The warm (and wet) weather workwear guide 

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Hot, sticky and oh so sweaty – Frankie Graddon on what to wear to work this summer  

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By Frankie Graddon on

Stood on the Tube this morning, body temperature hotter than my oven and sweat beading on my back, I looked around at the rest of the people wilting in my carriage and came to the conclusion that working in the summer sucks. Of course, there are the sticky commutes, the stuffy offices (God help those without air con) and the irritatingly frequent instance when it’s glorious all morning, then pissing it down on your lunch break. But the real kicker about summer working is getting dressed. I mean, what exactly are we supposed to wear? 

If you happen to work in an office, then this time of the year is pretty much impossible. While the shops are high on perfect summer dresses and beachy cover-ups, the matter of what to wear to work without melting by lunchtime or flashing a boob tends to get sidelined. It’s all well and good knowing that one shoulder is the new cold shoulder, but if both need to be covered during Thursday’s strategy presentation, then what, eh? 

“All I want is a pair of smart sandals, tops that don’t look too revealing and nice light jackets. But finding that is really difficult,” my HR friend told me, when I brought up the subject. “Basically, I sweat for the entire summer,” said another mate who, for her job as a lawyer, is looking for an airy yet smart dress in a dark colour, but having no luck. Working in the anything-goes world of fashion, you’d think I’d be immune to such wardrobe headaches, but alas. I still remember the time I wore a breezy cream-culottes-and-camisole outfit to work only to walk into the office toilets and discover the entire thing was see-through. Mortifying.   

Lessons learnt (namely, look in a full-length mirror FRONT AND BACK before leaving the house) and, with my friends’ summer-dressing issues in mind, I’ve put together a work-appropriate, weather-friendly edit.

The sweaty-commute shirt 

If you have the misfortune of getting on rush-hour public transport this summer, then you will know what it is to arrive at work with sweat patches down to your shoelaces. Many claim that a cool, silky shirt is the solution to this – however, I would disagree. Silk shows sweat like a demon and is a bugger to wash. Instead, I say go cotton – both breathable and washable, plus it dries quickly if you get caught in the rain. 

If you haven’t yet checked out ME + EM, then do – a brilliant brand for grown-up, smart and stylish clothes. The Lightest Ever Summer Shirt (£79) is 100 per cent cotton and, with a relaxed fit, promises maximum waft-ability. Wear loose over wide-leg trousers or culottes. If your office permits a summery print, then have a look at & Other Stories’ seashell shirt (£65, cotton with a hint of silk, but still machine washable), or try Baukjen’s blue stripe, masculine-cut version (£99), which has a little bit of stretch. 




The stuffy-meeting-room dress

OK, this one is for my lawyer friend Lucy – where to find a breezy dress that’s smart enough for work? Answer: COS. This season, the Swedish brand has well and truly nailed smart summer frocks. My favourite is the gingham shirt dress  (£79), which comes in 100 per cent cotton and with pockets. Wear with smart black sandals (more on which later). If you don’t mind a flappy sleeve, then Kitri’s side-tie Katy dress (£95) has one of the best stripes on the high street, while ME + EM’s Georgette Double Layer dress (£135) manages to balance floaty with formal. Not a dress person? Check out Warehouse’s brilliant jumpsuit selection. 






The humid/wet-morning jacket 

The matter of light jackets is always a tricky one, even more so when they need to be smart, thus ruling out denim, the fail-safe back-up. You can’t go too far wrong with a blazer (this season is all about double breasted) in a light fabric like M&S’ chambray one (£55). Kimono jackets are big news this season, but also work a treat for summer-office situations, being both loose-fit and smart. Mango’s printed style (£59.99) comes with matching trousers. Finally, for when it’s bucketing it down, check out Zara’s hooded, waterproof parka (£49.99). 



The sweltering-office culottes

As well as being an incredibly “in” trouser shape, culottes are one of the best ways to tackle summer-work dressing. All the airiness of a skirt, but with the practicality of trousers, plus good with most shoes (sandals, flats, trainers etc). If your office errs on the side of formal, then Whistles’ polka-dot culottes (currently down from £119 to £95.20) or Reiss’ tailored culottes (£125) will fit the bill. However, if jazziness is licensed, then both Finery’s flower print culottes (£79) and Jigsaw’s stripe cropped trousers (£98) would look brilliant with a white shirt or smart, linen T-shirt.



The sticky-afternoon sandals

While this summer’s sliders are fantastic poolside, they are very much not fantastic desk-side. Just ask my colleague who, last summer, lost her left one on the way into work after it slid off and disappeared down the train platform gap. She had to quite literally hop home and re-shoe. To avoid such dramatics, I’d suggest sandals with an ankle strap. COS’ flat twist-front sandals (£89) feel summery without showing too much toe, while & Other Stories' burgundy sandals (£69) have a doable block heel for when height is required. If you can’t be bothered to paint your nails, then Topshop has the most brilliant pair of closed-toe, embroidered sandals (£46) which would work with the aforementioned culottes, as well as jeans at the weekend.




The boiling-lunchtime top 

Sitting in the park at lunchtime sweating your whatsits off? There’s a top for that – something light in fabric, covering of shoulder and stylish in design. Kitri’s polka-dot shirt (£75) would look great with a pair of high-waisted navy trousers, as would Warehouse's blush-pink smock blouse (£36). Whistles’ pyjama shirt (£189), while pricey, has the most fantastic floral print and doubles up as a jacket when worn open over a T-shirt or camisole. It also has a matching pair of trousers which together makes the loveliest summery suit. 



And the extras...








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