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Sweltering Summer Heat and Frigid Air-Conditioned Offices

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A heat wave seems to be sweeping the country, and temperatures are soaring even into the triple digits. All you want to do is turn the fan on and sit around in your swimsuit. Or, perhaps if you live in one of the thirty-four U.S. cities named “Springfield,” all you want to do is set up a tent in front of the refrigerator until the motor explodes.

Simpsons, Bart of   Darkness, 20th Century FOX

No one wants to eat those frozen vegetables, that’s for sure.

But unfortunately, you can’t sit around and do all that: you have to go to work. You have to drag yourself out of the house at 7AM, when the temperatures are suspiciously and almost uncomfortably high already, sit in a freezing office for four hours, head out into the heat to grab a quick bite, head back to the office and wrestle your keyboard away from polar bears for another 3 hours, then trek on home as everything melts onto the pavement around you.

Dressing for the summer can be a problem. After all, you’re going from sweltering heat to frigid air-conditioned offices and back again. You don’t want to sweat through your work clothes before you even arrive, and it turns out that clients don’t appreciate it when your teeth chatter throughout the conference call – something about how if they’re paying you all this money, they want to at least be able to understand you. Picky, picky.

So how can you beat the heat and not turn into an icicle in your workspace? (Or…at your treadmill desk?) Easy!

First, think about your fabrics. Like most people, you probably have a separate winter wardrobe and a separate summer wardrobe, with some things (cardigans, light sweaters, and so on) that work with both. Look closely at your summer wardrobe and the fabrics that the items are made of. In summer, you absolutely want to avoid anything made of polyester or rayon or some awkward blend. Go with natural fabrics like cotton, linen, and sometimes silk. (It depends on the item – some silk pieces are great in the heat and others are stiflingly hot.)

Once you’ve weeded out everything but the linen, cotton, and silk, consider your colors. Think back to general science in elementary school: dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it. That’s why we’re told not to wear white after Labor Day: at that point in the year, temperatures are starting to cool off and white colors reflect the heat instead of trapping it and keeping us warm. Of course, that’s one of those things no one cares about anymore (nor should one care) because most of us pay our heating bills every month and don’t have to worry about trapping heat.

However, you’re also going to be in a cold office all day. I absolutely cannot survive in a cold office or classroom without a cardigan (and sometimes a cute scarf looped around my neck), but I always ditch it in my locker or my drawer when I head out for lunch. After all, it’s well established that all women, everywhere, are cold all the time. The Founding Fathers almost included that in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they mused, “that all mean are created equal, and all women are cold all the time.”

To help you out a bit when it comes to putting together a work-appropriate ensemble that will keep you warm in the office and cool when you’re heading out for a quick sushi run, I put together two different outfits, in two different price ranges.

Remember, some of the articles I use in examples like these are meant as illustrations: if I post about a $15 pair of brown pants, I’m presuming that you already have a far nicer pair of brown pants in your wardrobe already that you can substitute in. When I post about $10 pearls, I’m obviously presuming that you have the real deal in your jewelry box already, and am just using the fake ones to hit my price benchmark.

TOTAL: $98.99

Cotton Poplin Surplice Dress ………. $19.99
Boyfriend Cardigan in Fuchsia ………. $44
Sejkora Flat in Light Pink ………. $35

I will always try to suit different price ranges with whatever outfits I create, and this one is for those of you that are a little strapped for cash right now, coming in at just under $100.

I picked a simple but pretty cotton dress in these lovely summer colors. It’s not a blend or some weird mix; it’s just plain cotton. It’s sleeveless (remember the sunscreen) and will definitely keep you from overheating when you’re running out to get a bite to eat.

In the office, however, you’re going to freeze if you sit around in this little get-up. For this reason, I threw in this beautiful fuchsia sweater. Such a bright, happy, eye-catching color that would normally feel too matchy-matchy to me, but I like it a lot in spite of that. It’s 100% merino wool, meaning that the wool fibers are spun in such a way as to create little pockets that trap air and body heat and is going to keep you nice and cozy in even the coldest office.

I’ve found that flats work best in the summer. You can’t realistically show up to work in flip-flops (darn!), so those are out, and who really wants to plod across steaming pavement in cumbersome heels? Spare me. Flats work very well just for the comfort factor alone, and closed toe shoes like these from Nine West are preferred for the workplace because no one wants to see your toes all day.

Let’s move on to an outfit for a slightly larger budget:

TOTAL: $258.42

Faconnable Cotton & Linen Pants ………. $77.90
PRADA Silk Top in Blue ………. $138
Cable Knit Cardigan in Cream ………. $19.80
LifeStride Pump in Navy ………. $23.62

Yes, yes, you don’t need to say it: It’s totally ridiculous to wear a Prada top with a sweater from Forever21. Cringe-worthy, really. I know this. I’m merely trying to hit in the ballpark of a $250 budget and needed to rein it in somewhere, hence the Prada and the Forever21. Please, put down your pitchforks, ladies.

I wanted to put together an outfit involving pants for those of you that prefer them. I picked this pair of cotton and linen blend pants that really fit the bill for summer attire. First, fabric: cotton and linen. We’ve discussed this. Second, khaki colored instead of black, which is preferable, even though I am by no means saying not to wear black pants in the summer, just so we’re clear. Third, these aren’t skinny or tailored trousers: the cuffs are wide and billowy, which will also help keep you cool under the summer sun.

For the top, I went with a fluttery quarter-sleeved 100% silk tunic top. I picked a tunic because it’s long and billowy, and silk because it’s one of those great natural fabrics that breathes. It’s got sleeves, so you won’t feel self-conscious when you duck out of the office for lunch or a little walk without a cover up.

If you’re self-conscious about perspiration, though, throw on a light cotton tank underneath the top to wick away sweat before you get any unsightly sweat stains.

Again, offices are often freezing, and you’ll need some sort of sweater. This is a classic cable knit cardigan, 100% cotton. I went with this very pale oatmeal heather color because it’s similar to the pants without matching exactly, and I went with the cropped style because cropped sweaters look cute with long, billowy tunic tops.

Throw a belt on there over your cardigan to add some shape and create a narrow waist if you feel like it, and then stash this light sweater in your drawer or even tote bag or just over your arm when you run out.

The shoes were simple enough: I went with navy to match the top. I would have gone with purple, but the purple on the top isn’t too obvious and it wouldn’t look right, anyway. It’s a shame, because I love purple shoes. They’re under-rated. I picked heels because I picked flats last time, and these pants all but require heels. Besides, stacked heels are much more comfortable to walk in, and they’re making something of a comeback, albeit slowly.

And there we have two different outfits, in different price ranges, to help you beat that summer heat and ward off that office chill!

  • Lorrwill

    I wore purple shoes in your honor yesterday.

    Just kidding. I wore them because I felt like it. And they are a violet-plum that worked amazingly well with the mulberry top that I wore. I am learning this color coordination without being matchy-matchy thing.

    I am on the hunt for summer weight cashmere cardigans for the very reasons you site above. A removable layer for when one goes from the freezer to the oven.

    All women are cold made me laugh!

  • Lorrwill

    One day, I shall learn the proper use of the English language. You would think I never made it out of school.

    Please pretend that I wrote “cite” instead of “site”.

  • SweaterFreak

    Some innacuracies here:
    1) rayon is not quite synthetic, see this
    2) merino wool is not the type of fiber spinning, but rather type of a sheep that provided the wool.

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