Easy Summer Work Outfits Exist—They're Just Not on TikTok

Look to people with real-world office experience—like our editors!—for workwear formulas that actually...work.

a collage of three fashion editors wearing summer work outfits to the office
(Image credit: Clara Pafundi; Getty Images)

Scrolling through TikTok on the hunt for some easy summer work outfits, I heard a soundbite that shook me to my core: "I'm Gen Z; of course, I'm wearing a crop top to the office."

As the Pandora's Box of fashion TikTok tends to do, watching one video opened a portal to dozens, if not hundreds, more work outfit ideas for "corporate girlies" that didn't feel the least bit corporate-realistic. My feed became flooded with straight-faced recommendations for micro mini skirts under oversized blazers, tailored vests with nothing layered underneath, and more crop tops than the average HR department probably sees in a year. To be clear, these outfits were cute. At the same time, they didn't seem suited to standing up on a subway commute or in front of colleagues during a presentation. They felt more primed for an Instagram announcement about landing a new job than actually working one. At a desk. With coworkers around you.

I wasn't the only one at work who's been clocking a strange shift in "workwear"—toward the idea that a smidge of tailoring and a blazer thrown over the top automatically make a work outfit. In her weekly newsletter, Self Checkout, Marie Claire's editor-in-chief, Nikki Ogunnaike, said she's "nervous" about the advice being peddled on TikTok. "I’m not saying listening to TikTok WILL get you sent to HR…but I am saying it will leave you freezing [..] and honestly, just plain uncomfortable!" So, we fashion editors spent most of a recent bi-weekly meeting unpacking how unpractical some "corporate girlie" outfits would be in our actual corporate lives.

We should all feel free to bring our whole selves to work, personal style included. But some of the most popular videos (with views in the millions) aren't all that useful beyond the most relaxed work dress codes. For what it's worth, the comments section also side with reality. So, to guide fellow fashion enthusiasts toward easy summer work outfits, I polled Marie Claire's editors on the pieces they're really wearing to the office this summer.

Sara Holzman, fashion director

fashion director sara holzman wears a shirt dress with jil sander shoes

Sara Holzman tackles summer weather with a one-and-done dress and sharp slingback heels.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"I don’t love the idea of something super structured sticking to me during the summer months, but a one-piece outfit like a midi-style shirt dress is work-appropriate and neither too casual nor stuffy," Holzman says. It all comes down to the length: "A midi-length hem avoids those worrisome glares from colleagues that might come with a shorter hemline, and you can very easily accessorize the look up or down. Add a crossbody bag and a kitten heel, and it’s a match made in elder millennial work outfit heaven."

Nikki Ogunnaike, editor-in-chief

Nikki Ogunnaike at Fashion Week

Nikki Ogunnaike's summer work wardrobe starts with easy tailoring.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our editor-in-chief was one of the first to sound the alarm about this summer's questionable work outfit advice. She curated a range of fun (but still functional) summer outfit formulas in her newsletter, Self Checkout, beginning with warm-weather suiting. "If your office is more conservative, a suit jacket will suffice. If it’s more creative, you can have fun with what’s considered 'tailoring,' like a vest, long shorts, and a cotton poplin or linen button-down," she recommends.

Emma Childs, fashion features editor

Editor Emma Childs wears a semi sheer slip dress with a blazer to work at Marie Claire

Emma Childs injects some Katie Holmes-approved ease into her wardrobe with a '90s slip dress.

(Image credit: Emma Childs)

Emma Childs abides by a simple summer work outfit motto: "Keep it simple, stupid."

"In other words, I rely on easy pieces that deliver a reliably polished result but require little to no styling effort. Because on 80-plus-degree days, I can’t afford to expend extra energy fussing with what I’m wearing—all that brain power needs to be saved for when I get to the office and have 2,000 words to write," Childs says. "My favorite no-brainer formula has recently been my best slip dress, a double-layered J.Crew midi style in baby blue and purple, paired with a lightweight black linen blazer. On the accessory front, black kitten heels and a simple silver pendant necklace top it all off. What I love most about this combination is its balance of polish and ease. The tailored blazer and heels keep the look polished and professional (hi, HR!), while the breezy slip dress keeps me comfortable and cool."

