A Definitive Guide to Summer Work Outfits, From Four Fashion Professionals

 Four images of women wearing summer work outfits, including linen suits, button-down shirts, and pleated dresses.
Four images of women wearing summer work outfits, including linen suits, button-down shirts, and pleated dresses.

Summer is the season of sunshine, increased serotonin, and a carefree attitude that translates to effortless summertime dressing. Climbing temperatures encourage a less-is-more approach to your wardrobe. But with your summer work outfits, wearing less isn't necessarily an option, and you probably have to put at least a little bit of effort into your warm-weather workwear—especially as you factor in your commute, day-to-day agenda, and the ridiculously frigid temperatures thanks to your office's central air. While today's expectations for in-office dressing are much more relaxed than they used to be—wearing casual outfits with sneakers to work is usually office apropos— summer is a great time to welcome having some fun with your summer work outfits.

To help you master in-office style during a season of unyielding heatwaves, Marie Claire tapped four industry professionals—a fashion director, stylist, brand founder, and public relations guru—for insight on styling a warm-weather workwear wardrobe. Keep scrolling for a well-rounded selection of business casual outfits for the 9 to 5, from the best linen pants to style with blazers to breezy summer dresses and workhorse work bags that can fit your laptop but still master that carefree summer ethos.

A One-and-Done Dress With Sandals

Alexandra Lapp, wearing Alexandra Lapp x Seidensticker capsule collection with linen mix dress in wild aster, a black heart bag by Alaia, sandals by Aquazzura, earrings by chanel and Csunglasses by Celine, during a streetstyle shooting on May 11, 2024 in Paris, France
Alexandra Lapp, wearing Alexandra Lapp x Seidensticker capsule collection with linen mix dress in wild aster, a black heart bag by Alaia, sandals by Aquazzura, earrings by chanel and Csunglasses by Celine, during a streetstyle shooting on May 11, 2024 in Paris, France

"I love the season of wearing easy, light dresses—when you can toss on a single piece of clothing and be done," says Erin Allweiss, the co-founder of the New York City-based public relations firm No. 29 Communications. She encourages you to invest in a sophisticated dress that's reliable and one you can slip into early in the morning without having to think twice. For Allweiss, that piece is a Mara Hoffman hemp dress with sandals or Birkenstocks.

Mara Hoffman blue and white Alora Striped Maxi Dress on a gray background
Mara Hoffman blue and white Alora Striped Maxi Dress on a gray background

Mara Hoffman Alora Striped Maxi Dress

Cannes High Shine Exquisite Sandal
Cannes High Shine Exquisite Sandal

Birkenstock Cannes High Shine Exquisite Sandal

Nordstrom gold Tube Hoop Earrings on white background
Nordstrom gold Tube Hoop Earrings on white background

Nordstrom Tube Hoop Earrings

A Linen Suit

woman in a tan linen suit
woman in a tan linen suit

A neutral linen suit is a foolproof addition to your summer workwear rotation. Together, the suit is polished. But as separates, the lightweight jacket and trousers work in endless other outfit combinations. Take Everlane's khaki blazer as an example. With its neutral color and sharp lapels, the silhouette is as versatile as a one blazer can be.

Everlane The Linen Oversized Blazer
Everlane The Linen Oversized Blazer

Everlane The Linen Double Breasted Blazer

Everlane The Linen Way-High Drape Pant
Everlane The Linen Way-High Drape Pant

Everlane The Linen Way-High Drape Pant

Chelsea Paris Yona Flats
Chelsea Paris Yona Flats

Yona Flats

Bermuda Shorts and a Button-Down

Diane Batoukina wears dark brown large squared sunglasses from Dior, a blue linen shirt from Figaret, white wide legs suit shorts, a gold Love ring from Cartier, a white latte matte leather 30 Montaigne handbag from Dior, white shiny leather Oran sandals from Hermes, during a street style fashion photo session, on April 28, 2023 in Paris, France.
Diane Batoukina wears dark brown large squared sunglasses from Dior, a blue linen shirt from Figaret, white wide legs suit shorts, a gold Love ring from Cartier, a white latte matte leather 30 Montaigne handbag from Dior, white shiny leather Oran sandals from Hermes, during a street style fashion photo session, on April 28, 2023 in Paris, France.

