Avoid a professional fashion faux pas with these expert styling tips.

By Samantha Peters
Updated April 18, 2018
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When summer hits, it’s tempting to ditch your winter wool for lighter options, even en route to the office. It can be hard to resist the allure of barely-there fabrics against your skin once the mercury rises, and while breezy midi skirts and silk shells are no-brainers for a warm-weather workplace wardrobe, there is one type of item in your closet—shorts—that should be reserved for weekends only. Or should they?

The answer isn’t quite as black and white as it seems. It really depends on your company. “Many businesses have an official dress code which will let you explicitly whether or not shorts are permitted,” says Rebecca Daly, Real Simple’s senior fashion editor. “If yours doesn’t, let the office environment be your guide. If most people are wearing suits and the atmosphere is relatively formal, steer clear of shorts, even on casual Fridays. If you work in a more creative environment, shorts may be okay, but take your cues from people in management positions and above—if you see them in shorts, consider it a green light for you, and vice versa.”

Even if you do work in a more fashion-forward environment where almost anything goes, there is still some short-related advice to follow that will ensure you maintain professionalism. The cardinal rule: Stay away from cutoffs, which are almost universally considered too casual for any workplace, and opt instead for a tailored pair of Bermuda-length shorts, which offer conservative hemlines and an overall more polished look. We love this classic black version that can easily be worn with any style of blouse. If you’re feeling a little more daring, a playful patterned pair (or a chic shorts suit, like this one from ASOS) will really take your outfit to the next level.