Many business and professional people in Honolulu, Los Angeles and, to a growing extent, Miami have had the imagination and gumption to thumb their noses at convention and dress in a style appropriate to their environment. They have swapped such corporate dress-code basics as suits, ties and stockings for lighter, more casual attire.
The rules are relaxing in some businesses -- especially on "casual Fridays," a made-for-comfort innovation that has been widely adopted over the past three years. But what if your company -- or you -- just can't let go of the traditional, dress-for-success uniform? How do you dress to beat the heat?
Fabric is the key. It should "breathe" and be lightweight and absorbent. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen and wool have these properties. To make them exceptionally light and easier to care for, they can be blended with man-made fibers such as rayon or acrylic.
Wool may seem like an anathema in summertime, but it's still the best choice for a man's suit, said Erin Gaffney, a spokeswoman for the Hart Marx clothing company.
"Wool breathes," Ms. Gaffney said. "The new wools are so light you can't believe they're wool."
In addition, the fabrics used to stiffen the fronts of jackets are thinner and lighter than ever, and many casual jackets have eliminated most linings, Ms. Gaffney said.
"I'm also seeing more suits accessorized with polo shirts. It's not for everyone, but it is a cool alternative to a dress shirt and tie," she said.
Men and women should look for clothing with a loose, full cut. Women are more likely to be able to take advantage of options such as open necklines, deep armholes, short sleeves and easy-fitting waistlines. These allow cooling air to reach the body -- and body heat to escape.
And then there are a slew of little tricks, each adding a degree of comfort to a summer workday outfit. Select light colors that absorb less heat. Wear low-cut or (for women) open shoes. Wear a hat. If you're a woman, skip the stockings, minimize the accessories, keep makeup light and style hair up and off the face.
What to wear to stay cool
* Select lightweight, loosely woven fabrics that "breathe" and absorb moisture, such as cotton, linen and tissue-weight wool.
* Short sleeves, open necklines, no-waist chemise or princess styling, and fuller or slit skirts all promote ventilation and comfort.
* Split skirts and walking shorts are cooler than pants and don't require slips.
* Choose cotton underwear -- and ditch the girdle or redundant slip.
* Think soft and loose when considering fabrics and styles.
* Choose a partially lined or unlined jacket.
Dump dress shirts and ties altogether, if appropriate. Instead, wear a banded-neck shirt, cotton-knit polo or T-shirt.
Wear cotton socks and low-cut shoes.