In the old days, dressing for work was easy. All you had to do was ask yourself one question: Am I lady, or am I guy? Ladies wore dresses. Guys wore suits and ties. We're not nostalgic for those times, especially when it's 400 degrees outside and the idea of slipping into pantyhose or a long-sleeved button-down seems torturous.
However, we will say that the old-school dress code made things easier. Today, no one has any idea what's appropriate attire for hanging around the cubicle. Below, a few ideas of what to wear for work when it's hot, and what not to wear ever, for any reason.
Summer dresses. This includes your more modest sundresses, as well as the standard cotton shifts that everyone has been relying on for years. As a general rule, go for something with sleeves. And remember, if you can't pull your skirt completely under your butt when you sit, it's not a dress, it's a shirt.
Short sleeves. Almost no one cares about this anymore, unless you're working for the Vatican or a very conservative financial institution. Better to wear short sleeves than to sweat through long ones. (Note: fashion-forward folks caution that or even a t-shirt, if your company allows it, rather than doing the whole short-sleeved button-down thing. The latter, they say, can look like a badly made uniform shirt.)
Tube tops. If you're dressed for work and you can stand behind an armpit-height cubicle wall and look nude, you should not be wearing that to the office. Period.
Anything you'd wear to the beach. This includes terry cloth, strategically ripped t-shirts, and actual bathing apparel. All of which we have seen in the office, often on a person who is sitting right next to an executive wearing a business suit. We live in weird times.
Up for Debate:
Flip-flops. Some say these are never OK for the office. Some -- especially those who work in creative fields in cities when temperatures topped 100 degrees this summer -- say they're just fine. It all depends on your particular office.
Shorts. Again, many people will tell you these are strictly verboten in the office. But the rise of formal shorts a few years back, combined with the general relaxing of dress codes across the world, makes shorts a gray area for professional attire. We will, however, go out on a limb and say that Daisy Dukes are never OK, in the office or out.