NEW YORK - Looking hot is good when you're headed out to a nightclub; not so good when you're going to work.
But during these dog days of August, people often are steamed by the time they arrive at the office. Clothes are damp, hairdos limp and makeup dripping. That's hardly dressing for success.
Then, after a few hours, the same people are in that ratty cardigan they keep at their desk, trying to ward off air conditioning-induced shivers.
Again, not a good look.
But there are things you can wear to take you through this home stretch of summer in style. Fashion insiders pick the one thing they can't live without when the temperature soars:
-Cynthia Rowley, designer: A loose, light dress
"You don't need to go bare on hot summer days - a dress in a light fabric like silk will keep you cool even if it also keeps you covered up," says Rowley, known for her playful, girlie styles. She points to a chemise ruffle dress from her own collection. "In silk, it's light and cool, and the 3/4-length sleeves look professional. In the summer you're in and out of air conditioning, so layering is important. A dress is easy to pair with a little cardigan or soft jacket, as well as a little sweater wrap that can roll up and go right in your bag."
Rowley's right that bare isn't always best, especially in an office where attire should be respectful no matter what the weather is outside. A bonus: Many loose dresses will look good paired with leggings or tights this fall, capitalizing on what is already one of the hottest trends.
-Thalia, latin singer and designer of Kmart's Thalia Sodi Collection: A pretty camisole.
"Being from Mexico, I know how to stay cool. I have mastered looking cool and still fashionable...The camisole is the basis. I need to feel fresh, be loose and open, see the skin of my arms and cleavage to feel cool. You can wear a camisole with all different bottoms."
The appeal of camisoles on a hot day is easy: there's not much to them. The appeal as workplace apparel is easy, too: they fit nicely under a jacket or cardigan - and that's how you should wear them in the office. While lingerie looks have moved into ready-to-wear, your co-workers shouldn't see bra straps or a lot of lace. That said, a touch of lace or other embellishment can be what sets a camisole apart from a plain cotton tank top.
Also, a camisole can give a pop of color to an otherwise neutral outfit. (Those neutral outfits are good, though, because they're so versatile.)
-Nicole Fischelis, fashion director of Macy's East: Linen pantsuit.
"I love linen, and I have a lot of minimalistic linens suit - pants, tops and open-shirt jackets. They're very neutral and clean colors, brown, cream and gray. I wear interesting jewelry with them. It's what I feel really good in."
Don't worry about the inevitable wrinkles that come with linen - make it part of a cool, casual look that's still pulled together. Choose accessories that are little bit funky, maybe chunky beads or metallic flat sandals. Anything that's too tailored or refined will work against the vibe you're trying to project. Brown, gray and even black can still be summery enough in linen and they can give an outfit a longer life because they certainly can be worn in September when a pastel will start to clash with the scenery.
Tom Julian, strategic director of trends at ad agency McCann Erickson:
Lacoste polo shirt.
"It's acceptable for business. You can wear it with a chino or a lightweight gray flannel trouser. You can wear it with a blazer or without. The collar makes the difference."
T-shirts cross a casual line that's not acceptable in many business situations. What if a meeting is moved at the last minute to a lunch at a swank restaurant? What if you're called on to give a presentation to the bosses? A T-shirt isn't going to cut it. A polo shirt can carry you through both - just make sure there's no stain left behind from last weekend's barbecue.
Cristina Ehrlich, celebrity stylist - clients include Penelope Cruz, Jennifer Garner and Demi Moore - and co-designer of Miss Davenporte:
"I can't live without cotton-linen trousers. They're comfortable, cool and chic while running around town. My absolute favorites are Dries Van Noten and J.Crew. The style is dressy enough to transition gracefully from cool and comfortable day to sleek and elegant night."
Not having to go home between work and a dinner date is reason enough to wear linen trousers. And by the end of the day, honestly, almost any fabric looks a bit rumpled. Since it's expected with linen, it seems a bit more acceptable. A tailored style also keeps the look from appearing too slouchy.
Ali Fatourechi, creative director of Genetic Denim:
Lightweight denim jeans.
"It all goes back to fabric. You can't escape denim, especially me because I'm in the denim business and I'm in LA. I wear a really light fabric with flip-flops and a T-shirt. Very casual. For denim, the fabric weight makes a difference - 8 1/4-ounce fabric feels like linen."
Denim already is a staple in almost every closet. The key is to have denim choices for different forecasts since it's not a one-weight-suits-all fabric. A denim that's 6 or 8 ounces per square yard still looks like the denim used for jeans but isn't heavy or stiff. An ultralight 4-ounce denim is known as chambray and is more commonly used for tops than bottoms, and 10-ounce or higher denim is the right weight for fall or winter.
And, remember, the darker the denim the dressier the look.