On a recent shopping trip, my friends talked me into buying a romper.

If you've read this column before, you may be aware that I've been on the hunt for a romper that fits ever since rompers became popular. It has been a struggle, given that I'm quite a bit more substantial on the lower half, so my hesitation to buy it was unrelated to the way the item looked on me. It was a romper that actually fit, so I wanted to buy it.

In fact, I got caught up by the fact that this romper cost $100 and was not suitable for the office. I'm trying to budget, and something that could only be worn for up to 29 percent of my life seemed like a frivolous purchase.

In the winter, most of the clothes you purchase are appropriate for work. In general, they offer more coverage and if you have a too-much-cleavage situation you can wear something underneath. The only questionable item is jeans, and even those have become standard in most offices.

By contrast, summer fashions include shorts, flip flops, tank tops, sundresses and swimsuit cover-ups, all of which are workplace risks at the very least. If you're on a budget, it might be tough to spend money on these items, even if you really, really want them for the weekend.

Below, I've listed some summer favorites that are not traditionally considered office garb and broken down what you can do to get more of your money's worth.

Sleeveless dresses

Lots of people make this work, but for me it gets old wearing cardigans over everything. Plus, buying a bunch of extra cardigans to wear over sundresses doesn't really help you get your money's worth. These days, most offices will allow sleeveless dresses as long as they're not spaghetti straps. Basically, bare arms are now acceptable, just not when paired with bare upper backs or bare chests. I love sleeveless boatneck dresses because they have a high neck but the spirit of a sundress.

Flip flops

No, you cannot wear these to the office. However, you're probably going to wear them every Saturday and Sunday all summer, so it's smart to invest in a pair that costs more than $5. Your feet will thank you for giving them something with more support.


The key to shorts is not to buy too many pairs, because you can never wear them to work. That gets difficult because they always go on sale, you want chinos in every color and printed shorts are so chic. But even the $30 sale price is setting you back $30, so you just have to put limits on how many pairs you buy. My staples: a pair of denim shorts, a pair of colored chinos and a pair of white chinos. Stock those first. For rompers, you shouldn't feel bad about buying one, but you probably don't need more than one.

Tank tops

Tanks and tees are summer must-haves. If you're purchasing colors that you're not likely to wear in the winter, seek out sales. Most mass retailers have a table of cotton tanks in various colors that are $8 each or 3 for $15. When you spend more than this, it should be for either a nicer tank or camisole that can be re-worn under a blazer or for cotton tanks in neutral, all-season colors that will go under cardigans or jackets.

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