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Summer Clothing That Doesn’t Make the Grade As Business Casual

Posted by Peter Post  May 14, 2013 07:00 AM

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I live in Vermont. It’s been a long winter. People bundled up in layers of clothing to be warm outside and able to shed layers to remain comfortable inside. Come April (if we’re lucky) and May (like this year) the temperatures shoot up into the 80’s and out comes the summer clothing.

And with that summer clothing comes choices: choices of what is and is not appropriate summer business clothing.

Summer business casual can be tricky for both sexes so here are a few guidelines to help avoid hearing: “I can’t believe he (she) is wearing that!” For every piece of advice I’m about to give, there’s usually an exception. But beware of the exception, especially if it results in opting for more casual attire. Remember, you can always dress your clothing down but dressing it up is much harder. For instance, a guy can wear a tie and then take it off, but if he doesn’t have a tie and discovers he needs one, he’s out of luck.

Regardless of the advice that follows, if your company has a clear policy about what’s acceptable, adhere to that policy. Here are some trouble spots:

For men:

Collarless shirts. Watch out for the tee-shirt, especially anything with a slogan on it. However, a collared golf shirt or polo shirt will usually pass muster.

Shorts. Don’t push the envelope by wearing shorts.

Socks. Wear them at work. Loafers without socks are okay in social settings but not at your job. We all know how sandals look with socks so the advice here is, if socks are a must, then sandals are not for work.

For women:

Spaghetti straps. Michelle Obama has made the sleeveless look okay thanks to her tank dresses with wide “straps,” but narrow straps or spaghetti straps are still not acceptable at work.

Flip-flops. They’re great for summer fun but they are simply not professional so unless you are absolutely sure they are okay, avoid wearing them at work.

Panty hose. They’re no longer required, especially in summer, though if you wouldn’t dream of going without them, by all means wear them. Again, if the occasion is business formal, wearing them gives a more professional look.

Cropped shirts. I hear they are in fashion again, but any clothing that bares the midriff is not appropriate business clothing, even business casual.

Shorts. Stick to skirts or slacks. And while we’re at it, beware of skirts that are too short, either when you are standing or sitting. The definition of too short? “When people notice your skirt rather than you.”

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers' questions in The Boston Sunday Globe's weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book "Essential Manners For Men" was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of "Essential Manners for Couples," "Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf," and co-author of "A Wedding Like No Other." Post is Emily Post's great-grandson. His media appearances include "CBS Sunday Morning," CBS's "The Early Show," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," and "Fox News."

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