How to dress for work during a heatwave

Stick to lightweight fabrics and loose-fitting dresses

Olivia Petter
Friday 23 August 2019 10:26 BST
Probably best not to adopt the Bridget Jones approach to office elegance
Probably best not to adopt the Bridget Jones approach to office elegance

From sarcasm and stiff upper lips, to a penchant for afternoon tea and fish and chips, Britain is known for many things – but warm weather is not one of them.

As a nation that is predominantly plagued by dismal forecasts, bouts of intense sunshine can leave some Brits feeling adrift when it comes to finding suitable workwear.

Nobody wants to be the person who arrives at the office with sweat patches on their silk shirt, but turning up in a crop top and denim shorts is not exactly appropriate.

It’s an annual dilemma: how can you nail your summertime office aesthetic and shed those layers without compromising on propriety?

As Britain prepares for a week of blistering temperatures, swot up on our top tips for dressing for work in the heat while keeping your body temperature down and your sartorial dignity up.

1. Choose your fabrics wisely

Ray-ban round-frame acetate sunglasses: £115, Ganni Winter city boots: £240, Accessorize long hoop resin earrings: £4, See by Chloe Hana mini leather and suede cross-body bag: £250, A Plan Application sand jumpsuit: £495

A successful summer wardrobe is one that is textile-savvy.

While stiff leathers and suede suits may be your go-to workwear staples on a normal British summer’s day, these fabrics are likely to be too heavy duty in 30-plus degree temperatures.

Opt for lightweight materials wherever possible: linen, muslin and loose-fitting denims are all breathable options that will make for a sweat-free day at your desk. Choose lighter colours where possible to keep yourself sweat-free.

2. Balance is key

With Nothing Underneath the linen poplin: £80, Ancient Greek Sandals Thalia coin-embellished leather sandals: £145, Eleanor Balfour dress: £595, Topshop hoop earrings: £10.15, H&M sunglasses: £8.99

In peak Love Island season, where hot pants and bralets reign supreme, it can be all too easy to be seduced into thinking that such flesh-baring attire is socially acceptable in any sun-soaked setting, desk side or otherwise.

The thought of wearing a thong bikini into work might not have crossed your mind, but several balmy weather staples, such as bardot tops and miniskirts, can be tricky to make appropriate for an office environment.

Obviously this is not an issue for offices who employ strict smart dress codes, for whom bearing calves and arms is as risque as policy allows, but for those in more casual environments, it can be a contentious issue.

The best way forward is to take a balanced approach to your skin-baring, eg wearing a long-sleeved linen shirt over a knee-grazing dress.

3. Tailoring is key

Reiss Haya jacket: £190, Cult Gaia Kaia ruched leather sandals: £315, Reiss Haya shorts: £65, JW Anderson heart key pendant necklace: £95

Shorter hemlines need not be banished from your workwear wardrobe, but if you find yourself lost through a series of shorts, skirts and dresses that feel a tad on the flimsy side, opt for one of the endless smart, tailored options available on the high street. Reiss and Mango are reliable sources for this.

4. If all else fails, keep it simple

& Other Stories floral print dress: £85, Staud bisset canvas and leather bucket bag: £240, Prada Mary-Jane ballerinas: £550, Le Specs beautiful Stranger cat-eye sunglasses: £55, Missoma Lucy Williams coin bracelet: £95

There’s nothing wrong with a classic, free-flowing midi dress, particularly if you’re sporting a suntan.

If the straps are slender and the neckline is low, seek out some careful layering tactics to make it work for the office, such as wearing a white T-shirt underneath to offer more coverage.

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