How to Toe the Line With the Office Summer Dress Code

summer wardrobe

The days are getting longer, which means it’s getting warmer outside, and skirts are getting shorter — just not when you’re getting dressed for work in the morning, right? Although most offices allow a relaxed summer dress code, toeing the line between casual and inappropriate can make a difference when it comes to moving up at your firm.

According to a Robert Half survey, 57 percent of human resources managers said their companies offer a more casual office dress code during the summer. In another Robert Half survey, 80 percent of executives said clothing choices could affect a staff member’s chances of earning a promotion.

So where do you start?

Brittney MurrayStudy the corporate culture

Every workplace has its own set of rules. Once you’ve been with a company for an extended period of time, you’ll find it easier to differentiate what office dress code the workplace culture will tolerate and what fellow employees and customers will find appropriate for dress. Until that time, err on the side of conservative when getting ready for work this summer. Because some colleagues may not be so strict when following the summer dress code policy, try to mirror upper management with your wardrobe choices.

Find out more about office culture on the Accountemps blog.

When in doubt, follow these tips 

1. Keep your sleeves over the shoulder. Avoid tank tops and spaghetti straps. A good rule of thumb is to wear capped sleeves that cover the shoulder completely.

2. Avoid casual footwear. That means no flip flops.

3. Do not wear graphic tees. Oh, and hats. No hats.

4. Avoid shorts. Speaking of short, make sure your skirts are longer than the tip of your fingers when your arms are down at your sides.

Still not sure? Ask yourself these questions  

  • Is this skirt appropriate when I sit, stand or walk up stairs?
  • Do I look like I’m going to work or to hang out?
  • What will my manager’s reaction be when he or she sees me?
  • Am I abiding by the dress code policy or barely following it?
  • Am I showing too much skin?

As the summer draws on, it’s easy to become more lax with your wardrobe choices. Just remember, if the CEO asked you to join a board meeting, would you be dressed to waltz in proudly and professionally?

If not, go change.

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Brittney Murray is a recruiting manager for Robert Half Finance & Accounting in Raleigh, NC. She also consults, instructs and speaks on marketing topics, including social media management, digital marketing and branding. Her Twitter handle [email protected]

Editor's note: This post was updated in 2016 to reflect more current information.