How to dress for work during a summer heat wave

When the mercury starts to rise, it can be tempting to change up your work attire to make the heat more bearable. Etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau has a few tips for staying cool — and looking professional.

You still want to look like you're capable of doing your job, this expert says

Etiquette expert Julie Blais Comeau has a few tips for how to look presentable at work during a heat wave — and one of them is to take those sunglasses off when you walk through the doors. (Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily/Associated Press)

When the mercury starts to rise, it can be tempting to change up your work attire to make the heat more bearable.

But how can you balance being comfortable with looking presentable?

For Ottawa's Julie Blais Comeau, author of Etiquette: Confidence and Credibility, it comes down to a few simple rules.

"What we want to do is dress for our client," she told CBC Radio's All In A Day.

"If a client shows up on a Monday at 10 a.m., or on a Friday at quarter-to-five, [the question is] do I look like am able to do what I am supposed to do while I'm at work?"

Blais Comeau recognizes that it's necessary for people to be comfortable at work to carry out their jobs.

But in the summer, she said, comfort and credibility can both be achieved by following a simple rule.

Avoiding the four Bs

Bar, barbell, boudoir and beach: any clothes that bring those to mind should be avoided, Blais Comeau said, when you pick out your work clothes on a hot day.

Don't choose anything you'd wear when you're out clubbing, weightlifting, or soaking up the sunshine — and that includes sunglasses and sandals.

"When you come in, you don't need your sunglasses anymore," Blais Comeau said, "It's too 'vacationy.'"

Sandals are also off-limits, she said, because they can be a triple threat — potentially causing unpleasant sounds, sights and smells.

Sandals might be extra comfy, but they're are also generally not acceptable workplace attire, Blais Comeau says.

How short is too short?

Not all work places are the same, Blais Comeau said, and what you can wear depends on where you work.

"Shorts can be fine. It depends on what you do and more importantly, what do I want to shine at work," she said.

But there is a limit to how short those shorts should be — and Blais Comeau has a simple rule of thumb.

"I'm going to take my hand and I'm going to put it to my knee," she said. "The pinky is at the top of my knee, my fingers are still together. Where my thumb drops is the hemline."

Comeau said that ultimately, it's still important to make sure you're leaving a good impression.

"When I walk in, what do I want people to say about me? When I shake people's hands after a meeting, after I've made a presentation — what do I want them to say when I close that door?"