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Friday, June 19, 2009

Five Tips for Cracking the Summer Dress Code

By Mary Lou Andre, Guest Blogger

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, offices all over the country tend to get a little more casual. While many professionals welcome the opportunity to shed more formal business attire and be a bit more relaxed in their appearance, many more are unsure where to draw the line. Here are five tips for maintaining a professional image that won't cost you your reputation (or your paycheck!) this summer:

Think business first, casual second. "Business casual" is actually an oxymoron. No matter the weather, you are wise to think business first, casual second — or never, if that is your preference. Light weight suiting and career separates with conservative necklines and hemlines coordinated with equally professional footwear, tops and accessories are the way to go in warm weather.

Know the code. Before hitting the mall to add some new summer items to your wardrobe, review your office dress code to be sure what you select is appropriate for where you work. For instance, many companies frown on any type of sandal being worn to the office. Be a conformist in a good way by selecting closed-toe summer footwear that honors your personal style while giving you professional clout with the powers that be.

Connect with your inner wisdom. Deep down we all know which clothes make us feel most powerful, credible and business-like. If you have to, separate your summer play clothes from your work clothes and simplify the latter. In many parts of the country, summer is the shortest season of the year. You probably don't need a large collection of work clothes to get you dressed and out the door looking (and feeling!) like a pro.

Get groomed. Don't let your personal grooming routine go on vacation while you're still expected at work. For instance, showing up to any professional business engagement unshaven or with wet hair can signal that you are unorganized, lazy or lack common sense. The best part about personal grooming — it doesn't have to cost a lot and allows you to show respect for yourself, which instantly shows respect for others.

Be consistent year-round. Finally, no matter your work style (or the time of year), there is a lot to be said about being consistent. Anchor yourself into a stable image that represents the most capable image of you every day of the week. You'll brand yourself (as well as the company you represent) as reliable and serious about getting your job done.

Last Word
Work doesn't stop in the summer months. Your professional image shouldn't stop working for you either. Taking the time early in the season to go through your closet to retire items that no longer work while noting what you need to add to get you out the door faster and appropriately dressed for the day ahead is time well spent. When you shop in your closet first, shopping at the store is more efficient and cost effective.

Mary Lou Andre is a nationally recognized wardrobe, dress code and corporate image consultant, speaker and author. She is founder and president of Organization By Design, Inc., a Needham, Massachusetts-based wardrobe management, fashion and image consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations understand the power of being appropriately dressed in a variety of situations. For more great tips and information, visit

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