"I also love appropriate-length shorts for summer (it is work, after all!) paired with a fitted tank and a light button-down for extra coverage," Allweiss tells Marie Claire. Longline Bermuda shorts are a front-running summer 2024 trend, so this season is a prime time to give them a shot. As for the rest of the outfit, Allweiss endorses Rothy's extremely comfortable Mary Jane (a forever favorite among Team MC, too).

rag & bone blue and white stripedIcons Maxine Stripe Button-Up Shirt on a white background
rag & bone blue and white stripedIcons Maxine Stripe Button-Up Shirt on a white background

Rag & Bone Icons Maxine Stripe Button-Up Shirt

Banana Republic Lido Italian Wool Bermuda Short
Banana Republic Lido Italian Wool Bermuda Short

Banana Republic Lido Italian Wool Bermuda Short

Rothy
Rothy

Rothy's Rothy's The Square Mary Jane

A White Button-Down and Jeans

woman in a white button down and jeans
woman in a white button down and jeans

The descriptor 'wardrobe staple' has been tossed around so much that it's somewhat lost its gravitas. But with a white button-down shirt, the term holds firm. Neutral enough to be styled with anything from printed pleated trousers to basic blue jeans, they remain one of the most versatile work items ever.

Christy Cham, the founder of the elevated basics brand CHAM, advocates styling a classic button-down shirt with denim trousers. She advises styling it with a pair of your best loafers. "They offer comfort while elevating a casual look, making you appear more put together than sneakers," she notes.

Nordstrom Classic Poplin Shirt
Nordstrom Classic Poplin Shirt

Nordstrom Classic Poplin Shirt

Nili Lotan blue Shon Curved Ankle-Crop Jeans on a white background
Nili Lotan blue Shon Curved Ankle-Crop Jeans on a white background

Nili Lotan Shon Curved Ankle-Crop Jeans

J.Crew black Winona Lug-Sole Penny Loafers on white background
J.Crew black Winona Lug-Sole Penny Loafers on white background

J.Crew Winona Lug-Sole Penny Loafers in Suede

A Breezy Pleated Midi Dress

Tamu McPherson wears sunglasses, a red gathered / pleated sleeveless silk lustrous dress, a leather bag, shoes, outside Hermes, during the Womenswear Spring/Summer 2024 as part of Paris Fashion Week on September 30, 2023 in Paris, France.
Tamu McPherson wears sunglasses, a red gathered / pleated sleeveless silk lustrous dress, a leather bag, shoes, outside Hermes, during the Womenswear Spring/Summer 2024 as part of Paris Fashion Week on September 30, 2023 in Paris, France.

Marie Claire’s editor-in-chief Nikki Ogunnaike calls Issey Miyake's Pleats Please dress a key summer essential, and Allweiss routinely wears them on in-office days. If you're not yet acquainted, it's time you familiarize yourself with the cult-favorite style. The dress is a wrinkle-free wonder (the pleats hold the garment's structure, no matter how much you scrunch or move) and will work overtime in your office rotation.

Allweiss also offers styling tips to style the dress with your existing basics."I love more elevated tanks that are perfectly structured, and I wear them under a pleated Issey Miyake dress so [the tank] peeks out a bit."

Baserange off white Supple Ribbed Organic Cotton-Blend Tank on grey background
Baserange off white Supple Ribbed Organic Cotton-Blend Tank on grey background

Baserange Supple Ribbed Organic Cotton-Blend Tank

Monthly Colors April Pleated Dress
Monthly Colors April Pleated Dress

Issey Miyake Pleats Please Monthly Colors April Pleated Dress

Kendri Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Pump
Kendri Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Pump

Kendri Pointed Toe Kitten Heel Pump

Build Around Your Work Bag

A woman wears sunglasses, a blue floral embroidery shirt, a beige leather bag, beige pants, brown kitten heels leopard print pointed shoes, outside Proenza Schouler, during New York Fashion Week
A woman wears sunglasses, a blue floral embroidery shirt, a beige leather bag, beige pants, brown kitten heels leopard print pointed shoes, outside Proenza Schouler, during New York Fashion Week

On days when inspiration is lacking, build a look around your accessories. Marissa Galante Frank, Bloomingdale's accessories and beauty fashion director encourages you to rely on a refined work bag to get the creative juices flowing. She advises you to take a cue from your bag's color palette and fabrications: "Lightweight materials—like raffia or woven canvas—are perfect for the season," she says.

