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Hot Under the White Collar


Just because the temperature is 98 degrees doesn't mean working women can stop wearing pantyhose to the office. It doesn't mean hot-necked executives can automatically forgo neckties or suit jackets, either.

What's a sweat-soaked executive to do? That depends on his or her job status, says Sandi Clark, co-owner of Image Works, an Irvine consulting firm and clothing store.

"We get more calls to give professional dressing seminars during the summer than any time of the year. It gets hot, and people start wearing some things that might be cooler but may be inappropriate."

Clark warns against throwing caution to the wind when dressing for comfort at work.

"What you wear really does say something about you, no matter how little you think it matters," she says.

People such as Clark make a business of how to teach professionals to dress beyond their present position (remember the 1988 movie "Working Girl"?).

Some of Clark's office no-nos for women:

* Sandals.

* Bare legs sans pantyhose with skirts or dresses.

* Midriff tops--even with jackets

* Ultra-short skirts.

* Oversize tunics and leggings

To beat the heat, Clark suggests short-sleeved suits for women. The ensemble gives women a corporate presence because of the jacket component while allowing for cooler arms.

At Image Works, there is a safari-style rayon jacket in a cream and brown plaid with coordinating city shorts and a blouse ($252). Also popular this time of year are the shop's short-sleeved, knitted silk Tees in a variety of colors by Paul Stanley ($50).

Clark also suggests sleeveless tanks with scoop necklines. They can be worn at the office, but Clark says many women also wear a sweater or a jacket when they are meeting clients. To ward off unruly bra straps, Clark suggests sewing snaps inside the blouse, at the shoulder to hold brassieres in place.

Adriana Abreau, who has endured three hot summers working in sales at the Tustin Acura auto dealership, says she has several strategies to beat the heat. Abreau, who lives in Rancho Santa Margarita, says she still wears pantyhose every day, and even heels, though she admits both are "hot and tiresome" during the summer.

Because Abreau sometimes works from 8:45 a.m. until 9 p.m., she faces the challenge of dressing for both scorching and cool temperatures. She usually wears long sleeves because she needs them in the cooler mornings and nights. During the day, she tries to direct customers into the showroom.

Her fashion strategy: suits with jackets that will accommodate cool camisoles underneath. On the weekends, when customers are more casual, Abreau will wear city shorts with matching jackets.

Makeup, she says, is an even greater challenge. She estimates she must apply touch-ups 30% more often during the summer than in the winter. She uses moisturizers with sunscreens--Neutrogena is a favorite--and wears her long brown hair in French braids and twists to keep cool.

One way women can keep cool outdoors is by altering their usual makeup routine, says Kathryn Davis, assistant cosmetics buyer for Nordstrom's Orange County stores.

"There are so many great alternatives to wearing foundation now," Davis notes.

She recommends self-tanners and bronzing powders, instead of foundations, to provide facial skin with an overall glow. Sun block, she adds, is a must. Moisturizers with sun protection factors are another plus for women working outdoors.

A frequent spritz of Evian Hydrating Skin Spray is another way of cooling down and adding moisture to dry faces, Davis says.

Clark concedes it is tougher for men to dress for success in the summer. The key to keeping cool is summer-weight wool suits. When it comes to short-sleeved dress shirts, Clark says, the decision is not as cut-and-dried.

"Men in large corporations may not be able to get away with it," she cautions, "but someone in real estate or who owns (his) own business may."

At the Disneyland Hotel and adjacent resort and park in Anaheim, professionals must adhere to appearance guidelines. Non-uniformed male professionals must wear dress slacks, dress shirts and a tie if no jacket is worn. With a jacket, the tie is optional.

Ken Inouye, manager of landscaping for the resort and hotel, says his strategy is not based on fashion mandates. Inouye says he must conform to his employer's professional appearance guidelines. He usually wears a short-sleeved shirt and keeps his jacket on during the warm months.

Though he spends 90% of his time outdoors during the hot summer, he makes it a point to move indoors periodically for about 10 minutes to cool off. Because Inouye works around trees, shrubs and soil, he also keeps a spare shirt, jacket and tie on hand in case something gets dirty.

Self-employed people such as real estate broker Rich Gelb set their own rules. Gelb, of First Team Real Estate in Huntington Beach, says he gave up the daily tie habit a long time ago. His most effective weapon against the heat is the right shirt.

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