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Is it ever OK to wear sandals in the office? Your summer workwear questions answered

Expert stylists tell Know Your Value how to dress to stay cool and look professional.

It can be hard to know how to dress to satisfy your office dress code while staying cool in the summer heat. For many women, it can feel like a scavenger hunt to find fabrics that are breathable, but not see-through. Not to mention, material that won’t show even the smallest sweat stains!

There’s also a myriad of style questions. Are sandals ever appropriate in the office? What about sleeveless tops? Are bright colors OK?

Know Your Value recently spoke to celebrity stylist Kemal Harris and Memorandum founder Mary Orton (who both know their way around a fabulous wardrobe) to get their game-changing tips on summer workwear that’s comfortable and professional.

Know Your Value editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, Know Your Value does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.


When it comes to pants and skirts, according to Orton, “it's all about finding work-appropriate options that facilitate air circulation.” She suggested shoppers seek out “wide leg pants, pants in cropped lengths, skirts or dresses.”

That said, Orton pointed out that you should be mindful of lengths even in your pursuit of comfort.

“In terms of skirts and dresses, just make sure your desire to stay cool doesn’t compel you to start compromising on office-appropriate hem lengths,” said Orton. “Especially if you work in a formal office.”


When it comes to summer tops, layering is key.

“Wear loose-fitting, short-sleeve or sleeveless blouses,” said Orton. “Sport a lightweight blazer or cardigan on top so you can easily ditch that outer layer when outside the comfort of air conditioning.”

Just make sure that your base layer is appropriate enough for commuting or for stepping out of the office for lunch. You can also make sure to bring along a comfortable pair of sandals to change into for your commute home.


Fabrics can make or break a summer outfit. “It's always a good idea to go for breathable, lightweight natural fabrics like cotton, linen and silk with finer threads and looser weaves,” said Orton.

“Washable silk is the most comfortable fabric for summer weather,” said Harris, who has worked with actresses Robin Wright, Alexis Bledel and Kate McKinnon. “The luxurious feel and look keeps it polished for professional environments.”

RELATED: The best summer office dresses under $100

Harris’s favorite option comes from the store, Equipment. It comes in multiple neutral colors, all of which are office-appropriate.

Shoes and handbags

And, of course, you can’t forget footwear. While sandals may be too casual if your office is very professional, Orton suggested opting for a pair of peep-toe pumps, sling back heels or mules.

If heels aren’t your thing, there are still options. “Depending on your comfort level, you can wear classic leather loafers or pointy slingback kitten heels,” said Harris.

RELATED: 11 shockingly comfortable (and stylish!) commuting shoes professionals swear by

Another accessory to consider when dressing for the summer is your handbag. Harris suggested ditching the heavy leather tote for a straw one of similar size. And don’t worry, there definitely professional options available. While the handle elevates this straw tote, the tightly woven straw also looks professional and polished.

Options we love

Here are some clothing options that follow tips from Orton and Harris.

This straw tote is fun and office-appropriate. You could also accessorize it with a scarf that matches your work outfit.

This loose-fitting silk blouse is sure to keep you cool. It would also look just as professional with the sleeves rolled up.

Follow Orton’s layering and fabric advice with this silk cami. It will look perfect under a camisole or linen blazer. It would even look great dressed up for a night out.

Tuck your silk blouse or cami into these adorable, loose-fitting wide leg pants. They will allow for air circulation and they will transition nicely into the fall.

This flared midi skirt is loose enough to keep you cool, but professional enough for any office. It could also transition into the weekend, and would look great paired with the silk cami or button up.

These sling-back heels are a manageable height and perfect for hot summer days. They come in both black and nude and could be paired with any combination of pants and tops.