This is the time of year when the fashion faux pas hit the office runway. My inbox is jammed with queries about bra straps, flip flops, Uggs (really?! It's 90 degrees!), and strategies for tactfully informing someone their pants are too tight or their skirt is too short. Here's what is unacceptable in (most) work places: going braless, clear Lucite high heels, or wearing anything so short or tight that a meeting in the boss' office results in non-stop wardrobe readjustments.
Wearing shorts to the office: Miami, maybe. Washington, DC, no. I know it's hot but airing out your legs just a bit at the office will not keep you substantially cooler. Especially when inside it's somehow always 67 degrees in the summer. When the weather changes, northerners are eager to debut even the most inappropriate styles at the office. We seem overwhelmed with excitement about the warm weather, reminiscing about summer camp and pulling on a pair of cargos (ugh) on casual Friday. Next time you find yourself fantasizing about Japan's latest trend, Super Cool Biz and your desire to don shorts Monday thru Friday, look for a pair of ankle pants and add a splash of color. I help a lot of companies create their corporate dress codes and while capris may seem like a good idea, ankle pants (a la Audrey Hepburn) are the best business "summer" pant.
Spaghetti straps and panty lines: nowhere, no how. There are too many style solutions out there from major retailers like Target and Nordstrom that help eliminate panty lines -- you have no excuse! Buy a pair of Spanx, seamless underwear (my clients love the Wacoal ones with extra tummy control), or wear looser clothing. Inevitably, you will leave the safety of your desk and venture to the office water cooler or kitchen... your employees, co-workers, boss, or clients are sure to see you at some point, revealing your unsightly bra straps. Even worse, it will definitely be the day you decided to wear your hot pink bra under a white cami. I walk the office runway on behalf of my clients and no look receives more whispers or stares than this offender. Sleeveless is frowned upon at so many corporate offices -- but spaghetti and bra straps are singled out as incredibly unprofessional. Make it easy on yourself -- if you must wear spaghetti straps, always finish your outfit with a stylish cardigan or blazer.
To show or not to show your feet at the office, that is the question. Open toe shoes are widely accepted in the beachy south and have made strides in other locales. The important thing to note is that feet are simply not created equal. You might have cute polished toes but your cubicle mate may not. Mandals (sandals for men) have not yet become acceptable at the office (or anywhere else for that matter) but women often think the heat is license to bare it all at work. Not only can we hear you as you noisily strut down the hall in your backless high heel sandals but its flat sister, the flip flop, is better suited to commuting on public transportation than from floor to floor at work. I have yet to meet a senior executive who has begged me to find a way to incorporate flip flops into a corporate dress code. Carry an oversized stylish tote to work and throw in your favorite heels -- always be sure to change your shoes before actually reaching the office. (Note: I recommend making the change at the corner and not at your desk.) Your daily first impression should not begin with "she's the one who always wears flips flops and never paints her toes!" My favorite stylish summer work shoe is a peep toe or a sling back -- show off your tootsies in the front or be a bit sexy at the heel but be careful about flaunting both between the hours of 9 to 5. Even the most politically powerful clients can be in denial about wearing sandals to the office -- until I remind them they are setting an example for others who may not have the same great taste. A final piece of advice: open toes mean no hose.