Top 10 Summer Fashion Faux Pas: What Not to Wear to Work

An administrative professional reacts with shock at the thought of making a summer fashion faux pas

What's the right work attire to choose when it's hot outside? Leave the Daisy Dukes and flip-flops at home to present a positive professional image and avoid making a fashion faux pas.

Most of us have heard the saying that you should "dress for the job you want." We've also been raised to believe that it's better to be overdressed than underdressed. But somehow, those lessons are forgotten when the weather heats up. Which means that, in warmer months, workplace fashion faux pas can run rampant.

The dress code will vary from office to office, and some organizations allow more casual work fashion during the summer. For those reasons, you need to be familiar with company policies, and you should also pay attention to the "unofficial dress code." Observe what coworkers wear, including your manager and others in supervisory roles. In general, if you're not sure whether something's appropriate to wear to work, it probably isn't.

In most business settings, you should avoid these fashion faux pas:

1. Shorts

Most guys have gotten the memo that shorts are best left for tee time and fishing trips. But there's still some debate regarding whether they're an acceptable work attire for women. Although shorts may be tolerated in less formal environments, they're still a no-no in most offices. And that prohibition includes Bermuda shorts. On the other hand, women may find that a nice pair of cropped pants makes the cut in some workplaces.

2. Crop tops

One essential rule for avoiding a fashion faux pas is to avoid showing too much skin. (This is not a case where "less is more" applies.) So even if your crop top is a crowd pleaser on the weekend, I'd advise against wearing midriff-baring clothing in the office. Opt for something a little more demure for your hot-weather work fashion.

3. Flip-flops, gladiator sandals and other casual footwear

I'm personally a huge fan of flip-flops and wear them any chance I get. But I do know there are limits, and they're just not appropriate for the office. Women can usually get away with wearing certain kinds of open-toed sandals, but I'd say styles such as knee-high gladiator sandals are a bit too bold for an acceptable work attire. Unfortunately for men, wearing sandals in the office just hasn't become widely tolerated yet. Casual footwear like boat shoes and Converse sneakers may be borderline.

4. Maxi dresses, sundresses and short skirts

Summer dresses can be quite comfortable and vibrant. But in many professional environments, they could be considered a fashion faux pas. The breezy dresses are perfect for a weekend BBQ or a beach vacation, rather than a day at the office. And just because it's warmer doesn't mean the skirts should get shorter. Make sure to wear skirts that are an appropriate length for work.



5. Sunglasses

Somewhere along the way, wearing sunglasses indoors started being cool. I suppose we can thank celebrities. But unless you have a valid reason to cover your eyes in the office, save your sunglasses for places like the beach and park.

6. Tank tops, halter tops and anything strapless

In most cases, T-shirts are seen as a fashion faux pas at the office because they're too casual. Taking that principle a step further, tank tops, spaghetti straps and halter tops are prohibited by the dress code at many employers. And don't even consider a tube top or anything else strapless as an acceptable work attire. I won't say that going sleeveless is totally out of the question. Many women's non-sleeved shirt options are conservative and stylish. But as a general rule, it's best to be cautious with the bare-armed look.

7. Funky hats and sloppy hair

Some celebrities wear their trademark hats everywhere, but that doesn't mean your employer will be lenient about your headwear. Your baseball caps, fedoras, straw trilbies and pork pie hats can sit tight in your closet.

Be sure to keep the stuff you grow on top of your head looking professional too. Sloppy or unkempt hair may be admired on the beach or in a gym. But it won't get the same reaction in your workplace.

8. Jumpsuits, rompers and overalls

Let's face it. Most people can't pull off wearing a jumpsuit or romper while out grocery shopping — let alone in a business setting. And overalls? Frankly, I consider them to be a fashion faux pas for adults, whether in or out of the office.

9. Anything see-through

Popular fashion frequently features sheer clothing and lace. Be sure you're not revealing too much in the office. With transparent fabrics, keep in mind that there's a thin line between looking fashionable and indecent. If any of part your undergarments is visible, it's a sure sign that you've gone too far.

10. Shirts with summertime quirks

Hot weather seems to bring out the wild side in men's shirts. Which is fine on the weekends, when you're breezing around in the open air. But don't bring your Hawaiian shirts or other loud prints into the office — or display your chest hair with a low neckline or unbuttoned top buttons.

To maintain a professional appearance, you even need to be cautious about wearing untucked shirts in the workplace. In some offices, this may be acceptable, but pay attention to your employer's unofficial dress code, and don't get too casual.

Now that you've gotten a primer on summertime fashion faux pas, get out there and put your best outfit forward!

Learn the do's and don'ts of dressing for an interview so you can present a professional image when meeting with potential employers.


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This post was originally published in May 2014 and has been updated with more current information.