Staying Cool, and Professional - A Work Ready Summer Capsule Wardrobe

We’re headed for a serious heat wave in the DC area next week and that can certainly complicate the morning wardrobe selection. The shoes alone cause add 10 minutes of angst! But that was the last style post. Today we’re solving summer wardrobe problems. (Thanks Maura for the inspiration!)

I’ve found that it isn’t as simple as finding the perfect dress up/dress down outfit; here in DC you need to be able to successfully contend with both the stifling heat and humidity outdoors, and the arctic air conditioning indoors. Layers to the rescue once again!

Just like my three essential spring pieces, I’ve found a simple formula that handles this situation with style, grace, and not a sweat stain in sight. And you can adjust the formality up or down to suit your particular work situation.

Drum roll please . . .

Summer Base Layer

A sleeveless dress in a cotton blend (look for cotton linings)

Add sleeves if you really can’t pull off the sleeveless look. And please, please, make sure it’s not too short! There has been a rather concerning trend for short dresses that are just not appropriate for a woman of a certain age, nor for a woman who wants to be taken seriously at any age over 18.

Of course, if you live somewhere where heat, humidity, and AC aren’t an issue, or you never stray too far from your air-conditioned car and office, you have virtually any dress you like available to you. Choose one with a neckline that flatters, sleeves that do what you need them to, and evaluate how well it will dress up or down as needed. That makes for a wardrobe workhorse.

All Ann Taylor except bottom right, found at Modcloth

All Ann Taylor except bottom right, found at Modcloth

There are many, many ‘work sheaths’ out there that practically scream CORPORATE. And while these do convey a certain sense of boardroom responsibility, they’re the easy way out. It’s summer! Lighten up a little! In color and fabric that is. Have a sense of imagination. And if you really need to appear as a CEO, and you won’t be exposed to the worst of the summer (see above) please choose beautiful summer accessories to bring your sheath into the season.

Now if dresses really aren’t your thing . . .

A summer weight pant and top (again, look for breathable, cool fabrics)

I’m liking ankle length or cropped slim white trousers with a pretty, printed top.

Boden USA Blouse, Banana Republic white ankle trousers, Ann Taylor LOFT blush pink skinny trousers

Boden USA Blouse, Banana Republic white ankle trousers, Ann Taylor LOFT blush pink skinny trousers

Then add:

A Summer Topper

A lighter weight jacket or cardigan sweater to finish it off (and ward off any summer season chills caused by AC)

Boden USA cropped cashmere cardigan, Ann Taylor LOFT orange jacket (how cute is this?!) and LOFT white linen blazer

Boden USA cropped cashmere cardigan, Ann Taylor LOFT orange jacket (how cute is this?!) and LOFT white linen blazer

Finish off with wedge heels or structured sandals as featured in 6 Wedges you Can Run In.

Don’t forget the accessories! A couple of great statement necklaces will punch up the shift dress and give you options for a different look.

Here’s where the fun begins! Choose the pieces that speak to you and are appropriate for your office (I like A-line shirt dresses because I can wear them virtually anywhere) and you’re comfortable for both your commute and your committee meeting. Take it even further and you can build a whole wardrobe around this concept. In fact, I think I may have just given you a summer capsule wardrobe without meaning to. Right? Everything here works together!

Substitute summer skirts for pants, lined in cotton preferably, or add more dresses. You shouldn’t need more than two or three toppers if you choose them to coordinate with the dresses and/or skirt and pant + tops combos. A couple of fun pairs of office ready shoes should have you all sorted.

If you’re in the DC area, let me know how you handle the heat next week while still staying stylish.