To ensure your seasonal laptop bag isn't too beachy, Galante Frank recommends bags with sophisticated leather trim and handles‚ like Tory Burch's tote below.

Edwige Gathered Silk-Satin Halterneck Top
Edwige Gathered Silk-Satin Halterneck Top

Nili Lotan Edwige Gathered Silk-Satin Halterneck Top

High Waist Wide Leg Trousers
High Waist Wide Leg Trousers

Open Edit High Waist Wide Leg Trousers

Tory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Canvas Tote on white background
Tory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Canvas Tote on white background

Tory Burch Perry Triple Compartment Canvas Tote

A Tailored Vest and Trousers

woman in a tan vest waistcoat and matching trousers
woman in a tan vest waistcoat and matching trousers

When you want the put-together effect of suiting but can't bear a long-sleeved blazer, a tailored waistcoat offers warm-weather relief. Team your vest with coordinating trousers in a similar fabric and color—and a pair of slip-on loafers to complete the sophisticated prepster look.

J.Crew navy Slim-Fit Linen Vest on white background
J.Crew navy Slim-Fit Linen Vest on white background

J.Crew Slim-Fit Linen Vest

J.Crew navy Wide-Leg Essential Pant in Linen on white background
J.Crew navy Wide-Leg Essential Pant in Linen on white background

J.Crew Wide-Leg Essential Pant in Linen

Gucci white Princetown Loafer Mule on white background
Gucci white Princetown Loafer Mule on white background

Gucci Princetown Loafer Mule

Denim Shorts and a Colorful Cardigan

A guest is seen on the street during Copenhagen Fashion Week SS20 wearing yellow/black cardigan, cut-off jeans, white shirt, black heels on August 06, 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
A guest is seen on the street during Copenhagen Fashion Week SS20 wearing yellow/black cardigan, cut-off jeans, white shirt, black heels on August 06, 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

A standout outfit in Cham's personal workwear rotation is one you're likely already wearing. "I typically wear jean shorts paired with a tank and cashmere cardigan to combat the cool AC." But, considering she's an expert on standout wardrobe basics, she offers a pro trip to make the simple combination feel even sharper. "Color is a way of bringing emotion and joy in our everyday lives," she shares, encouraging you to opt for a light cardigan in a dopamine-boosting hue.

Banana Republic white Ribbed Cutaway Tank on tan background
Banana Republic white Ribbed Cutaway Tank on tan background

Banana Republic Ribbed Cutaway Tank

Sézane green cardigan worn by a model with a green tank top and skirt
Sézane green cardigan worn by a model with a green tank top and skirt

Sézane Elie Cardigan

Agolde white Nolan Short on white background
Agolde white Nolan Short on white background

Agolde Nolan Short

A Matching Set

woman in yellow matching set
woman in yellow matching set

Similar to tailored suiting, a coordinating set is a true fashion win-win thanks to its convenience and pulled-together look. "I always look for matching sets in cotton or linen," stylist and TikTok fashion creator Timothy Chernyaev shares with Marie Claire. "Having a coordinating top and bottom is a great way to look put-together when the temps are hot. Plus, getting dressed quickly is easy when you're running late."

Printed Oversize Shirt -  Women
Printed Oversize Shirt - Women

Mango Printed Oversize Shirt

Wide Leg Printed Pants -  Women
Wide Leg Printed Pants - Women

Mango Wide Leg Printed Pants

Leather Lake Sandals
Leather Lake Sandals

Leather Lake Sandals

Linen Pants and a Tee

woman in wide-leg linen trousers and a white tee
woman in wide-leg linen trousers and a white tee

No piece is as easy-breezy and straightforward as a pair of linen trousers. The lightweight bottoms are perfect for styling with separates—like an oversized blazer or short-sleeved sweater. You can also keep the outfit as comfortable as can be with a slightly draped cotton T-shirt. Choose a T-shirt that's structured and not too boxy to ensure your summer work outfit doesn't veer into pajama territory.

