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Too Hot to Dress for Success

Monday, July 22, 2013
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Dear Miriam,

It's been so hot this summer! I can't figure out how to dress for work so that I look professional enough without being totally sweaty after walking from the bus. Also, there's this Orthodox guy in my office, and I'm worried about offending him if I show too much skin. Getting dressed every morning is starting to give me a headache. Help!

Signed,
Too Hot to Dress for Success


Dear Hot,

Are you sure that headache isn't from the atmospheric pressure changes that have gone along with all these thunderstorms? Regardless, getting dressed in the summer should be easy and breezy, cool and comfortable. Many workplaces have somewhat relaxed expectations of dress over the summer, especially places that are based on the academic calendar. Take a look at what your colleagues are wearing to get a sense of what's appropriate and also to get some ideas of specific styles and pieces that could alleviate your wardrobe worries. 

Hopefully, you don't work in an office that requires a suit every day, but whether you do or not, layers are going to be the key to your success this summer. Wear a tank top or sundress and carry your jacket or cardigan or whatever to the bus. Wear flip flops on your way in, and change into more professional shoes at the door. Wear dark colors or non-staining fabrics, and carry around extra deodorant so that even if you are sweaty, it won't be glaringly obvious to everyone you encounter. When I used to bike everywhere I went, I sometimes carried a whole change of outfit to put on when I got wherever I was going. (Most notably, I did this when I biked to work at an upscale retail store in the middle of a rainstorm. Have I mentioned that I'm glad I'm not 22 anymore?)

Given that your Orthodox co-worker works with you and you're asking this question, he's probably somewhat used to seeing women dressed in ways that would not be considered tznuit (the term for traditional Jewish standards of modesty). He may not be entirely comfortable with it, and he may look away if he sees someone dressed particularly provocatively, but he probably won't be shocked by a shoulder or a knee. However, if you ever come to work in something that would make him, or any other male or female co-worker blush to look at you, that's a great signal to yourself that it's not work wear. 

Another good approach is to ask yourself is, "Would I be comfortable wearing this at a club?" or, "Would I fit in wearing this outfit at the beach?" If the answer to either of those questions is yes, that's another good signal that you should change before heading to the office. While workplaces may differ in the specifics of their wardrobe requirements, you want it to be clear to everyone around you that you are, in fact, headed to work. Once you more clearly define for yourself your own workwear style, you're also likely to communicate an increased sense of confidence to those around you, and that can only be good for your comfort and your career.

Be well,
Miriam

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