Lauren Tappan, fashion editor

editor lauren tappan walks around new york city in a blazer jeans and flats

Lauren Tappan tackles chilly office AC (and the occasional rainy day) in three classics: the blazer, the white shirt, and the straight-leg jean.

(Image credit: Clara Pafundi)

"Streamlined" is the first word editor Lauren Tappan will use to describe her summer work wardrobe, made up of tailored separates, neutral basics, and simple accessories. "Above all though, with any outfit that I wear into the office, coverage is absolutely key. Crop tops, sheer fabrics, and teeny-weeny shorts are all no-gos in my style playbook (I prefer to reserve those pieces for the weekend)," she says.

She knows all too well that extra coverage can feel constraining at the sweltering height of summer. "I’ve managed to find a workaround with pieces like breathable linen pants, loose mock neck tops, and breezy cotton dresses. And if the weather isn’t too hot, I’ll tuck a white button-down shirt into a pair of jeans and layer my look with a sharp blazer," Tappan says. "As for accessories, I can always count on kitten heels and gold jewelry to complete any of my summer work outfits."

Brooke Knappenberger, associate commerce editor

editor brooke knappenberger stands in front of a mirror wearing a button down shirt and black pants

Brooke Knappenberger's work wardrobe is filled with all-time hero items, like the button-down shirt and classic black trouser.

(Image credit: Brooke Knappenberger)

"No matter the season, I can always count on my tried-and-true office uniform: wide-legged pants, a ribbed tank, and a button-down shirt," Knappenberger says. "It’s a look that’s quick to put together and polished enough for the office, yet so comfortable. For the warmer months, I swap in breezier fabrics like linen and cotton so I stay cool during my commute, but I’m still mostly covered up to battle the blasting office AC." Her look above goes with almost any summer accessory trends—or wardrobe classics, like the chunky hoop earrings and white sneakers she usually wears.

Julia Marzovilla, fashion commerce editor

Editor Julia Marzovilla wearing her summer work outfit to the Marie Claire offices

Julia Marzovilla cracked the code on making a TikTok-favorite work item, the tailored vest, feel appropriate for the office without a second top layered underneath.

(Image credit: Julia Marzovilla)

"This outfit—a vest, a pleated skirt, and a pair of knee-high boots—is perfect for a summer in the office because it mixes in classic office staples with my out-of-office options," Marzovilla says. Her footwear might be working the hardest: "I could easily swap my boots for a pair of sandals and this would be great for an after-work drinks outing, but the flat boots make it feel more daytime-appropriate. You could also easily layer a tee underneath the vest for more coverage. Plus, the pleated skirt doesn’t cling to my body, making it a great warm-weather option."

Halie LeSavage, senior fashion and beauty news editor

fashion editor Halie LeSavage wears a blue button down shirt with a white skirt and a black jacket

Office AC always gets to me—so I make sure my easy summer outfits always have an extra, but lightweight, outer layer.

(Image credit: Clara Pafundi)

In a perfect world, summer's original white skirt outfit idea could suffice for a day at the office. But I'm not quite comfortable with having my shoulders out and I almost always run cold, anyway. Here's my solution: I'll still use a maxi skirt as my base, but add a lightweight, slightly oversize button-down shirt over the top with a French tuck. (Yes, I'm a millennial, and this is a forever favorite styling hack.)

On sunny days, those two pieces, a quick hairstyle like a half-up, half-down, and a pair of Mary Janes are really all I need to feel ready for the commute and the weather. During a New York City thunderstorm, I'll also grab a lightweight twill jacket to keep my outfit dry and myself happy. All of these pieces are cut in loose, easy silhouettes that won't cling to my skin—and more importantly, they don't show more than I feel like I should when I'm in a meeting or a big interview.

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.