A place in the sun

Summer has always posed a dilemma for office dressing, bringing with it the problem of how to stay cool while not displaying too much flesh or looking overly casual and work-shy.

Fortunately, the days when a woman had to stick to shapeless

skirt suits are

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long gone.

Indeed, both style and fashion can be a useful tool in the professional arsenal, as knowing what is current, what suits you and what works well in a given situation can all speak volumes about how adept and effective you are, how organised, how creative and how in touch.

This is less true for some jobs than others, but we are no longer talking here about just the creative industries, and where it does apply, it's becoming a factor for both men and women

A capsule wardrobe – that is, a good working wardrobe comprising neat tailored dress, skirt, trousers, jacket, shirt and top – should form the foundation of your work look, and it's worth investing in these key pieces.

This is the week that many sales begin, with some particularly good bargains

to be had. The Harvey

Nichols Leeds sale kicks off today, while both the Mulberry and the Jaeger sales start tomorrow. Discounts are in the region of 30 to 50 per

cent, but you'll have to be quick to snap up classics in your size. Look out for bags and shoes, too.

There are certain looks that don't really work for the office and I'm afraid the maxi dress is probably one – far too summery, as if you need a glass of chilled wine in your hand and a dreamy expression on your face. The utility influenced look, however, makes for perfect office wear.

Look out for shirt dresses (Jaeger and M&S), shift dresses and tunic dresses, which can be funkied up or dressed down easily with accessories to suit the work environment or occasion.

Shorts are fine if tailored and no shorter than just above the knee and teamed with a smart top – either a neat blouse or a quality plain T, nothing casual or with a

logo, unless you want to look like

an Aussie backpacker who has lost her way.

Go for a good pair of tailored trousers, teamed with a fitted shirt (try Next and Wallis, which has come up with a particularly effective work-womanlike wardrobe for this season).

If you like your skirts on the

short side (and why not, if you have the legs?), then stick to opaques (think

Mary Portas, who always looks professional), but seek out ones that are temperature controlled – good old M&S again.