Trying to look stylish at work in the summer shouldn’t be as frustrating as it is. It’s sweltering outside and office temperatures make Pluto seem like a warm planet. It would be easier to get a dog to do arithmetic than it is to find clothing with even the hint of a sleeve and it’s hard to layer in a way that looks purposeful vs. like a pile of laundry. There are just so many variables to consider and it can be really hard to check off all these boxes when putting together stylish and functional summer work outfits.

Of course, there are a few solutions, albeit not great ones. I have worked with clients who bring space heaters to work and many who keep a cardigan on the back of their chair. The cardigan solution is smart, but it’s hard to find one that works universally with whatever you are wearing. You can dress in warmer clothes at the office, but what happens when you leave? Perhaps I am extra sensitive to this because I have melted on un-air-conditioned subway platforms and know how miserable that can be and I also think of women who run around to different appointments. Thawing out in the heat after a long work day of freezing is pleasant for just so long before it starts to feel stifling.

Summer Work Outfits

With all that said, putting together summer work outfits takes some forethought. Below, I have put together some outfits with this thinking in mind.

Outfit #1

summer work outfits

It can be impossible to find a top or dress with sleeves. Here is why they are important in the summer: while sleeveless makes sense because of the heat, you want to make sure you can remove a layering piece if you are out in the hot weather. If you aren’t comfortable exposing your arms, this can be a problem. Sleeves solve this issue as you can comfortably take your layering pieces on and off without worry. Next, consider the type of sleeves. If you require extra layers in a cold office, make sure you can put something over the sleeves you wear. You will notice that all the outfits in this post have sleeves and they are all sleeve styles that can be layered.

In this first more conservative look, I styled this taupe short sleeve BOSS dress with a blush pink blazer from Donna Karan. I finished the outfit with a pair of taupe low heel pumps from Sole Society and Akoya pearl drop earrings.

Outfit #2

This is a layered look for a business casual workplace. The open cropped cardigan from Nordstrom adds a layer of warmth over a cap sleeve top from Boden. The cardigan can easily be thrown in a bag when outdoors while adding some warmth in an overly air-conditioned office. I styled the look with a pair of wide-leg cropped pants from Judith & Charles and I finished the outfit with a pair of leopard sandals from Vince Camuto (probably not the best choice if you suffer from cold feet) and a basic gold pendant from Madewell.

Outfit #3

A sweater would be an obvious choice for a cold work environment…until you step outside. Then what? In the spirit of getting the best of both worlds, I styled this look– a short sleeve sweater that is layered with a cardigan.

This short sleeve sweater style from Halogen has sleeves that makes it easy to layer a cardigan over it. I added a cardigan from Madewell and styled these pieces with wide leg pants from J. Crew. They’re full-length pants which can be a lifesaver in super cold office environments. I finished the look with a pair of red pumps from Linea Paolo and a blue necklace from Ela Rae.

Outfit #4

I was hesitant to style a skirt in this post because they can be so tricky to wear in the summer. If a skirt is too short, you either freeze your legs off in the air conditioning or suffer through wearing stockings. Long skirts can be an option, but the pickings can be slim, particularly for a more polished look.

I settled on this striped midi skirt from Akris Punto that is long enough to offer some leg coverage while also being professional enough for some work environments. I added a soft blue Akris Punto scoop neck t-shirt and layered a silk net cardigan over it. The look is finished with an orange pair of sandals from Naturalizer and blue hoop earrings from Alexis Bittar.

Outfit #5

I styled this last look using a jumpsuit. A style that can be versatile for work if styled right. It’s not easy finding jumpsuits but I found this style from CAARA that I styled with a cropped jacket from Theory and finished with a pair of taupe sandals from Söfft and a statement necklace from Chico’s.

With all that needs to be considered, summer work outfits can be tricky to put together. I hope these suggestions help you navigate it.