Getting dressed to head into the office during the summer is no easy task, especially considering most of us are already dragging our feet on the way there. You want to wear something that will keep you cool during a commute or extended lunch break, but you’ll probably find yourself reaching for your favorite sweater once you reach your icebox of an office. Factor in the added challenge of finding a layered look that can take you from your desk to al fresco drinks (like one these stylish caftan dresses can), or hunting down a functional yet stylish work bag.
To help freshen up your summer work style, we asked 18 women from an array of industries to share what they like to wear when temperatures rise. From executive fashionistas to tech gurus (and even our own editor-in-chief), this is one professionally impressive bunch. Here’s what they had to say about some of their favorite pieces, and how they dress for work in the summer.
Nina Garcia, ELLE Editor-in-Chief
“I love color for the summer. My go-to office piece is a dress, worn with flat sandals—I’ll change into high heels for the evening to dress it up. Another work outfit formula I revert to a lot during warm weather is a white, black, or blue button-down shirt with an embellished skirt. If I’m going straight from the office to a dinner, I might switch out the shirt to something dressier—like a silk blouse—or add a jacket. This summer, I’m also looking forward to accessorizing with some fun, colorful pieces.”
Liz Miersch, Head of Marketing at Paceline
“Whatever I leave the house in at 8 A.M. needs to be able to get me through a one-mile walk pushing a stroller to school drop-off, Nadia Zaki’s yoga class at Equinox, and a full day of meetings…I have to always be meeting-ready. My go-tos are these Koral lustrous leggings with a Nike sports bra that’s low-cut enough that it can function like an actual bra. I layer a loose silk dress over it (like this one from L’Agence) so it doesn’t wrinkle in my bag (which gets shoved underneath my daughter’s feet in the stroller, of course), then I lose the leggings post workout, and I’m ready to go. God bless the person who started the sneakers and dresses trend as it has been my salvation. These APL leopard kicks work for the first part of my day, and then I’ll change into heels. I leave these Loeffler Randall sandals at my office for quick changes. The most crucial piece of this puzzle though is my Living Proof dry shampoo. I don’t even know how I survived before I found it.”
Reshma Saujani, CEO of Girls Who Code
“My go-to pieces this year are all from my book tour: my gold necklace, this amazing jacket that my niece made me, or my bright red Lingua Franca sweater that says “Brave Not Perfect.” For me, it’s not just a book, it’s a mantra and a lifestyle. I usually pair all of the above with some dope Nike sneakers on my feet—and a pair of backup heels in my purse, in case I’m giving a speech or going to a big meeting! This summer, I’ll also be wearing a ton of floral dresses, super comfy rompers, and my Gucci slides. Always my Gucci slides.”
Yasmin Moaven, Chief Marketing Officer at Pipe
“Nothing has fed my style soul more than working in tech. I’m a jeans and T-shirt kind of gal (OAK’s basic tee, Topshop’s Jamie jeans, and a classic Keds sneaker are my go-tos) at heart, but when I stepped into my role, I had to put my corporate attire back on. I leaned heavily into essential colors like black and white (Audrey Hepburn style), pairing my jeans and T-shirts with an oversized blazer, a sexy kitten heel, and chunky hoop earrings for an extra pop. For more formal occasions, I love a good power suit—wearing a simple bodysuit underneath, you can dress it up for your meetings and then take off the blazer for happy hour or dinner. And my newest obsession: watches! There’s nothing quite like a strong power stance and a vintage Cartier (from The RealReal) on your wrist to say, ‘let’s cut a deal!’”
Caroline Maguire, Fashion Director at Shopbop
“Being a New Yorker has definitely affected the way I dress. I’m all about sneakers, flats, and easy shoes. For summer, I love the idea of a two-piece tailored suit paired with a graphic T-shirt and sporty sandals. It’s the perfect balance of professional and stylish—especially when going from my kids’ school functions straight to market appointments! Another pro tip: Plan the night before. Stick to your go-tos and add on from there to make sure it’s both fashion-forward and functional.”
Iyore N. Olaye, Head of Fintech Product at Bird
“With my style, I like to strike a balance between fashion statements and simplicity, or what I like to call ‘tech cool.’ California summers are known for warm days and cool nights (and offices), so in the morning, I lean towards a power jumpsuit, colored trousers, or fitted skinny jeans. Layers help me add a little flare and give me versatility for summer night events—jean shirts, kimonos, and comfy blazers over a statement blouse are my staples. As for shoes, I like to keep it comfy and chic: black Steve Madden booties, Nike Mayfly, or Dr. Martens boots. They are essential for my very active work environment where I am constantly at the whiteboard brainstorming new app ideas. I typically finish my looks off with an ear cuff, studded earrings, and a bold necklace, because nothing says, ‘let’s talk business’ like a subtle floss.”
Katie Sturino, Founder of Megababe
“Comfort is my number one concern. If I am uncomfortable (reader, envision too high of heels, too narrow of shoes, or any version of a Spanx on my body), my meeting and my day will be short-lived because I will make up an excuse to go change. That being said, I am not showing up to meetings in my PJs. So, I consider the details. Right now, I am gravitating towards a headband and a blazer. I can wear them with jeans or over a dress or a skirt and they pull together the look while showing off my personality.”
Nyree Corby, Founder & CEO of Fame and Partners
“This summer I’m loving tartans, so my favorite wardrobe piece has to be this vintage Comme des Garçons skirt. I team it with a pretty white ruffle top from Fame and Partners’ daywear, Proenza Schouler shoes, and giant black beaded hoops by Celine. Now is the time to experiment by mishmashing unexpected colors, prints, or style details.”
