It's time to check your wardrobe: Dress codes for summer

As summer nears and you start changing your wardrobe from the darker colors and longer lengths of winter, everything starts to look brighter. But, just because it's hot outside doesn't mean your company's dress code needs to go out the window.

In fact, if you're a manager, it's probably a good idea to send out a little dress code reminder before it gets too hot. It's easier to remind people than it is to have to send someone home for wearing something inappropriate.

And what is inappropriate in the office? Well, of course, that is going to vary from place to place. But, the reality is, with the advent of air conditioning, most offices aren't warmer in the summer than in the winter. So a good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't wear something with this length and this cut during winter, you shouldn't wear it in the summer. (Color is a different thing!)

If your company's dress code is vague, or merely based on looking around at what the boss wears, here are some general guidelines for summer dress code wear.

The Business Casual Office

Men, sorry, but no shorts. Your ankles need to be covered, and you've got to stay in shoes that require socks. And no, sandals do not require socks. Ever. Especially not black ones. But, you can break out short sleeved polo shirts or short sleeved button down shirts.

Women have it a bit tougher -- there are more options. Sandals? Okay, as long as your company doesn't have a rule against open toed shoes. (Generally anyone with manufacturing or warehouses or labs will ban open toed shoes.) You probably should avoid shorts as well, but sometimes nice capris can be okay in a business casual office. Be careful of sleeveless shirts -- look to female senior management for the key on this. If the VP of Business Operations wears sleeveless you can too. You don't have to wear stockings with your summer skirts.

The Formal Business Office

If you have to wear a suit 5 days a week (or more!) you have to wear a suit in the summer too. The only place you can play is with colors and fabrics. You can go a bit lighter, but basically, you're stuck. The one area there is some flexibility is for the women only -- and that is with stockings and shoes. Unless your boss or company is really formal, you can do without pantyhose in the summer months, and you can switch to open toed or slingback shoes. Otherwise, it's business as usual.

The Casual Office

Just because everyone wears jeans and t-shirts all winter, doesn't mean you can jump to tank tops and cutoffs in the summer. You still need to look "nice." Keep your shorts long enough that there isn't any danger of embarrassing yourself. You need to be even more aware of your skirt length.

Tank tops? Bra straps need to not peek out. Ever. And, in some casual offices, tanks still aren't appropriate, even when it's 95 degrees out. When in doubt, ask. Midriffs should not be showing, and cleavage needs to be pretty well covered.

As for shoes? Pretty much anything goes. Men can wear sandals. Flip flops are okay as long as they aren't terribly tacky and it's not a safety issue (where closed toed shoes are required). But, remember, you are at work, and you need to look the part, whatever that is.

Overall, summer is a more relaxed time just about everywhere. But, make sure don't go more casual than your company culture allows. When in doubt, it's generally better to dress up rather than down.