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Published: Sunday, 7/29/2007

Work clothes: Leave summer sizzle at home

Shorts, casual shoes, and tank tops are stylish but not appropriate for work. Shorts, casual shoes, and tank tops are stylish but not appropriate for work.

Yes, we know it s summer, the sun is scorching and humidity is high.

Yes, we know you want to wear things to work that are cool and comfortable.

But, no, it s not OK to show up at the office looking like you re headed for Cedar Point or the taping of a Working Girls Gone Wild video. It s possible to maintain a professional appearance while dressing a little more relaxed for comfort.

Your employer probably has laid down guidelines for office attire or even has a more formal dress code. These rules by all means should govern your choices. However, loopholes and/or vague language can leave you unsure about what is and isn t appropriate. Here are some pointers:

• First and perhaps foremost: Keep most of your skin properly concealed behind fabric. Nobody at work needs to see your shoulders, armpits, belly, lower back, upper thighs, or cleavage.

• Don t wear flip-flops to work. They re too casual, have minimal coverage to prevent office injury, and show too much foot. Instead, wear dressier sandals with more coverage and some arch support.

• Nix the tank top unless you wear a blazer over it. Alone, it reveals too much skin. Instead, consider a novelty T-shirt with a jacket or blazer. At least if something happens and you have to remove the jacket, you aren t horribly under-dressed.

• Save one-shoulder, off-the-shoulder, and strapless tops for social situations outside work. Overtly sexy at work is inappropriate. Instead, wear a lightweight gauzy top with sleeves, along with appropriate undergarments.

Don t show up in cargos, denim shorts, minis, or skirts and dresses with high slits. Short bottoms can become scandalously shorter when you sit. If you have to keep pulling down the hem of your skirt, then it s too short. Instead, try capris or a suit with walking shorts or gaucho-length bottoms.

• Don t translate casual Friday as sloppy hot mess Friday. All bets are not off simply because your employer may relax dress restrictions on those days.

• Finally, remember that comfort is a function of quality fabric and correct fit. A garment that clings to every curve of your torso is not comfortable or attractive or office-appropriate.

Here s a word to the wise from Talbot s Guide to Professional Dressing, published last year:

Remember this simple rule the next time you find yourself rummaging through a rack of sales goods: it s not a bargain if it doesn t fit. If something doesn t fit you properly, chances are it won t be comfortable or make you look your best, and it will likely end up a forgotten relic in your closet.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

LaMont Jones is fashion editor of the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at: ljones@post-gazette.com.

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