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Look cool when it's boiling hot: A guide to office dressing in a heatwave

Linen, fans and lots of endless iced drinks - the best way to keep cool when your office is like a furnace
Linen, fans and lots of endless iced drinks - the best way to keep cool when your office is like a furnace Copyright Euronews/Canva/Zara/Massimo Dutti/Mango
Copyright Euronews/Canva/Zara/Massimo Dutti/Mango
By Saskia O'Donoghue
Published on
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This July has been one of the hottest on record - and the summer's not over yet. Euronews Culture spoke to fashion experts to get their advice on how to look professional in the office when it's almost too hot to function and we're sharing their knowledge with you.

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Is your hot girl - or guy - summer getting a little too literal?

Following one of the hottest July's on record, we’re all longing to sit in the shade, by a large body of cool water, wearing as little as possible.

In a cruel twist of fate, many of us are still stuck in the office, melting as the mercury keeps climbing.

If your brain is simply too addled by the constant planning of how to keep your electrolytes up to be able to give heatwave office outfits any thought, we’re here to help.

Getty/Edward Berthelot
Street style inspiration at Paris Fashion Week in JuneGetty/Edward Berthelot

Loose clothing: A must

“Choosing outfits for the office when it is really hot can be tricky and rather depends on how strict your workplace is about what you wear”, Laura See, founder of luxury shoe brand Laura See London tells Euronews Culture.

Whether you’re in a traditional, some might say stuffy, corporate environment or more of a casual Friday-leaning workplace, loose clothing is always your best friend at this time of year.

Even if your dress code is particularly inflexible, it’s possible to put the close-fitting suits away until autumn.

Getty/Edward Berthelot
Influencer Natalia Verza ticks all the boxes for hot weather dressingGetty/Edward Berthelot

Caley Henry, a buyer at British institution Marks & Spencer, recommends sticking to a simple colour palette if your more structured clothing is hanging in your wardrobe until the first leaves start to fall.

“Playing with proportions is an easy way to get monochromatic dressing right – a voluminous blouse adds lightness to belted shorts and chunky sandals”, Henry explains, adding, “Complete the look with a roomy tote to stow all your day-to-day essentials”.

This summer, as seen on countless catwalks including the vast examples at Louis Vuitton, the bigger the better is where it’s at when it comes to bags. Pack your iced water, facial spray and fans - multiple, if needed - and you don’t need to overthink whether or not your loose outfit has pockets or not.

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images
The correct way to wear shorts: Influencer Jean Claude MpassyJeremy Moeller/Getty Images

Henry mentions shorts as a staple for a woman’s office wardrobe during a heatwave and while we’d advise shying away from anything cut too much above the knee, they’re an excellent option, especially when teamed with a loose blouse for maximum airflow.

They’re a great choice for men, too. Alexandra of Alexandra Wood Bespoke, who styles, designs and tailors exclusively for men on London’s iconic Savile Row agrees: “During a heatwave it’s also acceptable to wear shorts, just make sure they’re tailored and cotton”.

Don’t let shoes be an afterthought

“As a rule of thumb: reserve flip flops for poolside settings only”, says Caley Henry.

It’s often tempting to kick our shoes off entirely when suffering in the heat but, sadly, that’s rarely an appropriate solution in an office.

“Heat escapes from our head and feet but that doesn't mean that flip flops or possibly even sliders are suitable footwear for summer”, Susie Nelson, style expert and founder of Modes and More tells Euronews Culture, adding, “There are lots of smart sandals, espadrilles and loafers that can be worn in the office”.

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While the choices are endless, Laura See has, in our opinion, got the answer.

"When it comes to choosing shoes I would always recommend wearing a pair that are made from natural products like leather, as they will allow your feet to breathe and not sweat as much as they would if you wear a pair made from manmade materials”, the shoe designer explains.

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Model David Gandy embraces a smart but not stuffy loaferKirstin Sinclair/Getty Images

Loafers or perhaps a smart boat shoe are ideal for men. See’s advice? “No one wants to see hairy toes at the best of times, so to keep your feet cool, opt for smart light suede loafers or, if acceptable, smart sneakers”.

And for women? “Open toed mules are the best as they are easy to slip on and off and allow the air to flow over your feet which will help to keep them cool,” says See.

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Cool feet: Influencer Natalia Verza in comfortable, airy mulesGetty/Edward Berthelot

Comfortable smart sandals are almost as good as flip flops for those of you bound to comfort but, if your office has a strict no-toes-whatsoever policy, the best bet is to opt for a closed-toe mule.

