Un-Bare Summer Dressing

What to wear to work on hot summer days — and a definitive answer to the hose/no-hose dilemma.

By Charla Krupp
Fashion expert Charla Krupp. (Photo: Michael Waring)

To Cover Up or Not?Going bare-legged in summer has been the rule in the fashion world for years: We’ve nixed the pantyhose but made sure our naked legs looked good. (Leg sprays and self-tanners can be found in many a New York bathroom.) In offices around the country, though, a lot of women still wear nude hose even on the hottest days. This, I discovered, isn’t always because of a corporate dress code; sometimes it just makes women psychically comfortable."As a rule, stockings are not required in business," says Alicia C. Lazaro, managing director of the Whitney Group, an investment banking firm in New York. "But I am very senior at the firm and try to look as polished as I can. Pantyhose covers the imperfections caused by aging: sun spots, scars, uneven skin tone."At the Chicago law firm Stowell & Friedman, Linda Friedman and Mary Stowell have a self-imposed rule: Wear pantyhose in the courtroom. "It’s hard enough practicing law in federal court, which is still very much a boys’ club," Friedman says. "We don’t feel it’s right to take a chance when it might hurt our clients." Not that they like it: "Mary will remind me at night that the next day is pantyhose day, and we both say yuck."At California Bank & Trust, wearing hose is optional, but senior vice president Lorie Schulenberg does it even in hotter-than-hell Temecula, California. "You have to be taken seriously, and coming in wearing a cute little outfit without stockings doesn’t help your case," she says. If you wear pantyhose in summer, I have a brilliant buy for you. I tried on more than 25 pairs, and Donna Karan’s The Nudes beat the rest: They’re almost invisible on the leg, even under bright light. My favorites were Donna Karan’s The Nudes Toeless Control Top ($19, bloomingdales.com), which have little elastic holes that expose your big toe so you can wear a peeptoe shoe without showing any stocking.Arms, too, can be problematic in summer. If you don’t have to deal with arm flap, good for you, but some of us — even if we work out — prefer to keep our upper arms covered. Try a three-quarter-sleeve dress coat in a bright color or graphic print. If you’re still a sweater girl, look for a gorgeous beaded or jeweled cotton cardigan — much prettier than that old pashmina. Toss-the-Pashmina Summer CoatsSimply Vera stretch cotton jacket-coat ($88, Kohl’s, 866-887-8884). Soft and lightweight; throw it over anything black.kohls.com Nanette Lepore silk coat ($580, 212-219-8265). Double points for the snazzy lining.The New Office Topper? A Cropped JacketBCBG Max Azria silk blend jacket ($338).bcbg.com Rebecca Taylor canvas cropped jacket with sequined cuffs ($449, 212-966-0406).The Un-Dowdy CardiganNanette Lepore jeweled cardigan ($195, 212-219-8265). Works for day or night. Suit Blouse Alternative ShellsClub Monaco silk tank with neck tie ($89). Also comes in black or white.clubmonaco.com for stores Old Navy stretch cotton blend shell ($20). Good choice of other colors: black, white, turquoise, and navy. Best fit, best price.oldnavy.com Armani Exchange silk top ($88, 800-717-2929). Love the ruffles.armaniexchange.com Originally published in MORE magazine, June 2008.

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