When it comes to summer workwear, the onus is on textiles. Workwear isn’t always associated with the most breathable of fabrics. Typically, power dressing alludes to heavily tailored mixes, single-breasted blazers and pinstripes. Growing up, I’d watch films like Baby Boom in awe. The female protagonists with their weighty padded shoulders and bulging briefcases symbolised the high-powered working woman. Although the attire was of that time, it’s what I considered typical workwear. School-uniform dressing didn’t help either. We’re conditioned into thinking that clothing should look and feel a certain way to be deemed smart.
Although those items have their place, there’s an opportunity to make your workwear as fruitful as your off-duty looks. There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to workwear, which is ironic given the aforementioned tighter perimeters we ascribed to. Of course, in most cases, formality is expected, but you can adhere to boundaries whilst finding your footing and the pieces you feel most align with your style. During the summer, the weather allows for looser-fitting textures and subtle flashes of skin—a turned-up sleeve here, an ankle-skimming length there, a button undone when the office air-con doesn’t quite suffice.
Summer is a good time for a wardrobe assessment. The past few years have seen fashion releases reflect the state of the world and the transition from loungewear to back-the-office wear. Now, tailoring in natural fibres such as linen and lyocell are trickling into the market. In addition to them being eco-friendlier, those materials allow for some movement. You’ve likely seen that 2023 is the year of the lightweight waistcoat, which is perfect for light layering.
You mightn’t think workwear is the most exhilarating, but there’s much fun to be had. It’s an opportunity to highlight accessories and play with lengths, texture and jewellery. If you’re worried about materials, don’t fret. I always make sure my edits have a high percentage of natural fibres so you won’t be left with the cloying feeling of work trousers sticking to your body on humid days in the office. If you’re feeling uninspired by your summer workwear wardrobe, or just want to have a peek at some outfit inspiration, keep on scrolling.
1. Heat-Proof Tailoring
Style Notes: Unless this is the first story you've ever read on Who What Wear (if so, welcome!), then you'll know how much we love tailoring. But in weather like this, it has to be realistic. Ditch your trousers for shorts or blazers for waistcoats, and enjoy the breeze.
2. Slip Skirt and a Tank Top
Style Notes: A silky midi and a tank is perhaps one of my favourite (and the most effortless) work looks, and for days when a blazer is too warm, I layer with a white cotton shirt. You can easily wear this from the office to date night. Tuck in the vest, and wear the skirt high. Why not add a hair bow?
3. A Linen Two-Piece
Style Notes: Swap your wool suit for a linen one, or for a more relaxed look, opt for a co-ord. Either way, doubling up on the linen will keep you cool when the weather isn't.
4. Go Nude (Not Literally)
Style Notes: Everyone knows you're supposed to wear lighter colours to reflect the heat, and as much as I love summer black, I'll take any excuse to dress in the nude (the colour). Be it creamy off-whites, beige or shades of brown, the idea is to keep it the same head to toe.