A Fashion Insider’s Guide To Summer Workwear
A Fashion Insider’s Guide To Summer Workwear

A Fashion Insider’s Guide To Summer Workwear

While regular columnist Anna Bromilow takes a summer break, SL’s fashion broadcaster Polly Sayer is taking over – and tackling summer workwear. From choosing the right fabrics to the brands worth knowing about, here are her tips for looking stylish at the office this season.
By Polly Sayer

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I must admit, I’ve never worked in an office with a particularly strict dress code, but workwear is something we’re asked about regularly at SheerLuxe. That means I’ve spent a fair bit of time over the years thinking about what I would wear if I had a corporate job…

Generally speaking, dressing for work is much easier during the winter, as you can really lean on tailoring, simple knitwear and loafers. As soon as the temperature rises, it can feel like of the options are pretty limited. I don’t think summer workwear needs to be over complicated though. It really boils down to two key switches: fabrics and colours. 

Tread Carefully With Shirt Dresses

Shirt dresses are almost synonymous with workwear but I’ll let you into a secret… They’re one of my pet hates. I find so many of them look stuffy. The good news is you don’t have to ban shirt dresses entirely – you just have to be selective about the style you go for. I’d suggest looking at styles with a cropped sleeve and with plenty of utility details like this one from Karen Millen. Both of these details put an edgier, modern spin on the look. I’d style it with these JW Anderson heeled mules look, but if you prefer flats, try something backless with a pointed, closed toe. And if you’re worried about white getting too grubby, khaki, beige and navy would all work.

Adapt To The Trends

It can be difficult to know how to bring your own personality into your office wear in a way that still adheres to the dress code. My solution is to think about whatever’s currently on trend. For example, waistcoats are having a moment this year and work both in and out of the workplace. I ordered this set from Zara almost as soon as I saw it because it ticks every box – the slightly capped shoulder is a little more modest than some of the others on the market, and the belted waist and oversized fit means you can tweak, layer and pin it to fit as you like. Likewise, the linen fabric is perfect for the heat – team it with the matching trousers or try a pleated white skirt with a simple heel.

Find The Right Fabrics

You don’t need me to tell you that wearing a wool blazer during a heatwave is a bad idea, but it’s likely that many of the dresses, tops and shirts you own are making it harder for you to stay cool and comfortable because of the fabric composition. Anything with a high percentage of polyester, viscose and silk/satin will make you feel hotter, as they aren’t breathable, so choose more naturally derived, breezier fabrics like linen or cotton instead. I can almost hear the grumbles about ironing linen, but it’s an unavoidable trade-off at this time of year. Massimo Dutti has plenty of chic, inexpensive pieces that are smart enough to fit a stricter dress code, many of which are made with linen and cotton. I spotted this linen-blend jumpsuit and thought it would make a great choice for work. The wide-leg is flattering and it proves you don’t have to bare a lot of skin to stay cool in the heat. Just add a waist belt and some chunky gold jewellery to style it up. 

Swap Black For Navy

Wearing black in the summer isn’t out of the question but when it comes to workwear, too much black can verge on heavy and drab. I’d advise reverting to navy blue if you’re a sucker for black, as it’s just as versatile but feels a little less harsh. A good pair of wide-leg, navy trousers is an essential staple – I find Me + Em does some of the best and it’s a brand well worth a look if you’re feeling uninspired. Try pairing them with an oversized boyfriend shirt (With Nothing Underneath is a favourite) in a lighter blue for a tonal look, then add a white loafer for a lighter finish.

Finally, Accessorise

My final piece of advice is to go heavy on the accessories. This is another easy way to inject some of your own flair into your office looks. I’ve added some oversized earrings to this waistcoat look, but you might like to keep a chunky chain necklace on hand to wear with a boyfriend shirt when you’re doing WFH calls, as well as some chubby hoops. If you wear glasses, an oversized, statement pair is a sure-fire way to make a simple outfit feel more exciting. Try Jimmy Fairly, Ace & Tate and Cubitts.

For more fashion inspiration, follow @PollyVSayer on Instagram.

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