Equal 24/7 Casual Friday. This rule is about respect; your office may not have a rule about dress code, but to respect yourself and your office you should make your own. Sloppy tee shirts, ribbed tanks, shorts, frayed denim, rumpled clothing does not have a place in the workplace.

Knits can be great if they are of a high-quality fabric, have a more formal style (slightly fitted, interesting neckline or sleeves) and are of a nice color. Ribbed tanks, when worn under a jacket or cardigan can be appropriate but are not work-worthy on their own. Some current styles of shorts (walkers, city shorts, Bermudas) can work for the office if paired with a jacket or tailored blouse, but few other styles look good outside the plant nursery or Home Depot. Frayed denim may be chic, but is best left to the weekend. As for rumpled clothing? If you loathe to iron, then don’t buy items that are so easy to wrinkle.

Great options for beating the heat while looking chic:

Breezy shift and sheath dresses:
221449 2519gp498575 02p01v01Paired with gladiator or traditional sandals, this is a warm-weather favorite. Not only is this look great for the office, but it works for weekend social events, or even for running errands around town. Choose a fabric that can handle the washing machine, and either hang dries to perfection or can take a tumble in the dryer so you have a low-stress wardrobe go-to.

Capris, city and walking shorts:
untitledIn a crisp fabric, these garments will look professional and resist wrinkles. Pair with a short-sleeved blazer for a casual summer suit, or with a crisp no-wrinkle shirt or feminine knit and a pair of ballet flats or peeptoe wedges.

Linen capris for women from Old Navy (not shown) – $32.50

Flat or low wedge sandals:
272925 AH08 LF ACR10101 613491 dJust as comfy as your favorite flip flops, but with more polish and structure. Pair with your favorite dresses, shorts and trousers for casual elegance.

Airy blouses and shirts:
56088981358000901 zLet the air flow and look proper in these great tops. Paired with a crisp twill pencil skirt, Bermudas, or wide-leg trousers and a pair of flat sandals, you will be chic and feeling cool.

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Those are very cool suggestions Allie!

    I just purchased some great knit v-neck tees and city shorts from Ann Taylor Loft and Eddie Bauer. I also purchased EB’s Short-Sleeve Dobby Shirt in Aster.

    I took your advice and steered away from the capris! I like to keep it casual and comfortable and adding these new elements to my wardrobe are just perfect!

  2. thank you SO much for posting this. I’m from Arizona, where we like to present we live in CA and wear flip flip and denim mini skirts every day.

    However, this summer I’ll be interning in DC (in Arlington) and had absolutely NO idea what to wear. The office atmosphere is not all that causal, but I’m also a poor college student, who can’t really splurge on head to toe Banana Republic outfits.

    so thanks 🙂

  3. DC is often seen by others as a land full of ill-fitting navy skirt suits and bob haircuts (darn media!). In truth, DC seems to have every style you can imagine, from granola hippie chicks, to hipsters, punks, preps, “hollywood” wannabes and everything in between.

    As for your style, anything goes. I find that many of those on the hill dress conservatively for work, but have a far better sense of style off the clock. Mall stores like Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Anthropologie, J. Crew, etc. seem to be the wardrobe staple of DC women so the style won’t be too drastically different from other parts of the country.

    The town you are speaking of is probably McLean – when you visit you will have to stop by Tysons Corner mall – it’s fabulous!

    And today is in the mid 60s but humid and raining off an on. Ugh! 🙂

  4. Hi, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to say hello…I’ve read everyday for a year now!

    I really love your style and approach to wardrobing but one thing that I really enjoy is when you let us know what the temp/weather is. I live in California and always had the impression it was usually freezing in DC around this time. It’s warmer for you today than here in Los Angeles!

    If I could ask a question: There is seems to be such a style difference between the two coasts but you personally bridge it well. You would fit right into LA! I worry about visiting a friend of a friend in DC…I’m afraid might I look like I come from the land of fruits and nuts…she’s a corporate lobbyist or some such thing. They live in some ritzy area of Virginia with a bunch of CIA types, can’t remember the name, Mc something?

    I dress very similiarly to you so maybe I’d be okay? Perhaps I should limit the dark wash jeans and stick to dressy trouser type things? I’m tall and thin so I feel have to avoid looking too “Hollywood” TIA… keep up the weather reports 🙂 🙂 🙂 Best, Karen

  5. Decorum! I love that word. You’re absolutely right on all point. Thankfully, I haven’t seen any warm weather travesties on my floor yet (might be the persistent clouds). Personally, I can’t be in bummy clothes at work for too long — I don’t feel as though I’m in work mode. The right clothes also have a way of changing your mindset.

  6. Thank you so much for this post – having moved to the DC area from cooler climes up north, it’s been a challenge figuring out what works as office wear in the summer, especially when dealing with a steamy Metro commute! Both this blog and your daily fashion blog have become favorite daily reads and have helped me greater develop my own sense of style.

    Thank you again!

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