Laura See London
Laura See recommends a pair of closed-toe loafers for stricter office dress codesLaura See London

They’re easy and speedy to slide on and off, making them the perfect choice to cool your feet down at your desk.  

Natural fabrics are key

When it comes to fabric choices, avoid polyester - that is all. Sadly, that’s not the case but it is a rule to absolutely follow in a heatwave.

There’s nothing worse in unbearable temperatures than underestimating how hot it really is and realising your dressed head-to-toe in synthetic fabrics.

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Alexandra Wood Bespoke advises her male clients, who want to look hot while keeping cool, to do the following: “Wear pure cottons and linen blends. Shirts made from pure fabrics help to cool the body down. Any hint of polyester traps heat and makes matters worse”.

Sleeper
Light linen pieces are ideal - but keep an eye on hemlinesSleeper

For women, a cream linen suit is a great investment piece. Ukrainian brand Sleeper makes a particularly special three piece which comes with a scalloped jacket and interchangeable shorts or trousers, depending how scorching it is when you’re getting dressed.

Susie Nelson recommends another solution - sleeveless dresses and tops are ideal for averting dreaded sweat patches.

She does have a warning though for those daring to bare a little more: “One last piece of advice - be careful with off the shoulder tops, as you can appear naked from the other side of the PC!”  

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Colours: Go bright or light - and avoid dark tones

It is often tempting to pull on a black or navy linen dress or suit just to avoid thinking too much about what to wear on a baking hot day but ‘tis the season to stand out.

“There’s nothing we love more than a show stopping dress on a summer day, especially one that’s cool, roomy and easy to wear”, explains Caley Henry, adding, “you’re guaranteed to pull an airy maxi dress out of your wardrobe time and time again, so why not up the ante with bold colours?”

Getty/Edward Berthelot
A vision in monochrome: Influencer Diane Batoukina keeps cool in ParisGetty/Edward Berthelot

If you’re the kind of person who has a wardrobe full of neutrals or loves nothing more than wearing all the colours of the rainbow, that advice is preaching to the converted.

But if you’re more of the type who can’t wait for the muted tones of autumn fashion, may we suggest the colour of the summer - lavender.

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“Light colours work better in the summer as they absorb less heat”
Susie Nelson
Style expert and founder of Modes and More

Shades of lavender are - quite literally - everywhere and on everybody and usually subtle enough for even the most colour-averse.

If that’s going too far, stick to neutrals - whites, creams, beiges - as much as possible. While black looks chic at all times, the fact that it absorbs heat makes it a bad idea for boiling environments - avoid.

Layering isn’t just for the shoulder seasons - and that includes underwear

Your office may be unfamiliar with the very concept of air conditioning but, as temperatures continue to shoot up, many are being forced to install it.

This, of course, creates another clothing dilemma, especially when you’re experiencing vastly different temperatures throughout the day.

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David Thorpe/Getty Images
Ahead of her time: Jane Birkin wearing a sweater around her shoulders in the '70sDavid Thorpe/Getty Images

Susie Nelson has a solution: “One tip for staying cool and chic is layering. Staff working in cities usually commute on hot underground trains and crowded buses and will then arrive in a much cooler office environment”, she explains, adding, “the option to add or remove layers makes it a breeze to adapt to changing temperatures”.

Christian Vierig/Getty
A modern take on a summer layering classic: Influencer Mandy Bork in BerlinChristian Vierig/Getty

A favourite workaround for Euronews Culture is tying a sweater loosely around the shoulders. Inspired by the late, great Jane Birkin’s style in the ‘60s and ‘70s, countless influencers have adopted the look which gives an air of effortlessness to every outfit.

Caley Henry suggests one particular hero piece for an office wardrobe in high summer: a sleeveless jumpsuit.

It’s “the perfect bridge between office-friendly and summer suitable clothing… Wear it with a cardigan or lightweight blazer for fool-proof layering”, she says.

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Christian Vierig/Getty
Surviving July in Paris: designer Athena Calderone opts for a chic sleeveless jumpsuitChristian Vierig/Getty

Our last piece of advice? Be extra careful with underwear. If you’re effectively a sweaty blob running to catch the train to your office, it might be the last thing on your mind - but mishaps are more frequent than you might think.

“Check your undergarments aren’t visible through the fabric - flesh coloured or white are best”, suggests Susie Nelson.

Now you have our advice on how to keep cool while looking your very best from top to toe - and literally everywhere in between. All we can do is wish you the best of luck in achieving it. We’re off for a lie down in a freezer!

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