The trouble with determining appropriate summer work outfits is trying to balance our favourite seasonal trends with corporate dress code, while keeping cool at the same time. And of course, interpreting the standards for each can be a hot-and-cold guessing game.

“The major thing to remember is that all these depend on your office environment,” says Erin Nadler, a stylist and image consultant for Better Styled in Toronto. “The summer season tends to be tricky for a lot of women because they can get too casual, and depending on the dress code of your office, it can cause some issues. So just be aware.” Nadler helps us decode summer fashion trends and how to wear them appropriately and stylishly in the office this summer.

Appropriate summer outfits for work expert tip #1: The maxi dress

Why it works: “Maxi dresses are really cute on a casual Friday, and you can do something really chic, like add a great little jean jacket,” says Nadler, who loves The Gap for their array of fun summer maxis this season. “Or tie a jean shirt around you in a knot. Most women have some sort of black cardigan or bolero cardigan—adding that to a sleeveless maxi or strapless dress would be really cute.”

Pair it with:
“Wedge sandals are an awesome way to dress up a maxi, or try a gladiator flat.” And for your office bling? “An interesting necklace to a bare-neck dress would be an awesome way to transition it into the office.”

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Appropriate summer outfits for work expert tip #2: The nautical look

Why it works: “Stripes—I love them under suiting,” says Nadler. “Taking a great little striped top and putting it under a classic black suit, I think it’s funky and feminine. And it’s a great way to dress it up.” Or scarves as stripes too. “Taking a basic white blouse and adding striped colourful scarf over top.”

Pair it with: “Take a striped tee and wear it with jeans and a boyfriend blazer on a casual Friday,” she says. Or try a sparkled striped shirt by Canadian label John & Jen by Line, so you can wear it to an evening out for after-work drinks. Keep a great pair of heels stashed under your desk (for emergencies) and to quickly change into your fun evening wardrobe.

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Read on to the next page for more smart stylish summer outfits for work…

Appropriate summer outfits for work expert tip #3: A splash of colour

Why it works: “A lot of the super trendy pieces are always going to be an issue in a corporate environment, so I think there are ways are injecting them in,” says Nadler. “Colour is an easy way to be on trend without being too trendy.” Add a pashmina in a hot summer shade, like pink, teal or coral—and keep it at your desk for those days when the office air conditioning is cranked way up.

Pair it with:
“Pick a skirt that has a colour-block and pair it back with a separate solid cardigan,” she says. “That’s an easy way of bringing the trend forward.” Or don a persimmon-coloured skinny crop pant and
wedge sandal—“it’s an amazing way to elongate your legs!” Try a pointy-toed flat in cobalt or fuchsia for a playful upgrade to your skirt suit.

Appropriate summer outfits for work expert tip #4: A floral print

Why it works: Pick a beautifully printed
floral summer dress or skirt—“you can always pare it down or make it less vibrant by doing something solid over top,” says Nadler, who suggests adding a brightly coloured cardigan or blazer (for a more professional look).

Pair it with:
Keep your look classic by wearing
a cute summer flat ankle strap sandal or peep-toe shoe with
a floral dress. “A lot of us make the mistake of injecting what we would wear on the weekend into the office,” says Nadler. And if you’re going with one of the
vibrant, trendy prints this season, scale back with a classic office essential, like a clean-cut black pant or jacket. “Something that you already have in your closet that’s deemed appropriate. It’s easier to go out on a limb a little bit if you’re mixing it in.”

Appropriate summer outfits for work expert tip #5: Crop tops and mini-skirts

Why they work:
Wait, what? “If you’re in that corporate culture, I say do it!” Just not at the same time. “The nice thing about
a crop top is that maybe you’re pairing it back with a higher-waisted pant so that you’re not seeing that much of your midriff. The other option of course is that you can do an oversized cardigan or boyfriend jacket over top so you are hiding a bit more,” Nadler explains. “It’s not so overtly bare.”

Pair it with:
As for the mini-skirt, Nadler suggests pairing with bright tights or leggings underneath. Here’s a quick rule of thumb when deciding if a summer outfit is appropriate for the boardroom: “If you have to think about it, the answer is no,” says Nadler.

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