Work + Growth

How to Dress Professionally in Hot Weather

  • Pay attention to the fabric and construction of your clothing, as certain materials and styles are far lighter and more breathable than others
  • Layers aren’t just for cold days. By wearing layers, you can remove or add on as needed, and keep cool mid-commute or bundle up in an air-conditioned office
  • Still struggling? Remember the cardinal rule: Do as the most successful lawyers in your organization do

No matter your practice area, the name on your degree, or the number of years you’ve been in law, there’s an annual occurrence that likely still presents a challenge: Dressing professionally in the summer when temperatures soar.

While female attorneys often have more options when it comes to dressing for the heat, men and women alike frequently struggle to keep cool in an industry in which suits are the norm. The good news is, by keeping a few tenets of summertime wardrobe in mind, anyone can optimize their chances of looking sharp no matter the mercury reading.

Below, some gender-neutral tips for dressing professionally in hot weather that will help you keep cool (before you’re making your case in front of a judge, at least).

Consider Fabric Choice

You’re probably more acquainted with onus probandi than open weave, but when it comes to summertime attire, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the latter. Open-weave fabrics are more likely to be breathable and lightweight than your standard wool suiting, which will go a long way toward keeping you comfortable no matter the temperatures outside. Look for items made from linen (which can wick moisture away from your body), cotton, fresco, and high-twist wool, whether you’re buying a suit or looking for something a little less formal. You’ll notice a big difference.

Pay Attention to Construction

When buying a blazer or suit jacket, how much do you consider the lining? Most suits (men’s and women’s) come fully lined, which means they have substantial weight and structure. This is typically a good thing, as it helps the garment lay well over your body. But when temperatures climb toward the triple digits, fully lined suits will also make your temperature rise. Instead, look for half lined or unlined suit jackets, which will be lighter and more breathable. If you must have a fully lined jacket, make sure the lining is a natural fabric, like silk, and not synthetic like rayon or polyester.

Choose Light Colors

Yes, we’re all lawyers here—but indulge us while we remind you of a basic scientific rule: Dark colors absorb more heat than do lighter colors, which reflect light. While black and navy are the colors of choice for many (if not most) lawyers, the smartest attorneys look elsewhere in the color spectrum during the warmer months. Dark blues, dark grays, and, of course, black will absorb more heat than lighter colors. Do your best to wear suits and tops in lighter shades of blue and grey, and give cream or tan a chance.

Dress in Layers

You might think wearing layers should be reserved for colder days, but you’re mistaken. Especially for your commute, layers can come in handy when it’s hot outside. While on your way to or from work, don’t wear your jacket or top-most layer and choose instead to travel to work wearing just your shirt or blouse. Male attorneys might elect to wear undershirts, which, while they won’t exactly keep you cool, will help you from sweating through a light-colored shirt. If your commute involves substantial amounts of time outside (walking or waiting for a train, for example), consider changing into your work clothes after you arrive at the office. And of course, layers are great for those offices with overly aggressive air conditioning.

Follow the Leaders

Still struggling? Is there a senior lawyer whose summer wardrobe you can emulate?

The cardinal rule of law firm success applies to dressing for summer, too: Do as the most successful lawyers at your organization do. Pay attention to how your most well-regarded colleagues dress as the seasons change and do your best to emulate them. For women, that means following established female attorneys’ leads when it comes to whether you need to wear nylons, for example. For men, if jackets become optional or lighter colors are the norm, follow suit (pun intended!)

What's Next

Before it gets too warm outside, go over your summer wardrobe options and figure out what will work, what won’t, and what you need to add.