When temps rise in the summer, so do hemlines. Maxis give way to minis and pants give way to shorts. All of that is well and good on the weekends, but during the weekday, it can lead to questionable workwear choices that may not adhere to an office dress code. Shorts, especially, remain one of the most controversial options, which brings us to the ultimate question: Can people wear shorts to the office?
To get to the bottom of this issue, we jumped on a phone call with Kate Weiss, the vice president of human resources at Time Inc., Styleulove‘s parent company, for some corporate insight. “Time Inc., specifically, doesn’t have a formal dress code policy, but it all depends on the industry you’re in. If you’re in finance, probably not. But in a more creative environment, you probably can. Ask yourself: If you’re called into a meeting with senior leaders, would you feel comfortable wearing shorts?”
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Weiss goes on to say the decision to wear shorts all boils down to three determining factors: an official dress code, work culture (creative versus conservative), and good judgment. “If you do wear shorts, choose ones with a nice fabric, of an appropriate length, and that can be paired with a dressy shirt and blazer,” Weiss says.
Hollywood stylist Hayley Atkin, whose clients include the likes of Mindy Kaling, Hilary Duff, and Lake Bell, echoes that sentiment: “You should treat shorts as a chic alternative to pants; treat them like a polished piece as opposed to something you’d wear on the weekend.”
To pull off shorts at the office without raising alarm or workplace scorn, we compiled an Atkin-approved guideline of dos (and one don’t).
• Do find shorts of an appropriate length. “I would recommend mid-thigh to the knee—anywhere in that range.”
• Don’t wear short shorts. That means, no booty shorts or frayed denim cut-offs.
• Do look for shorts cut from an elevated cloth. Try “a chino material or cotton. I like tailored shorts that have structure, but are also lightweight.”
• Do seek out special detailing. Pleats down the front, a clean hem, or a high-waisted silhouette are great examples.
• Do go for neutrals. “Aim for classic colors, like black, khaki, navy, and if you dare, white. The classic the color, the better. Black is always flattering.”
• Do style them with dressy pairings. “Tuck in a nice blouse and wear it with a blazer. Shorts also work with a stiletto heel, a menswear-inspired Oxford, and dressy sandals. Dress it up the same way you would with a pencil skirt.”
With that said, we pieced together three office-friendly shorts-centric outfits. Shop the looks, below:
Shop the look: Reiss top, $111; reiss.com. Mango shorts, $40; mango.com. Loeffler Randall sandals, $295; loefflerrandall.com.
Shop the look: Equipment shirt, $260; net-a-porter.com. Helmut Lang blazer, $620; otteny.com. Zara shorts, $40; zara.com. Asos heels, $54; asos.com.
Shop the look: J. Crew cami, $98; jcrew.com. Topshop vest, $130; topshop.com. Cos shorts, $115; cosstores.com. Diane von Furstenberg sandals, $325; nordstrom.com.
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