As the warmer months approach many of us are wondering ‘can you wear summer dresses to work’, and if so, which kind?
I found myself asking this question the first summer I spent at my corporate job, and after researching online the answer was unclear. Luckily, after spending years working as a recruiter and interviewing people for jobs, I know much more about workwear dress codes now than I did first going into the business world. So, I decided to create a little summer dresses workwear guide and publish it here, to help answer the question!
Depending on your company’s dress code (business professional withstanding) you can absolutely wear summer dresses to work. Make sure your summer dress is of a conservative fit, knee length and of an appropriate pattern and colour. Pair with smart heels and a tailored cropped blazer to finish the look with style.
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Summer Dress Work Style Rules
There are a few rules to keep in mind when deciding which summer dresses qualify as office wear:
- Number 1 – what is your company’s dress code? If it is business casual then summer dresses are perfectly fine to wear into the office. If it is business professional this is not the case, and you should stick to dresses of a tailored fit and made with high quality suit material or tweed.
- Number 2 – make sure your summer dress is made from a high quality material and is immaculate. Avoid t-shirt dresses or jersey dresses as these appear too casual for an office environment. Instead choose summer dresses of a good quality cotton, linen or high grade nylon fibres. The material shouldn’t ‘bobble’ after washing and should remain looking smart.
- Number 3 – your dress must have an appropriate style, with a conservative neckline and sleeves. Avoid wearing strappy or revealing summer dresses in an office environment as this will appear too casual. If you have a strappy summer dress that you would really like to wear into the office pair it with a light cardigan or a summery tailored blazer to cover your shoulders.
- Number 4 – check the length of your summer dress before wearing it into the office. To be safe avoid hemlines that fall above the knee and instead choose a midi length dress for a more professional appearance.
- Number 5 – the colour and pattern of your dress must be appropriate for an office environment. Avoid anything to bright, like neon, that would be better suited to the beach. Choose simple floral patterns or polka dot patterns and avoid wording or symbols.
Here is a good example of an office appropriate, business casual summer dress:
I styled the above orange floral midi dress with black accessories and sandals. I would perhaps switch out the sandal for heels, that would be more suitable for the office.
This dress qualifies perfectly for a business casual office, as it follows the dress code guidelines I outlined above.
- The sleeves and neckline are of an appropriate style
- The dress is of midi length
- The pattern is pretty but not too flashy
- The material is of a good quality
- It would pair well with heels and a tailored blazer
Even though this dress fits the bill for a business casual company dress code it is always best to double check with your employer to be on the safe side. Sometimes business casual may mean something a little different to each company, and often business will have their own definition. Don’t be afraid to ask a manager or senior for a copy of the written dress code ahead of summer.
For more tips on styling midi dresses, check out: How to Style a Midi Dress in Summer
How to wear a summer dress to work in the winter
In winter you can wear summer dresses to work as long as they pair well with tights and blazers for warmth. Choose a summer dress that will compliment the colour black, to match with tights and black office heels.
In the below image I styled an orange summer wrap dress with black tights and a black tweed style jacket:
This summer dress breaks the office rules slightly as it is above the knee, however when paired with tights it’s absolutely fine. The rest of the outfit is conservative and perfect for a business casual dress code. If you want to dress it up even further, switch out the black ankle boots for black office heels.
Keep accessories to a minimum and pair with a simple bag to look polished.
For more tips on styling dresses in winter, check out: 10 Ways to Style Dresses in Winter
Best summer dresses for work
The best summer dresses for work are midi length dresses, of a simple pattern or colour. Look for dresses with a conservative neckline and of a nice quality material.
Here are a few of my top summer dresses picks for the office:
Anne Klein Women’s Midi Dress with Attached Sash
This stunning 100% cotton midi dress from Anne Klein is a perfect example of an office appropriate summer dress. It’s very classy and made from high quality material, with a conservative cut that will flatter all body types. The pattern is timeless and will look good for years to come.
Tommy Hilfiger Women’s Chiffon Midi Dress
This chiffon midi dress by Tommy Hilfiger is another gorgeous example of a conservative yet super classy summer dress that would look great in an office environment. Beat the heat and still look pristine and put-together in this flowy floral style.
How to style a summer dress for work
When styling a summer dress for work it’s best to choose items of clothing and shoes that compliment the colour and pattern of the dress.
Match your heels to the colour of the dress and finish the look with a lightweight smart cardigan or a light summery tailored blazer. Don’t feel you need to stick to black heels and a black blazer in order to look professional. In summer you can wear blazers and heels of lighter colours, such as a light grey, a light blue, ochre or even a dusty pink.
Choose a blazer of super lightweight material, that won’t feel stuffy on summer days. Most offices with have air conditioning so this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if you are worried you can buy little stick on sweat guards for the underarms of your blazer.
These can be found on amazon here:
I find adding sweat guards into my jackets, dresses and cardigans in summer is a lifesaver! It definitely saves me a dry cleaning bill at the end of the season and helps your garments last longer.
Thank you for reading this ‘Can You Wear Summer Dresses to Work?’ guide – I hope you now feel confident to head to your wardrobe and style your summer dresses for the office.
For more office fashion tips, check out:
Are Dresses Appropriate for Interviews?
How to Style a Midi Dress in Summer
Are Dresses Business Casual? – Style Guide
Lorna is a footwear geek and the founder of Wearably Weird. She created a YouTube channel in 2021 for fellow footwear fanatics, dedicated to detail-rich footwear reviews and info. She has a fashion media qualification (awarded in 2011).