Ask CF: How Do I Dress for a Business-Casual Environment as a Plus-Size Woman?

How to look chic at work this summer.

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Welcome to the latest edition of Ask CF! Every two weeks, we select a reader fashion question and answer it here on the site. Do you have a specific fashion question for us? Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn how to send it our way!

Ask CF Question

Hello, I’ll be interning at a cancer research institution in Houston this summer and need business casual outfit ideas. I know that Houston will be very hot, humid, and rainy, and that the office will be heavily air conditioned. I have a short walk to the lab each morning, I don’t have a lot of professional clothing yet, and I’m plus-size. Do you have any ideas on outfits so that I don’t melt? Thanks!

Our Response

Dear LW,

Firstly, congrats on your internship opportunity! It sounds amazing! 

Secondly, if you’ve already started searching for business-casual clothes for summer, you have probably realized that it can be a bit of a challenge. This is because it’s easier for the line between business-casual and everyday-casual to become blurred, as many retailers seem to think of Summer as vacation time, rather than work time. 

Thirdly, based on my research for this article, I found that this line is especially blurred in the world of plus-size fashion, where, as I was both surprised and disappointed to find, there isn’t as much available by way of youthful-yet-professional-looking clothing as there is for other sizes.  

However, don’t be disheartened; just keep scrolling for some suggestions on how to look cute and put-together for work in the summer — no matter what size you happen to wear! I’ve put together some super cute plus size summer work outfits just for you.

Plus Size Summer Work Outfit #1

Products: Dress – Old Navy, Cardigan – Old Navy, Bangle – Nordstrom, Flats – H&M, Earrings – Nordstrom, Necklace – LULU DK, Tote – Zara

This plus size work outfit for summer is cute, classic, and comfortable, and is also so easy to put together! To begin, put on a striped belted shirtdress with ruffles at the shoulder. (Note that, depending on the rules of the lab, you may have to keep your legs covered; if you do but still want to wear shorter dresses like this one, layer a pair of basic black leggings, like these, underneath. As well, if you are required to wear shoes that cover more of your foot, feel free to swap out the flats for a pair of higher-cut loafers, like the ones in the second or third look.)  

Since most labs require closed-toe shoes, add a pair of simple ballet flats; the print on these ones is the perfect way to pay homage to the major moment that gingham is having this season. 

Now let’s add jewelry. A pink printed bangle adds a third printed element to the look, allowing you to experiment with mixing prints in a fun, yet professional-looking, way. The dress’ v-neckline is perfect for showing off this pretty disc-shaped necklace, while sparkly faux-diamond earrings add a classy touch.

Since you mention that the lab will be quite cold, layer on a solid-colored cardigan; finally, a white tote is the perfect warm-weather alternative to black, and is just as wearable, too.

Plus Size Summer Work Outfit #2

Products: Blazer – Nordstrom, Pants – Old Navy, Blouse – Forever 21, Bracelet – BaubleBar, Loafers – Sole Society, Earrings – J.Crew Factory, Necklace – BaubleBar, Tote – Sole Society

For this look, I decided to go with something a little more preppy, but definitely not stuffy!

To get it, begin by putting on a breezy white blouse with a banded waist. Next, layer on a flowy striped blazer. Add a pair of brightly colored cropped chinos with a bit more structure to balance out the looseness of the top half of the ensemble.

Bolder jewelry, like a chunky chain-link bracelet, adorable lemon earrings, and a triple-strand gold necklace, are in keeping with the outfit’s playfulness, while a nautical-inspired tote is the perfect finishing touch. 

Plus Size Summer Work Outfit #3

Products: Blazer – Torrid, Loafers – Zara, T-Shirt – Old Navy, Skirt – ASOS, Earrings – Anthropologie, Necklace – Shopbop, Bracelet – Shopbop, Bag – Sole Society

If you can’t decide whether you’d like to wear something dressier or something more relaxed, why not go with a bit of both? This plus size business casual outfit does just that, combining to the two feels for a balanced vibe.

A casual white t-shirt gives this gorgeous and classy wrap skirt a more laid-back look, while the ladylike bows on these patent loafers (which would be great for wearing in rainy weather, by the way!) add a touch of femininity to a traditionally masculine style, making them the perfect addition to this outfit. 

(Once again, note that you may have to bring out the leggings with this skirt, depending on the rules of the lab.)

This cool bright pink blazer proves that dressed-up doesn’t have to equal plain.  Meanwhile, a delicate bracelet and necklace allow these statement-making earrings to stand out.

Finally, a feminine ruffled bag is the perfect complement to this sophisticated look.  

Bonus: Rainy-Day Accessories

Products: Rain Boots – Bloomingdale’s, Flats – Amazon, Umbrella – Target, Jacket – Nordstrom, Tote – Nordstrom

As you mentioned in your letter, the weather in Houston can sometimes get rainy; that’s why I’ve decided to put together a couple of rain-friendly items for you to wear on your walk to work. (For more like this, be sure to see our guide to what to wear on a warm rainy day.)

As far as footwear goes, these jelly flats are a great option for when you want your shoes to look as good as your outfit does, without having them get wrecked by the water. (Just keep in mind that these ones may not be acceptable for work, since there is a small hole at the toe.)  Furthermore, calf-length rain boots are perfect for when something more heavy-duty is needed, but you don’t want to wear full-length rain boots in the warm and humid climate.   

A cute, neutral-colored, lightweight jacket that has a tie at the waist is perfect for wet weather — not to mention that it will go with just about any outfit!

A sturdy nylon tote will keep all of your essentials dry; lastly, you can’t go wrong with a classic transparent umbrella; I love the red stripe that goes around this one!  

I hope that these looks have been helpful in providing you with stylish, yet practical, outfit ideas for your internship. Good luck, and thanks for your question!

What do you think?

Do you have any tips for dressing for business-casual dress codes in the summer as a plus size woman? What about dressing for hot, humid, and rainy days? Do you have any favorite shopping destinations for business-casual plus-size clothing?

Let me know in the comments!

Source: #Fashionblogger #fashiontrends

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