How to make office wear work for you this summer

There is no reason why the heat should leave us struggling to strike a balance between what’s appropriate for the office and what works for the weather, writes Carolyn Moore

Walking around on a sweltering day, there are two types of women I feel for: those who have to endure the heat while heavily pregnant, and those who are soldiering through soaring temperatures in the opaque tights and stuffy sheath dresses that are the unofficial uniform of the Irish workplace.

While the former can’t do much to improve their situation, there is no reason the latter can’t loosen up and let their bodies breathe when we’re blessed with a rare but wonderful reminder of what summer is supposed to be.

Longer length skirts in luxurious fabrics offer effortless elegance that looks as fresh as it feels. Skirt by Sies Marjan Darby, €620, Brown Thomas.

Though figure-hugging power dresses were once the calling card of Victoria Beckham (and an effective signifier of her transition from pop star to the serious business woman), the last few seasons have seen the designer relax into an easier silhouette — without diminishing her professional demeanour. Teaming crisp white shirts with loose midi-length skirts or tailored trousers, Beckham has embraced a more effortlessly pulled together look.

“This is really what I want to wear,” she says of her new approach. “It’s a modern way of dressing that’s not too try-hard. It’s just easy and fun.” While switching stilettos for sneakers may not be an option for everyone, Beckham’s style does epitomise a fresh, new, versatile approach to workwear, and summer is the perfect time to explore it.

Love them or hate them, sling back kitten heels are taking autumn/winter by storm. Make yours pop with a print. Shoes, €29.95, Zara.

There’s no reason why hot weather should leave us struggling to strike a balance between what’s appropriate for the office and what works for the weather, but many women fail to adapt their workwear for the season. In a bid to stay smart they end up looking (and feeling) hot, sticky, and deeply uncomfortable.

Basic with a twist. The knot detail lends this crisp cotton shirt a fashion feel. Shirt by Victoria, Victoria Beckham €320, Brown Thomas

“Women should feel confident and comfortable in their work clothes,” says Marie O’Shea, Personal Shopper at Brown Thomas, Cork, who encourages her clients to invest in the building blocks of a good working wardrobe — whatever the season.

Invest in a feather light unstructured jacket to add some extra polish for client meetings. Blazer, €29.95, Zara

“Really good basics, like a Hugo Boss trouser suit, a Roland Mouret pencil skirt, and a Victoria Beckham shift dress, in navy or black, can be built on with pops of colour or seasonal essentials,” she says. “Keeping your basics simple and neutral gives you the flexibility to adapt them to your style, your workplace, and the season at hand.

The tailored, corseted waistband makes this full cotton skirt office-ready, but still a breeze to wear. Skirt, €39.99, H&M.

“The scope of your workwear does depend on where you work,” she adds. “What’s acceptable in IT maybe be completely unacceptable in a solicitor’s office.” Nonetheless, Marie acknowledges there has been an overall relaxing of the rules. Though many women have comfortably leaned into that, for others it has blurred the lines between what’s acceptable in the office and what isn’t. Add hot weather to the mix and dressing for work becomes fraught with additional challenges. But fret not — the bar for looking professional may not drop as the mercury rises, but as Victoria Beckham proves, the parameters have shifted to give you plenty of breathing room.

Classic summer stripes in soft, cooling linen — this is a shirt you’ll reach for day after day. Linen shirt, €39.99, H&M.

And staying cool is all about the breathing room. Look for cuts that sit away from the body, allowing air to circulate, and chose breathable fabrics. Marie suggests light wool crepes are the ultimate trans-seasonal fabrics to invest in; likewise, cotton shirting works year round. Silk blouses and camis are an invaluable addition ; and even light gauge knits can feel cooler in summer than a polyester top.

Get a head start o n autumn’s tailoring trend with these cropped check trousers. Trousers by Etoile Isabel Marant, €250, Brown Thomas.

When it comes to tailoring, exercise caution with linen. “While we all know it’s breathable, linen does crease,” Marie says. “If you’re meeting a client, you want to get up from your desk looking smart, not creased.” Airy midi-length dresses and skirts are summer saviours, and shirtdresses are a ‘one and done’ essential, but maxi dresses are too casual for most workplaces. If you could feasibly wear it to the beach, it’s probably not right for the office – and that goes for footwear too.

Spare shoes, laptop, charger, umbrella — whatever you lug around each day, keep it together in style in this blush bucket bag, €29.95, Zara.

Flip-flops are a no no, and pool slides are out for all but the most fashionable workplaces. Mules are a smarter alternative; and even if you wouldn’t wear them for a night out, sling back kitten heels are a great, comfortable way to sharpen up relaxed cuts.

Set your alarm to snooze – a cotton shirtdress is your one stop shop for a pulled-together look in five seconds flat. Dress, €51, Warehouse.

The looser your look, the more you should seek out details that smarten it up. A structured bag is the perfect counterpoint to easier cuts, and tailored details add a veneer of polish to relaxed shapes. A classic cotton tee is office appropriate teamed with cropped tailored trousers; or comfortable joggers can be smartened with a shirt.

Lend a little ease to your tailored look with a cool linen tee. 100% linen T-shirt, €14.99, H&M.

COS do an ingenious collared bib for a sharp finish under a dress or knit without the bulk of a shirt; and a light, unstructured blazer you can roll up in your bag will save you in an air con emergency or a sudden downpour. Because as much as you should be prepared to work it when it’s hot, this is Ireland after all!



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