How To Combat Sweat In Semi-Formal & Formal Attire

by Jen Marie

It's officially summer, and the heat is on. Whether you're heading to work, a wedding, or a summer soiree, you're bound to encounter a few situations this season where rising temperatures or your active lifestyle will have you longing for sweat free formal wear. Perhaps your sweet, but slightly sadistic coworker has invited you to her outdoor, desert locale, black tie wedding. You're thrilled to attend, but aren't thrilled about the prospect of formal attire in 90 degree plus heat.

Or maybe you're finally closing on your new house, and have a week of moving to look forward to on your lunch breaks and straight away after work (turns out your current landlord has already found your replacement, and you need to be out — yesterday), but don't want to sweat your way through your office-wear all afternoon. Hey, life happens, and you want to look good for it — sometimes even in spite of it.

The key to combating the appearance of sweat in semi-formal and formal attire is knowing your limits, and planning ahead. You may not always have full control over every aspect of your wardrobe (especially if you're a bridesmaid, or guest at a black tie event), but there are a few ways to minimize some of your discomfort (and potential damage to your formal wear). And, if you're planning a wedding, or have the comfort of others in your wardrobe wielding hands, you may want to pay close attention to the following tips for minimizing sweat while wearing semi-formal and formal attire.

1. Free Your Pits

If you can, choose formal wear that allows your armpits adequate ventilation. While most of us probably won't be rocking suits with cutout armpits, we women do have other options. Find dresses and blouses that are cut low beneath the underarm, so movement is unrestricted. Having a seam rubbing below your armpits may aggravate your glands and cause irritation, redness, or swelling, on top of any sweating that may occur.

If you've been relegated to wearing a suit, take breaks from your jacket whenever possible. Commute to your destination sans jacket, step out for air without just your dress shirt, and remove your jacket at your desk, when you're enjoying the solitude of your office.

On days when you know you'll have strenuous activity on a lunch break, remove as many layers as possible while completing your task, then slowly layer on again once you've cooled.

2. But If That Doesn't Work...

Kleinert's Ready Dress Shields, $16, Amazon

You can always cover your arm pits instead. There are a variety of armpit guards designed to soak up sweat available, and although the concept is a little odd (like a maxi pad for your pits), when you're obligated to wear sleeves in humid weather, they could be exactly the solution you're looking for.

3. Wear Breathable Fabric

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Rayon, silk, and polyester show sweat very obviously, and have a tendency to trap the heat. Flowing chiffon and cotton make up the most of my summer wear, and for good reason. They're light weight, breathable, and support ample movement, which helps air flow to the areas that need it most.

Even in the land of suits and dress suits, lightweight fabrics can be found. Consider linen and cotton blends, and steer away from wool. Cotton or bamboo dress shirts will help keep you cool, and will allow for more ventilation than their polyester counterparts. The same obviously goes for dresses, jumpers, blouses, and dress pants.

4. Really — Wear Breathable Fabric

Don't wanna be the smelly kid at the office? Sincerely heed my warning about breathable fabric. Trapping all of that heat under your shirt means you'll be brined in your own toxins by the end of the day. You won't like it, and neither will your coworkers.

5. Watch What You Drink

Caffeine has a tendency to amp up perspiration, so you may want to decline that soda refill at lunch, and skip your second morning coffee. But if you're going to cut caffeine from your routine, do it gradually. Going through caffeine withdrawal ups anxiety, which usually causes more sweating.

6. Consider Your Colors

You have a choice to make here, and it really comes down to knowing yourself well. You can either opt for black, dark colors and natural whites, which don't show sweat stains very obviously. The downside? The heat will be intense if you're out in the sun, and you don't want to be the friend who wears white to another woman's wedding.

Your other option is to make color work for you. If you're not a naturally sweaty person, this is probably your best bet. Wearing light pastels to the office and outdoor events will keep you cool during your commute and under the sun. Light colors act as natural reflectors, unlike black and darker colors, which absorb light and heat. They do show perspiration, but you may not get so hot that you actually sweat. Know thyself, and choose wisely!

7. Dress In Layers

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It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but the benefits here are multi-purpose. For situations when heat inspires you to wear strapless or thin strapped dresses and camisoles, layer with light weight knit jackets, wraps, shrugs, and scarves. They'll allow you to maintain a professional level of coverage in corporate offices, or around your more traditional family members. Or, if you happen to sweat through your main blouse, having a light jacket or shrug to toss on can act as a cover up.

For men (or women) wearing button up shirts and jackets, having a cotton or sports shirt as an under layer will create a boundary between your formal attire and your sweaty skin. Many sports shirts work well as under shirts, as they whisk moisture from your body and absorb it. Natural fibers like cotton, hemp, and bamboo, have similar properties, and are exceptionally breathable.

8. Don't Dehydrate

Some folks are under the assumption that drinking less water means sweating less, thus, drinking less is clearly the solution. It's not. Although there is certainly a direct correlation between how hydrated you are and how much your perspire, your body needs adequate hydration to function, especially if you're wearing full formal wear in the sun, or working a long day at the office. Maintain a healthy water intake — no amount of embarrassment is worth compromising your health.

9. Cool Your Feet

Choosing shoes with superior ventilation is just as important as wearing breathable fabric. If you can wear sandals, open toe heals, loafers, or boat shoes, you'll loose much more heat than if you opted for closed pumps or laced wingtips. Less heat = less sweat = a more relaxing, less anxious evening. And, if you're obligated to wear hot shoes, consider investing in some moisture absorbing insoles to reduce clamminess and odor.

10. Blotting Paper And Handkerchiefs

Handkerchiefs are not just for your elders. They're super handy (haha, get it?), and have a multitude of potential uses, including blotting up excessive sweat from your brow. If your formal wear is bringing you down, but you want to hide the evidence, make sure you have a handkerchief with you at all times to freshen up with. Or, if carrying a hanky weirds you out, invest in some biodegradable facial blotting paper, for a disposable, slightly more discreet option.

11. Wear An Updo

Yes, your long locks are stunning, and you've clearly put in the time to get them to their luxurious sate. But when it comes to wearing a floor length gown on a sweltering day, or being stuck in an office in slacks and a jacket, wearing your hair down can be downright exhausting. That warm blanket of a man is trapping heat at the back of your neck — right where you want it to escape from. Reach for some bobby pins and your favorite hair tie, and get that hair in an updo, stat!

12. Bring A Fan

Ever consider slipping a paper fan in your clutch? They're lovely, and very practical. You may get an odd look or two initially, but when everyone else in the room realizes where the subtle breeze is coming from, you might just find yourself a trendsetter. Or, if you're more of the go big or go home type, search out an electric fan with a small mister attached. Voila! Instantly cooler, and now no one can tell if your glistening or if it's just mist.

In the end, if your sweat still shows, don't stress too much, it's an intrinsic part of having a human body. But hopefully these tips will help keep your summer formal wear slightly less sweat soaked.

Images: jerryoconnor/Flickr; Courtesy Brands; Giphy (4); 51528537@N08, lovemaegan (2), maureendidde, jennie-o/Flickr