Fashion was so much easier in the 1950s. Suits, white shirts, and ties for the gents. Skirt suits, stockings with girdles and closed-toe pumps for the ladies.

Fashion was so much easier in the 1950s. Suits, white shirts, and ties for the gents. Skirt suits, stockings with girdles and closed-toe pumps for the ladies.

Now we're "business casual," and what that means isn't that clear. Throw in summer heat, and things get even more confusing. Are capri pants OK? What about ties with short-sleeved shirts? Can men wear sandals to work?

"It's a tough time of year," says Bobbie Thomas, co-host of Style Network's "Fashion Police." "You are trying to balance comfort with being professional."

While codes vary from place to place, some general guidelines can keep you cool and professional in the office:

In a more casual office environment, knee-length polished and tailored shorts are fine for women, says Thomas.

But fashion experts are split on whether men should wear them.

Executive coach Pamela J. Holland, co-author of "Help! Was That A Career Limiting Move?" says shorts for men are a no-no, unless the president of the company is wearing them and encouraging it.

Thomas says she would prefer the same fashion rules apply to men and women though she acknowledges that it is harder for men to pull off shorts.

Most men's shorts are cotton and work best with a more casual top and shoe, she says.

"Now he is worried about not wearing a tie, losing the socks and sporting loafers," says Thomas. "Otherwise guys run the risk of feeling like an English schoolboy."

She suggests men wear a short suit or pair "smart shorts" with a matching blazer — if they are comfortable the boss won't mind and have some fashion-forward nerve.

Capri pants are fine for women, says Holland.

"Men in capris?" she asks. "I shudder at the thought."

For men, wearing a tie with a short-sleeved shirt is generally a no-no, says Holland.

"I know often people in car sales, they're going in and out, and it is considered acceptable for their industry," she says. "But if you are working where people are more conservative and more fashion savvy, the fashion rule is if you wear a short-sleeved shirt, keep it under a jacket."

If the work place is a bit more casual, men can't go wrong with a polo shirt, she says. But T-shirts with expressions and tank tops are no-nos.

For women, a plain T-shirt is fine in a casual office, says Laird Borrelli, senior features editor for Style.com. But it should be clean, thick and worn neatly, such as tucked into a pair of white demin jeans with a blazer.

Sleeveless for women is OK, but some employers enforce a three-finger rule, which means straps have to be as wide as three fingers, says Holland.

As a general rule, women should avoid showing too much shoulder or cleavage.

"The more flesh that's exposed, the more distracting you could potentially be," says Holland.

To make a summer dress or top more office-friendly, throw on a shrug, cardigan or jacket. Most offices are freezing in the summer anyway.

Ah, the great hosiery debate continues. Diane Sawyer challenging men to wear them for a day. Michelle Obama's recent confession on "The View" that she doesn't.

Look at your legs. If there are veins, bumps and lumps, you probably should be wearing pantyhose, says Nancy Schneider, 71, owner of Nancy & Co. boutiques, with locations in Manhattan, East Hampton and Southhampton.

If you have good-looking legs, you probably don't need them unless the office is conservative, she says.

Thomas calls the debate a "bit absurd" since pantyhose are see through. She advises women going bare to shave their legs and use self-tanner. Smooth and soft legs boost a woman's self-confidence, she says.

A no-no, even during a heat wave, says Thomas.

"I don't think the three inches you are shaving off on the hemline is going to make you any cooler," she says. "Your middle finger should be hitting the hemline."

In general, male sandals are a no-no, says Holland. But in a casual enviroment, if senior executives are wearing them, go ahead

For women, the closed-toe shoe rule still applies in conservative environments, she says, though peep-toes may be acceptable.

Sandals are fine in a more casual work environment, but toes should be pedicured, says Borrelli. Mules can be a bit distracting if they make a lot of noise and Keds may only be appropriate on a casual Friday.

Flip-flops? Not unless the entire office is hitting the beach.

"What do you think of when you think of flip-flops?" asks Holland. "You think of kicking back. That's not sending a good message."

"Sex and the City" might have changed the way women wear bras, but showing straps and wearing see-through shirts are generally not appropriate for the office, says Thomas.

Sun dresses really need to be worn with a strapless bra, says Borrelli, and many need a slip.

"I think a lot of summer dresses are see-through and you might not notice that in a changing room," she says.

Ladies going without the hose may want to opt for a thong to avoid pantylines. Consider other undergarments if you need some control.