How to dress for the office in the heat

How to dress for the office in the heat

07/14/2022

How to dress for the office in the heat without looking like you’re going on holiday: Stylist reveals the six fashion rules everyone should follow – from investing in an oversized shirt to leaving ‘bardot’ dresses at home

  • Stylist Miranda Holder shared her advice for office dressing in the heat 
  • Revealed six dos and don’ts everyone should follow to avoid looking too beachy 
  • A shirt dress is your new BFF but flip-flops and bucket bags must be left at home

The heatwave has been great for back garden sun tans and trips to the seaside, but pose a serious problem when it comes to dressing for work. 

Women are facing the dilemma of how to look smart while staying cool as the UK basks in soaring temperatures, which are expected to last until at least Tuesday. 

Friends are pinging text messages back and forth as they try to work out which items in their summer wardrobes won’t look out of place in the office. 

Are flip-flops okay? Sundresses? Off-the-shoulder tops? Or is the solution to commute in one outfit then have a quick change before your first meeting. 

Here, stylist Miranda Holder shares her full-proof guide for office dressing in the heat, revealing the six do’s and don’ts that everyone needs to know…

DON’T: Bring the Bardot dress into the boardroom 


Beware the bardot! Miranda notes that when this off-the-shoulder neckline is positioned a certain way behind a computer screen, it can look like you’re ‘not wearing anything at all’. Pictured: George by Asda Floral Print Bardot Top, £13 (left) and Whistles Floren Shirred Bardot Dress, £89 

Weekends only! Strappy dresses should be kept out of the office and hemlines should be no higher than the knee. Pictured: Friends Like These Jersey Floral Strappy Tier Dress, available via Next, £28

Miranda said: ‘Even the high end brands are just too sloppy. Open toe sandals are fine, just please make sure that your personal grooming or even better get a fresh pedicure to pretty up your tootsies.’

This heat may feel tropical but the temperature of your outfit should remain resolutely tepid, so resist the temptation to take the networking term ‘pressing the flesh’ too literally. 

Let’s not give Dave from accounts too much to look at – save it for the pool or the club darling.

The old style adage of either bearing your legs or your cleavage has no sway in the office, so keep things sophisticated with hemlines on the knee at their highest and your shoulders covered. 

Keep your barely-there spaghetti straps for the weekend. 

And for goodness sake, beware the bardot, off-the-shoulder top – when positioned in a certain way behind a large computer screen it looks like you’ve cleanly forgotten to wear anything at all. 

You really don’t want to be the butt of the jokes at the next office drinks party.

DO: Keep sweat at bay in an oversized shirt 

Breathability: A £59 oversized blue shirt from Cos looks great with breezy wide-leg trousers


Classic cut: Reformation ‘Will’ Oversized Shirt, £130, left. Right: M&S Pure Cotton Striped Oversized Girlfriend Style Shirt, £25

Besides being infinitely more stylish and contemporary than their figure-hugging counterparts, looser, flowing clothing is perfect for optimising your personal, let’s call it, air flow. 

The more fabric, the less sweat-promoting contact with the skin and the more wafting potential.

Loose-fitting, oversized shirts still scream ‘business’ and are begging to be loosely half-tucked for easy breezy office style.

Wear yours with wide-leg trousers for ultimate breathability or with your favourite pair of shorts at the weekend.

DON’T: Bring out your festival accessories

Less is more! Keep accessories simple and save pieces like a woven bucket bag for the beach or festival. Pictured: M&S Straw Tote Bag, £39.50

Keep it classic: Swap your statement earrings like the ones above for a pair of small gold hoops. Pictured: Kate Spade Marguerite beaded earrings, £95

Basket bags, boho bangles, kimonos, fringing, belly chains, anklets and huge statement earrings are all a firm NO!

Keep your boho fabulous wild-child shut away in the closet for festivals.

Overdoing the accessories and adding a bit too much ‘fun factor’ to your clothing will only distract you and others from the job in hand.

Instead, channel your inner Meghan Markle, and select clean, minimal accessories to portray more business than hedonistic pleasure. 

A chunky gold chain and pair of medium hoops is more than enough to remain polished and ready for anything the team throws at you.

DO: Swap your LBD for a LWD

Tone-on-tone: Wearing white, cream, ivory and beige makes any summer outfit look expensive. Add metallic details (like these shoes above) for added depth. Pictured: Tu by Sainsbury’s Stone Button-Through Linen-Rich Shirt Dress, £26


Bright and breezy: River Island White T-shirt Midi Dress, £30 (left). Right: M&S Linen Blend Striped Wide Leg Trousers, £39

There is something about black in summer that just feels so St Tropez, but for daylong comfort when the temperature soars, you’ll want to make like Wimbledon and get into your whites. 

The lighter colours reflect the sunlight which keeps you cooler for longer, with the added bonus of being less likely to show any sweat patches, should your glow resemble something more like perspiration, (heavens forbid).

Don’t be afraid to go tonal and mix shades of white, cream and ivory – this can look very expensive, and will provide the perfect canvas to ground with classic tan accessories.

Give a little edge with a burst of black, or add a pop of vibrant colour if that’s your vibe.

DO: Invest in a day-to-night shirt dress 


Wardrobe hero: A shirt dress is airy enough for summer but has enough structure for the office. Pictured: River Island Pink Tie Waist Midi Shirt Dress, £45 (left) Boden Fit and Flare Mini Shirt Dress, £47.50 (right)

Trendy must-have: Soft, looser tailoring is a great way to look smart in the heat. Waistcoats are having a moment this summer. Try yours over a t-shirt or even styled alone if you’re feeling daring. Pictured, Reiss Luma Premium Suit Waistcoat, £125

Keep things more Costa del Office than Costa del Sol by adding structure. 

Think soft looser tailoring in airy, drapey fabrics. If the air-con hasn’t combusted under the pressure, adding a lightweight blazer can instantly elevate even the beachiest of dresses into something ready for the boardroom. 

If that’s too much, try an unbuttoned linen shirt as your outfit-completing ‘third piece’ or even one of this season’s waistcoats over a smarter Tee could be just the ticket.

After the faff of slathering them in self-tan, why not show off your newly bronzed limbs and embrace the tailored city short for a bit of Fleet Street chic. 

If in doubt a shirt dress ticks all the boxes, keeping you formal enough for the beefiest of meetings and easy to dress up for 6pm drinks at the local rooftop bar.

DON’T: Get caught out by VPL 

Baring all? Keep a close eye on the VPL to make sure you’re not showing off more than you’d planned, particularly if you’re wearing a cut-out dress… which isn’t appropriate for the office! Pictured: Oasis Linen Mix Ring Cut Out Puff Sleeve Midi Dress, £71.20

If ever there is ever a time to be vigilant about your VPL it is now.

As fabrics get flimsier and coverage gets scarcer, a tantalising flash of knicker or even a nipple becomes more of a potential style hazard, so be vigilant!

Well-fitting, flesh-coloured smalls are the order of the day, with a quick transparency check in the mirror before you leave the house to avoid the very worst of wardrobe malfunctions.

If you have opted for an on-trend garment with cut out details, firstly, it’s probably not appropriate anyway, and secondly, there is absolutely no excuse for visible lingerie these days with the plethora of style hacks available on the likes of TikTok – so do your research darling!

Finally, if you are planning a post-work splash in the local Lido please resist all temptation to wear your bikini as underwear – or worse – a swimsuit as a bodysuit – you don’t need another reason to be all hot and bothered by the end of the day.

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