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When the mercury rises, how far can the dress standards fall?

With summer temperatures soaring to record highs, some offices environments leave workers sweating it out in the stifling heat and humidity. So when it comes to dressing for work, exactly how casual can you get? We asked career coach Eileen Dooley for a few pointers on the do's and don't's:

1. What are the limits on dressing down generally? Is the "dress-down Fridays" code acceptable every day during the summer?

In short, no – dressing down tends to apply to Fridays only, and is not seasonal. Different clothing choices can be made during the warm months, as long as they remain professional.

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2. Are sandals okay for men? Or does the double-standard with men and women still apply?

Never. Even when men wore Bermuda shorts, knee socks and blazers in the summer, they never wore sandals. So, yes, there is a double standard, and no, gentlemen, you should never wear sandals.

3. What about socks – are they a must-wear whatever the temperature?

For men, socks are a must. For women, dress sandals are appropriate, but make sure feet are presentable.

4. Then there's the biggie – shorts. Are exposed hairy legs always a no-no? Or are smart, pressed, knee-lengths acceptable?

Again, for men, no, simply because men's professional clothes do not come in as many variations as women's do. For women, dress shorts can work, so long as legs comply with business culture standards.

5. Can any of the standard rules for women relax a bit in the summer, or is there no budging on skirt lengths, lower-cut tops, bare shoulders and stockings?

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Use common sense when dressing in the summer. The "rules" really don't change around what is considered professional. If you wear shorter skirts, bare shoulders, etc., think about the image that may be presenting.

Eileen Dooley is a certified coach and lead consultant for McRae Inc. in Calgary.

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