"If you think business and manners don’t mix, try talking with your mouth full.” - Diane Gottsman, Modern Manners & Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Resource

Going Sleeveless in the Workplace

July 12th, 2017 by

Dear Diane,

It’s hot outside and my  boss won’t let us wear anything sleeveless during the work day. Is it unreasonable?

Julie R.

Summer Office Attire


Dear Julie,

Recent headlines highlighted the annual office attire conundrum of the summer: how can you stay functional and cool while keeping your outfit solidly business casual?

On Capitol Hill, women are banned from wearing sleeveless dresses or blouses, sneakers and open-toed shoes. Men must wear suit jackets and ties at all times, regardless of the weather forecast. While your workplace may not be in the halls of our nation’s legislature, you must still abide by your company’s dress code and corporate culture.

Here are some tips to help you stay cool and professional at the same time.

Know the Rules

Whether you are a reporter in the Speaker’s lobby or a new grad in a small office, your dress is always dictated by what your corporate policy deems “appropriate.” If the rules have been made clear, it is your responsibility to abide by them. If there isn’t a clearly-defined dress code, ask your direct supervisor for clarification. You can’t go wrong using the best-dressed employee as your guide.

When in Rome…

Every corporate culture is different. If you work at a tech start-up, the dress code may be lax enough to allow shorts for men and sleeveless blouses for women. But if you’re heading to a client meeting at a much stricter office, button down and put on the business suit if it is your office’s clothing of choice.

Is it Okay for Women to Go Sleeveless?

Summer heat makes it a challenge for determining what to wear. In some offices, a woman is perfectly dressed in a sleeveless sheath dress or blouse. It depends on the environment in which you work and what the dress policy states. There is no good or bad, simply the rules. If it’s a corporate no to wear a sleeveless dress or underpinning, cover your shoulders with a cardigan or light weight jacket. Remove it when you go outside in the summer heat.

Summer Business Casual for Men

Men should choose a breathable cotton shirt and lightweight fabric suit. Remove the jacket when getting in and out of your vehicle. Keep it on during meetings or at a restaurant when meeting with a client. Always keep your suit jacket on during an interview. If you tend to perspire, a cotton tee shirt will help keep your armpits sweat free.

Always Rise to the Occasion

The goal is to make a point of dressing for the occasion, your boss and client. Tailor your summer business attire to meet the specific needs of your day-to-day interactions.

Share with your network:

Categories: Ask the Etiquette Expert