Abercrombie & Fitch green Sloane Tailored Linen-Blend Pant on white background
Abercrombie & Fitch green Sloane Tailored Linen-Blend Pant on white background

Abercrombie & Fitch Sloane Tailored Linen-Blend Pant

Theory white Johanna Crewneck Classic Tee on white background
Theory white Johanna Crewneck Classic Tee on white background

Theory Johanna Crewneck Classic Tee

Emme Parsons Leo Sandals
Emme Parsons Leo Sandals

Emme Parsons Leo Sandals

Summer Sheers

woman in black pants, tank top, and sheer shirt
woman in black pants, tank top, and sheer shirt

Layering is a crucial component in summer fashion. As Chernyaev explains, it all starts with a stable base: "I look for opaque fabrics in tank tops and tees so I can wear them on their own. Then, I layer with a lightweight sheer shirt or sweater for a little style on top." The Boy Tank in black by ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo is a solid place to start, with its soft, ribbed modal fabric.

ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo Boy Tank
ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo Boy Tank

ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo Boy Tank

Charli Embroidered Button-Up Shirt
Charli Embroidered Button-Up Shirt

AllSaints Charli Embroidered Button-Up Shirt

Gap Linen-Cotton Pleated Pants
Gap Linen-Cotton Pleated Pants

Gap Mid Rise Crinkle Gauze Wide-Leg Pants

A White Sundress and Sandals

woman in white dress and black sandals
woman in white dress and black sandals

Balancing formality with the season's intrinsic easy-going energy is the key to a summer work outfit. A white sundress with a touch of gold jewelry and strappy, heeled sandals finds that perfect fashion equilibrium. J.Crew's light linen midi is a smart buy because of the visible seam details and tie-around belt, which gives the dress structure that means business.

J.Crew white Seamed Tie-Waist Dress in Linen
J.Crew white Seamed Tie-Waist Dress in Linen

J.Crew Seamed Tie-Waist Dress in Linen

Aeyde Stina Patent Calf Leather Black Sandals on gray background
Aeyde Stina Patent Calf Leather Black Sandals on gray background

Aeyde Stina Patent Calf Leather Black Sandals

Maremma Recycled Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings
Maremma Recycled Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings

Laura Lombardi Maremma Recycled Gold-Plated Hoop Earrings

A Polo Shirt and Cargo Pants

nikki ogunnaike in a black polo shirt and tan cargo pants
nikki ogunnaike in a black polo shirt and tan cargo pants

Chernyaev says pastel or classic neutral polos are another must-have for a complete summer workwear collection. The stylist shouts out Ralph Lauren and Benetton, but Vince's short-sleeved shirt is another clever option. Styling-wise, consider teaming the classic collared shirt with bottoms that are a bit more trend-forward—like utilitarian cargo pants.

Vince Elbow-Sleeve Silk Rib Polo Shirt
Vince Elbow-Sleeve Silk Rib Polo Shirt

Vince Elbow-Sleeve Silk Rib Polo Shirt

Victoria Beckham Mid-Rise Cotton Wide-Leg Cargo Pants
Victoria Beckham Mid-Rise Cotton Wide-Leg Cargo Pants

Victoria Beckham Mid-Rise Cotton Wide-Leg Cargo Pants

adidas black Samba Og on white background
adidas black Samba Og on white background

Adidas Samba

Build Around Your Hero Shoe

Belen Hostalet wears a black asymmetric top, a black and white leather skirt, black leather ballet shoes a brown and black leather bag, outside Fendi, during the Milan Fashion Week - Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 on February 21, 2024 in Milan, Italy.
Belen Hostalet wears a black asymmetric top, a black and white leather skirt, black leather ballet shoes a brown and black leather bag, outside Fendi, during the Milan Fashion Week - Womenswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 on February 21, 2024 in Milan, Italy.

As you're likely well aware, ballerina flats have proliferated the market in recent seasons. However, they're more than just a flash-in-the-pan footwear fad: the best ballet flats are "a must-have summer work shoe," Galante Frank says. They're so powerful, in fact, she encourages you to let them do the heavy lifting and use them as the focal point of your work outfit. Try "unexpected materials like denim and raffia," set against a neutral tank and a warm-weather leather pencil skirt.

