Looking professional and feeling comfortable at work can be a struggle for many, especially during the summertime. We all work in a variety of different settings. Some are very hands-on and can even be messy, while others are inside freezing cold offices. I’m here today to help you find a realistic outfit inspiration that you can wear to work until the cooler temperatures begin. First let’s discuss some of the many issues that can arise when you try to find that middle ground between looking professional and feeling comfy.
I asked a number of family members and friends to share some of their annoyances when it comes to getting dressed for work. Personally, on the days when I feel (and look) my worst, I run out of time to get ready in the morning. I usually grab an outfit that is quick and easy, and I don’t worry too much about how it looks. I generally want to be comfy and not too dressy because I teach kindergarten. I don’t like wearing heels because I’m on my feet all day and could step on children when I’m teaching on the rug. Here are some other common issues that were mentioned by my friends.
- “When I dress for work, I always find it hard to find that casual yet professional look. I want to be comfy because not only is my job very hands-on with the clients, but I am helping clients in the restroom as well. I have trouble with shoes too.”
- “My first thought is wanting to be comfortable and look professional at the same time. My second thought is that once I find those outfits, I tend to wear them repeatedly and get stuck in a rut.”
- “Finding the right shoes to go with my outfit annoys me. I want to be in style, but also have my outfit be comfy and quick. Sometimes I’m unsure of which colors go together or which style pants would go with my outfits.”
- “Matching dress pants to shoes annoys me, and when my bra shows through my shirts.”
- “Well one thing is I don’t want to have to worry about cleavage. I don’t have time because I don’t wake up early enough. I never know what to wear because it could be freezing or super hot in the building.”
1. Finding the Right Shoes for Your Outfit
So, I get that many outfits would look more professional wearing heels or pumps. However, that is just not realistic for me (and I’m sure for many of you) to wear them every single day. I made an infographic to help you choose which style of shoe would work best with your outfits for work. In the infographic, 4 different types of shoes are listed: sandals, heels, flats, and pumps. For heels, I specifically meant open-toed heels, and pumps are closed-toed heels. Flats would also include mules like the ones pictured.
In terms of color, black shoes tend to look great with any color, except for maybe pastels. I like to wear taupe or metallic shoes with pastel colors and earthy tones such as green, brown, yellow, orange, or red. My favorite colors to pair with an outfit to make it classy and chic are tan or light brown. In a previous blog post, I discussed how to dress up a plain tank and tee (here). I wore tan sandals and a crossbody purse with a black tank top and cut-off shorts, and I think the color of the accessories really made the rest of the outfit stand out. When deciding between silver or gold metallic shoes, think about which color of jewelry you would be most likely to wear with your outfit. If your shoes are colorful, you can try matching them to one piece of your outfit. You can also match bright tones (orange) to other bright tones (yellow, hot pink, cobalt blue), or pastels to pastels. I love bright shoes with black and white outfits in particular. You could also use the color wheel to help you pair your shoes to your outfit. Colors that are analogous are next to each other on the color wheel (blue, green) and will create a subtler look. On the other hand, complementary colors, which are across from each other on the color wheel (blue, orange), will create a bolder appearance.
One of my biggest issues this year with selecting shoes is how difficult it seems to find shoes that are cute that don’t kill your feet. My general rules for selecting shoes for work are that my heels need to be under 3″ and I have to be able to make it through a whole day of work without my feet hurting (some trial and error is involved). If my shoes don’t make the cut, I reserve them for non-teaching days. One of the brands that I love is LifeStride. They are usually cushioned on the inside, but look like normal, fashionable shoes.
2. Covering Up Your Cleavage
I generally like to wear camisoles underneath my outfits, just so I have an additional layer before my cleavage and bra. I know that when it’s hot, that may be the last thing that you want to do. Apparently you can wear a bralette (an unstructured bra) under your top OR over top your normal bra. When you bend over, you will see the bralette, but it will block off most of your cleavage! My other suggestion is to wear a nude-colored bra so that it does not show through your clothing.
3. Layering for the Office
If you work in an environment that is freezing or hot, you may want to pack some additional layers so that you can add or subtract as needed during the work day. My favorite layering pieces are blazers, fly-away cardigans, button-front cardigans, kimonos, and denim jackets (if you are allowed to wear them). I did a post earlier this year about different ways to wear blazers (here), if you need more blazer inspiration. If I’m feeling chilly, I also like to layer with a blanket scarf or regular scarf. For some reason, keeping my neck warm seems to make the rest of me a whole lot warmer!
4. Professional & Comfy Outfits for Work
Loose blouse with ankle pants
I really love wearing ankle pants with voluminous tops. It creates balance between my upper and lower body, because my shoulders are fairly narrow and my hips are larger. Ankle pants also look great with striped tops, button-front tops, cardigans, peplum tops, sleeveless tops, and blazers. Remember that most of the shoe options that we mentioned earlier look pretty great with ankle-length pants. I love wearing my taupe heels with white pants.
Form-fitting top or bodysuit with wide-leg pants
The balance of this outfit is the opposite of the first outfit. When my pants are wide leg, I find that the outfit looks much better (and not sloppy) when the top is more form-fitting. You can wear a short-sleeved blouse like this, button-front top, bodysuit, sleeveless turtleneck, or sleeveless top with a blazer over it. Wide-leg pants are usually high-waist too, so I find that it looks more proportionate when you tuck your shirt into the pants. I have to wear heels, pumps, or wedges with my wide-leg pants, because otherwise I will trip all over myself.
On-the-knee skirt and short-sleeved top
If you want tuck your shirt into a more form-fitting skirt, like a pencil skirt, you have to make sure that there are no bulges. Otherwise, it just looks messy and frumpy. You can wear your shirt untucked, however if you do, you should belt your middle. Untucking your shirt automatically makes your torso appear longer, and your legs shorter, so belting your middle can return some balance to your figure. Here are my super cute rose gold mules from Forever 21. See how I matched them to my top?
Long vest and ankle pants
This is one of my favorite outfits from today, and it was super comfortable! I love how long vests look with ankle pants. I also was thrilled that I could wear sandals with it too. You can wear your long vest belted or open. New York & Company has a really cute light pink one right now!
White top with black/white pants
If you have a color scheme that you really like, you can mix and match pieces very easily. I love black, white, and red all together. I love a plain white top with black and white patterned pants and red shoes. This top (from New York & Company) is so versatile and I’ve been able to wear it with so many things already. Solid color tops (especially black or white) look great with any patterned pants.
Tee and midi skirt
I swear that I have never worn this outfit together before, but I loved it so much. When you’re mixing separates, a solid color skirt or pants look great with a patterned tee, or vice versa. Here is an example of the primary color scheme (blue, red, yellow), and how brights pair nicely with other brights. This outfit is so comfy, that I’m still wearing it as I sit here writing to you. I could definitely see myself wearing it to school!
I hope that this blog post was helpful and solved some of your work outfit dilemmas. I feel like I expanded my own thoughts and ideas about what could be work-appropriate in the summertime. Which look was your favorite? Are there any additional tips you have for me about how you dress professionally and comfortably?
Until next time…