Building a professional summer work wardrobe that makes you look and feel cool can be, well, a job in itself.
The sweat-inducing weather begs lightweight materials and summertime silhouettes, but the "brrr"-worthy air-conditioning that offices tend to favor necessitates heavier pieces. Another challenge: No matter how much the ocean beckons, beachwear just doesn't cut it in most corporate environments.
"The weather is no excuse to look sloppy," says GQ's Mark Anthony Green. "No matter where you work, you still want to look put-together."
A polished ensemble starts with breathable fabrics. Gents should swap heavy wool suit and sportcoats for cotton, lightweight wool, linen or even seersucker in a dark hue. "Your wool suits need a break after a harsh winter," says Durand Guion, men's fashion director at Macy's.
Whenever possible, ditch the tie -- or exchange it for a print pocket square -- and wear a fitted dress shirt, which allows men to "hold your jacket ... and still look neat and pulled together," says Guion.
The sleek staples of every woman's work wardrobe -- pencil skirts, shift dresses, cardigans -- can get summer-ready in bright hues and prints.
Summer is also the perfect time to scour stores for color. In a creative office, go wild and mix prints and hues, but in a conservative environment, pair a vibrant piece with a neutral like tan or navy blue, says Joe Zee, editor-in-chief of Yahoo Fashion. Or just "tiptoe into the trend" with a bright accessory, Zee says. "Color is always the easiest, most cost-effective and effortless way to spice up your summer work wardrobe," Zee says.
Or forget color. "It sounds simple, but it's also striking," says style expert and editor Bobbie Thomas of white. Instead of a typical black blazer, don a white one with black closet staples.
Meanwhile, men who don't wear bright colors in the winter "shouldn't feel pressured to wear them" now, says Green: "If you're a guy who's looking to brighten things up at work, try it in small punches -- a bright linen tie, a bold striped shirt, fuchsia socks, whatever."
Fashion/styling: Kristyna Kane
Hair: Jennifer Giannone at Butterfly Studio Salon (149 Fifth Ave., 212-253-2100)
Makeup: Felicia Rochelle for Kevyn Aucoin
Models: Sierra Rocco, Ryan Fitzsimons of MSA Models
Suit up for summer
On Ryan: Tommy Hilfiger suit, $529; at 681 Fifth Ave., 212-223-1824 | Ted Baker shirt, $125, and Calvin Klein belt, $45; at Macy’s, 151 W. 34th St., 212-695-4400 | The Tie Bar tie, $15; at thetiebar.com | Club Monaco trench coat, $99; at 160 Fifth Ave., 212-352-0936 | Kensington Road frames, $79; at glasses.com | Vince Camuto shoes, $125; at 123 Fifth Ave., 646-524-5988. On Sierra: Vince Camuto tank, $79, and satchel, $298; at Vince Camuto | BCBGMaxAzria blazer, $288, and RACHEL Rachel Roy pants, $89; at Macy’s | Gerard Yosca necklace, $165; at Chuckies New York, 1169 Madison Ave., 212-249-2254 | Sperry Top-Sider wedges, $98; at 103 Fifth Ave., 212-675-7248 (Credit: Barbara Alper )
Skirting the issue
Ann Taylor top, $44; at Ann Taylor | Banana Republic blazer, $158; at Banana Republic | Marimekko skirt, $208; at 200 Fifth Ave., 212-843-9121 | Lia Sophia earrings, $38; at liasophia.com | Olivia + Joy satchel, $92; at Macy’s | Vince Camuto heels, $110; at Vince Camuto (Credit: Barbara Alper )
Banana Republic shirt, $79.50; at Banana Republic | G-Star blazer, $390; at G-Star, 270 Lafayette St., 212- 219-2744 | Flint and Tinder pants, $94.50; at flintandtinderusa.com | Ray-Ban sunglasses, $200; at Sunglass Hut | Calvin Klein belt, $45; at Macy’s (Credit: Barbara Alper )
On Ryan: Club Monaco shirt, $89.50; at Club Monaco | Vince Camuto pants, $85, and watch, $295; at Vince Camuto | Ray-Ban leather sunglasses, $300; at Sunglass Hut | The Tie Bar tie, $15; at thetiebar.com | Bills Khakis belt, $65; at Peter Elliot Boots, Etc., 1179 Lexington Ave., 212-776-1925 | Flint and Tinder bag, $159; at flintandtinderusa.com | TOMS shoes, $98; at Shoegasm, 71 Eighth Ave., 212-691-2091. On Sierra: Ann Taylor shirt, $69.50; at Ann Taylor | G-Star blazer, $300; at G-Star | Nanette Lepore pants, $298; at 958 Madison Ave., 212-452-3056 | Carlo Pazolini handbag, $475; at 410 W. 14th St., 212-259-0517 | Vince Camuto heels, $149; at Vince Camuto (Credit: Barbara Alper )