Fashion Insiders Share Their Favorite Summer Work Outfits

Your warm-weather workwear, simplified.

Four images of women wearing summer work outfits, including linen suits, button-down shirts, and pleated dresses
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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

If you typically stick to minimalist, natural colors, summer is the season to try a vibrant hue—like a poppy orchid-colored dress.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"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.

A Linen Suit

woman in a tan linen suit

Crisp and polished, yet relaxed at the same time—what more can you want in a summer work outfit?

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

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.

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.

The key to work-appropriate but heat-proof hems is a longline short that hits just above the knee.

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"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).

A White Button-Down and Jeans

woman in a white button down and jeans

A slightly baggy button-down shirt with a tailored jean is a well-balanced combination that looks like you tried—just not too hard.

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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.

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.

A surefire way to garner compliments during water cooler chit-chat? A colorful dress in an intriguing textile—like this ruby red pleated midi.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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."

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

Here, a caramel-colored leather tote bag adds a streamlined finishing touch to an already sleek look.

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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.

A Tailored Vest and Trousers

woman in a tan vest waistcoat and matching trousers

If you've been looking for a sign to test drive the tailored vest trend, this is it.

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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.

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.

The exact shade of your cheery summer sweater isn't all that important. What matters is that it puts a smile on your face.

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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.

A Matching Set

woman in yellow matching set

What better way to brighten up the office then with a multi-colored, serotonin-surging co-ord?

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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."

Linen Pants and a Tee

woman in wide-leg linen trousers and a white tee

The summer season means you can get away with leaning into casual codes. Take advantadge of that in linen bottoms and a tee.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

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.

Summer Sheers

woman in black pants, tank top, and sheer shirt

A sheer button-down shirt is a brilliant office workaround that offers coverage without heavy layers.

(Image credit: Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images)

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.

A White Sundress and Sandals

woman in white dress and black sandals

There's no piece that says summer better than a sundress.

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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.

A Polo Shirt and Cargo Pants

nikki ogunnaike in a black polo shirt and tan cargo pants

Cargo pants go business-appropriate with a tucked-in polo top and shoulder bag.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

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.

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.

While the leather skirt does call the eye, it's these ruched leather ballerinas that steal the show.

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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.

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

A tailored maxi skirt is a worthwhile option to consider when you've worn the same pair of front-pleat trousers twice already in one week.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

An Oversized Blazer With a Mini Skirt

woman in min skirt, tee shirt, and oversized blazer

A mini skirt teamed with a roomy blazer is an unfussy combo with put-together, preppy undertones.

(Image credit: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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