Kate Foley Osterweis, Stylist & Fashion Consultant
“I find myself wearing a lot of long printed silk, chiffon, and cotton dresses to work during the summer, as they’re so versatile and comfortable. In this photo, I’m actually wearing a Marni silk-printed matching blouse and skirt, which is one of my go-to summer outfits and serves the same purpose as all my summer dresses. I’ve had the skirt for years and discovered the matching blouse on Vestiaire Collective…It’s important to me that I look smart when I’m working with clients, and I also want to make sure that what I’m wearing allows me to rush around the city between different clients’ offices without overheating or ending up looking disheveled. I keep footwear simple and comfortable too. Last year, I wore green suede sandals by Mansur Gavriel nearly every day. If I have a meeting or event where I need to wear heels, I put them in my bag and throw them on with my dress. It’s really important to keep summer outfits totally easy and effortless so you can look and feel good all day.”
Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co-Founder & Partner at Clerisy
“For summer, I like outfits that work for day and night. You can dress the outfit down with flats or sandals, and in the evening, throw on a pair of va va voom sandals and you’re ready to go. I also believe in always having a jacket that goes with everything for when the AC in the office is on high.”
Andrea Lieberman, Founder of A.L.C.
“My go-to piece in the summer is a long sleeve silk top, generally paired with jeans. It’s easy, feminine, and I know I can always throw it on and look put-together. Plus, it works perfectly day to night, especially in L.A.”
Gabby Karan De Felice, Creative Director of Tutto il Giorno Restaurants
“I love a dress or a jumpsuit that is comfortable and seamlessly takes me from running around at meetings during the day to evenings at either Tutto il Giorno Tribeca or Southampton. I usually stick with neutrals and still wear black all summer, but might mix it up with a light blue or beige. Of course, I often wear something from Urban Zen designed by my mom, Donna Karan.”
Holly Russell, Freelance Fashion & Buying Consultant
“During the summer, I tend to stick to wardrobe staples like a black dress, specifically JW Anderson’s midi that is made from a fluid lightweight fabric and offers sleeves that are demure enough for an office environment. I style it slightly bohemian with a long gold necklace, a flat or heeled sandal, and my Chloé alphabet rings. If you are happy to show a little leg and are able to dress slightly casual in your work environment, then a skirt looks super directional with a simple white T-shirt and Common Projects white trainers. In a more formal working environment, where you may have to wear a tailored look or suit, a simple styling update would be a bright point-toe pump. I bought a red Aquazzura pair that is perfect with a pair of smart trousers.”
Bärí A. Williams, Advisor at Bandwagon Fan Club, Inc.
“There’s a famous saying about the surprising temperature of summers in San Francisco: ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.’ It’s true! Summer averages around 68 degrees and offices are blasting AC inside, which still calls for lightweight denim and a light blouse. This is totally desk to date. Tech is casual, so anything more than this and I’d look out of place. I like to use accessories to dress an outfit up or down, for a presentation, or to meet my husband after work for a date night.”
Honor Brodie, Creative Director at Tory Burch
“When it’s warmer outside, I love to wear vibrant colors and batik prints. This silk chiffon bow blouse adds a bit of softness to the more structured midi skirt, while the embroidered suede bag and mules have a bohemian vibe that feels right for summer.”
Maria Tash, Jewelry Designer & Piercing Expert
“I always think in terms of jewelry. I love warm yellow gold in the summer, as it both resonates with my complexion as well as any mild tan. My apparel choices get lighter (but still with at least half sleeves), so I opt for chiffons and silk charmeuse, plus linen pants that couple well with the silk tops. Jewelry and my hair still dominate over my apparel choices, though.”
Roopal Patel, Senior Vice President & Fashion Director at Saks Fifth Avenue
“This summer is all about experimentation, creating untold options for office-appropriate fashion. My personal go-to is a great blouse and skirt combo. I gravitate towards classic stripes, which come in all sorts of iterations, and take inspiration from suiting. In particular, I love a crisp poplin off-the-shoulder blouse from Rosie Assoulin paired with a Dries van Noten ruffle skirt. I add an easy summer sandal and Loewe novelty bag to complete the look.
In the summer, you want color, print, pattern—your look doesn’t have to be so classic. Experiment, but keep it chic! Summer office dressing doesn’t mean you should look like you’re going to the beach—reserve tank tops, flip-flops, and shorts for leisure activities.”
Leah White Rigueur, Professor at Johns Hopkins University
“For me, summer work attire means one thing: versatility. Because I’m always on the go, I need clothes that reflect that and reflect my diverse schedule. An average work week, for example, finds me rocking a lightweight top and white jeans for a meeting one day, and a bright-colored dress for a speaking engagement the very next day. This variety is what I love the most about my summer attire; I get to constantly go back and forth between Jordans, flip-flops, and Louboutins, which is incredible!”
Associate Fashion Commerce Editor
Meg Donohue is the Associate Fashion Commerce Editor at ELLE.com. Her passions include spicy foods, sustainability, and the Y2K remake of Charlie’s Angels. She will never stop hoping for a One Direction reunion tour.
Nikki Ogunnaike is the senior digital director of Harper’s Bazaar, where she oversees a team of editors and writers who cover the culture of style across the website, video, and social media. She has previously held roles at GQ, ELLE, Glamour, InStyle, and Vanity Fair. You may also recognize Nikki from her time as the host of Snapchat’s Online, IRL and IGTV’s The Run Through. In her free time Nikki enjoys running half marathons, learning about wine, and watching reality TV without an ounce of shame.