Summer workwear can be a real conundrum for some women, especially those who work in corporate environments. But even for those of us who have more flexibility with what we wear to work, getting the balance right between looking fresh and seasonal yet still professional and appropriate can be a real sticking point.
Right now, most stores are awash with embroidered boho dresses, bold botanical blooms and beachy separates ideal for holiday and weekend wear. But where are the smart, lightweight items with which to replace your autumnal knits and wool two-pieces? There are a few stores that are my go-to for summer tailoring, but first a few thoughts on how to approach your summer workwear wardrobe.
Don’t stray from your own personal style just because the sun has come out. If knitwear is your signature, then there are plenty of very fine knits around that can be worn with tailored trousers for a really sophisticated, and season-appropriate look. If dresses never feel right on you, then don’t think you need to embrace them just because it’s summer. Culottes, palazzo pants and skorts (a skirt/trouser hybrid) are all great options for trouser addicts (like me) at this time of year. They offer the kind of fluidity you get from a dress, but within a more streamlined aesthetic. The trick to translating tailoring from winter to spring is to loosen up your silhouette a little, and replace fabrics like wool and jacquard with silks and linens. Even when worn in darker neutrals, these fabrics bring a softness and weightlessness to summer dressing that looks and feels just right.
Shirts are a pretty fundamental part of any summer workwear wardrobe, as they look smart enough to wear without a blazer on the most humid of days. Shirting is a key element in this season’s line-up of must-haves, so there are a plethora of options in stores, from deconstructed button-ups to traditional silk collarless shirts. Take your look right into this season by wearing a shirt with either an asymmetric skirt, or a pair of bag pants (see Stella McCartney’s SS17 runway show). This kind of detailing will elevate your look and distinguish it as utterly in season and on trend.
If you feel a blazer is necessary when dressing for work, then try replacing the shirt underneath with a good-quality T-shirt (try Vince, available on net-a-porter.com, or finerylondon.com). You will still look chic and confident, but a little less formal, and uptight, for summer.
Maxi skirts are always a summer staple, and a relief for women like me who are pale and don’t want to show too much leg, but be careful to choose one that is fitting for the office – nothing too boho or too fluid (you have to balance the longer length with a streamlined cut so that you don’t wind up looking like something from Little House on the Prairie). I’d probably pair an unfussy maxi skirt with a blazer, simply to add that bit of polish and professionalism required for certain office environments.
My go-to labels? Massimo Dutti is one of them. They offer a lovely understated collection of loosely tailored pieces in an easy-to-wear palette of neutrals. Zara, of course, always stocks a strong collection of separates with a definite fashion edge if that’s what you’re looking for. Cos works wonderfully for women who like an unfussy silhouette, while I’m keeping an eye on new online label kitristudio.eu for interesting separates. Gerard Darel (available in House of Fraser) offers beautiful pieces that are classic and timeless and very good quality, while I’ve picked up smart knitwear in both Hobbs and H&M in recent years.