Madewell yellow Ribbed Boatneck Tank on grey background
Madewell yellow Ribbed Boatneck Tank on grey background

Ribbed Boatneck Tank

Reformation black Veda Bedford Leather Midi-Skirt on white background
Reformation black Veda Bedford Leather Midi-Skirt on white background

Reformation Veda Bedford Leather Midi-Skirt

Margaux woven The Demi Flat on off-white background
Margaux woven The Demi Flat on off-white background

Margaux The Demi Flat in Woven Saddle

A Maxi Skirt and Blouse

MANILA, PHILIPPINES - NOVEMBER 18: Heart Evangelista wears Prada sunglasses, a white shirt, a black wool ribbed low-neck tank top, a dark navy blue pleated long maxi skirt
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - NOVEMBER 18: Heart Evangelista wears Prada sunglasses, a white shirt, a black wool ribbed low-neck tank top, a dark navy blue pleated long maxi skirt

Some maxi skirts exude a carefree bohemian spirit, but plenty of others channel a more buttoned-up, formal feel. A longline skirt made of cotton twill, for example, is akin to a pair of trousers, while a denim maxi skirt is a more dressed-up version of your favorite jeans. As for styling a maxi, try it with a sleeveless blouse in an artistic and abstract print—like Proenza Schouler's below.

Loulou Studio black Artemis Pleated Maxi Skirt on grey background
Loulou Studio black Artemis Pleated Maxi Skirt on grey background

Artemis Pleated Maxi Skirt

Flou Pleated Striped Crepe Blouse
Flou Pleated Striped Crepe Blouse

Proenza Schouler Flou Pleated Striped Crepe Blouse

Hermine Pointed Toe Slingback Flat
Hermine Pointed Toe Slingback Flat

Vagabond Hermine Pointed Toe Slingback Flat

An Oversized Blazer With a Mini Skirt

woman in min skirt, tee shirt, and oversized blazer
woman in min skirt, tee shirt, and oversized blazer

Who says only Maxis are fit for the office? A mini-skirt can work, too. You'll just want to pay careful attention to where it hits on the leg (at the knee or just above is ideal) and pair it with more polished and buttoned-up separates. A slightly oversized blazer with structured, boxy shoulders and your best kitten heels—maybe a pair of Manolo Blahniks—will complete the look with a ladylike kick.

If Only Studio blue Tweed Miniskirt on white background
If Only Studio blue Tweed Miniskirt on white background

If Only Studio Tweed Miniskirt

Lioness black La Quinta Blazer on model
Lioness black La Quinta Blazer on model

Lioness La Quinta Blazer

Manolo Blahnik Turgimod 50 Cutout Leather and Suede Slingback Pumps
Manolo Blahnik Turgimod 50 Cutout Leather and Suede Slingback Pumps

Manolo Blahnik Turgimod 50 Cutout Leather and Suede Slingback Pumps

Key Elements to Consider With a Summer Work Outfit

  • Consider Your Office Environment

Allweiss says it's essential to first assess your office's environment and culture. "When I worked on Capitol Hill, I had to be far more buttoned up and covered up—literally. There were no bralettes happening on The Hill," she tells Marie Claire. Now, working at her own PR firm, Allweiss is "in a much more creative environment where a pair of elevated shorts or bralette that's meant to be seen can totally work."

  • Heat-Proof Materials

When the weather is capital-H Hot, fabrics that offer breathability and ventilation are key. Look for summer-appropriate materials such as linen, hemp, cotton, chambray, and lightweight jersey.

  • Strategic Layers

You may not want to wear a lightweight summer sweater while schlepping into the office, but you certainly will once you make it to your near-Arctric, AC-blasting office. The goal with a summer work outfit is to "feel comfortable and ready to battle the heat and humidity, but [you want to] have that added layer to look complete at the office," says Allweiss. The New York-based professional advises keeping "a cardigan or button-down shirt" always stashed in your work bag or at the office for this very reason.

Plus, make sure your innermost layer is as work-appropriate as your outermost: "A good base is important because you never know when you need to shed a layer for comfort," Chernyaev shares.

  • Don't Forget About Jewelry

Accessories bring a sense of fun and personality to any summer outfit, even the one you're planning for a long day at the office. Whether you layer slim bracelets or stack a set of rings, the right jewelry can transform a fine outfit into an excellent one. A gold chain pendant necklace, for instance, infuses more personality to a simple linen shirt dress and helps tie the entire look together.

Meet the Fashion Experts