How to dress for work when it’s hot

Banana Republic suit made of 98 per cent cotton

If we’re lucky, we might be getting some hot weather this week. That means attempting to stay cool is a balancing act between dressing strategically — and office appropriately — in the hot weather and staying warm in freezing offices.

Fashion and wardrobe stylist Dana Goldenberg says the biggest problem women have with trying to dress in hot weather is “how to layer while looking professional and season-appropriate.” Staying warm is easy — you can layer cardigans, light jackets or put on an on-trend fitted denim jacket.

Staying cool while looking professional is the hard part. Goldenberg suggests “investing in great layering pieces, like a light-weight knit or a tailored blazer.”


This is the summer fabric staple. A good crisp cotton can last all day and is perfect for a summer suit.


Another summer staple, linen is made from the flax plant and is known for its breathability. While it will keep you cool, linen does wrinkle so it may not be appropriate in certain business situations.


Bamboo has been touted as a fabric that keeps you cool and protects you from UV rays. Be aware when buying bamboo — not all fabrics are created equally.


A pretty silk dress can keep you cool, professional and warm. Silk has low conductivity, meaning it can keep warm air close to the skin in cold temperatures and its absorbency also makes it a good warm weather fabric.

Merino wool

Wool is the last fabric you expect to read about in hot weather but top-quality merino wool is very breathable, can absorb moisture, keep you cool in hot weather and yes, warm in cold weather. Avoid merino wool in high humidity days. Above all, avoid polyester. It’s everywhere but unfortunately it doesn’t breathe.


Hot weather sees an influx of strappy tops, flimsy skirts and flip flops. Hot, humid days, while uncomfortable, aren’t an excuse to bare all. Structure in summer-weight fabrics can keep you looking good and feeling cool. Try a summer suit in cotton or linen, a cotton shirt dress, silk pants or even a T-shirt under a lightweight merino cardigan.


You’ve got cottons, you’re wearing a great jacket, but everything is black. Black is a safe colour for work but during summer it absorbs heat, stores it and then on comes the oven. Pale colours like beige, cream, light grey, blues, pinks and yellows reflect the heat and can help you feel cooler. Goldenberg’s personal choice for summer: “A pretty summer dress that I can wear casually and dressed up.”

Original version published in the Toronto Sun.


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