Summer is in full swing, which means that the fashionable PR pro has officially switched over her (or his) wardrobe from warm and cozy to cool and comfortable.
With the warmer weather comes a slight shift in PR workplace dress code. As a rule of thumb, summer dress code is more casual, but there is a fine line between workplace appropriate and too casual.
Follow the tips below to be comfortable—yet polished—this summer.
1. First and foremost, if you’re questioning whether what you’re wearing is appropriate for the office, your colleagues (and, worse, your boss) will, too. Bag the outfit and save it for a weekend trip to Central Park.
2. Use the fingertip rule. Dresses and skirts should reach the bottom of your fingertips when your arms are placed down at your side. At the risk of sounding like my high school principal, there are no exceptions.
3. Wear flip-flops with discretion. In some offices they’re allowed, and in others they aren’t. Typically, women can get away with flip-flops if the rest of their outfit is a bit dressier (a sundress or a skirt and blouse), though wearing flip-flops with jeans can look sloppy. The same rule applies for Sperry’s boat shoes.
4. Shorts are OK if they are the appropriate length (see rule No. 2) and if they’re dressed up with a blouse and pumps. Short shorts and/or shorts with a T-shirt and flip-flops are never OK.
5. Brightly colored pants are a good way to switch it up, if done right. A colleague rocked a pair of hot pink cropped pants yesterday and paired them with a button-up to give the outfit a classy edge. When making a statement with bold pants, the rest of your outfit should be toned down (no crazy animal prints, funky jewelry, etc.). The only exception is neon pants, which aren’t appropriate for the office. To get your neon fix during your 9–5, try dressing up a boat necked dress with neon accessories.
6. For an evening affair (whether a PR industry event, client dinner, etc.), always err on the side of caution. Other companies might have a different office dress code from yours, and you want to be a good reflection on your agency. A black dress is always a safe option; you will never be critiqued for being too polished.
When in doubt, a good test is to ask, “Would I wear this to meet my significant other’s parents for the first time?” If the answer is no, most likely you need to revisit your closet and pick out something else to wear.
A version of this story originally appeared on Crenshaw Communications’ PR Fishbowl blog.
This story first ran on Ragan.com in June 2013.