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What To Wear To Work – The Business Casual Looks We Actually Wore And Loved

One thing I miss about going into the office is that feeling you get when you walk in to work knowing you are wearing a really good outfit. Now as I work from home, the only audience I have to witness my outfits is my often sleeping, snoring American bulldog who (rudely) couldn’t care less. It’s been two years since our team has worked from an office, so when we were invited to Albie’s awesome Meridian Experience conference we were almost too excited to pull together some real business casual looks. It was a great excuse to swap leggings and sweatshirts for blazers, blouses, and wide-leg pants. So if you are curious about what the team wore and/or are looking for some “what to wear to work” inspo, we hope this post will help.

Emily

Jeans | Cardigan (similar) | Blouse (left) | Blouse (similar – right) | Shoes (similar) | Bag | Necklace

Last week at the conference I wore a striped button-up (this one is awesome and new – splurgy but GREAT drape and quality), then combined it with a varsity-style cardigan (I love the Alex Mill version, too). I wanted to get into the balloon pant game and I like these, but honestly, they weren’t worth the price tag. I bought them in New York and I think I got caught up in wanting to be on-trend, and they are cool, but again too expensive as I don’t think they are timeless enough. I’ve worn them 4 times the last month which isn’t nothing. It should be noted Brian is not a fan – they aren’t exactly flattering but that’s OK 🙂 

1. Birchmoor Cardigan Sweater | 2. Cashmere Nico Cardigan | 3. The Texture Cotton Cardigan

Jeans | Blazer | Vest | T-shirt | Shoes (similar)

At the “happiness” conference I wore this vest and jacket combo (from Wildfang – 4 years ago but still available) with a T-shirt, distressed jeans, and white pumps and I felt kinda like a badass in it. It felt powerful and casual at the same time. 

1. Josley Pointed Toe Pump | 2. Leather Pointed Loafers | 3. Charlotte Beige

Jeans | Cardigan (similar) | Button-Up | Boots (similar)

Lately, I’m leaning into more business casual vibes and in general have replaced my blousey blouses for menswear-inspired button-ups and dare I say “suits”. I love this button-up and find myself wearing it a lot.

1. Classic Linen Shirt | 2. Classic-Fit Soft Gauze Shirt | 3. Cito Stripe Short Sleeve Linen Blend Button-Up Shirt (in case you want short leave for summer:))

Jess

Vintage Long Sweater (similar) | Pants (similar) | Boots (similar) | Glasses

This is probably my new favorite outfit combo! That incredible vintage St. John cardigan duster was a gift from an old boss that I interned for in New York. I could not love it more but didn’t have the guts to wear it until last year. Shameful. That baby needed to see the world! But it felt too “flashy” for me which is pretty comical. But I’ve been trying to dress more boldly (at least bold for me) and a structured navy duster with big gold buttons really does it for me. This piece could easily go formal so to make it more casual and fun I paired it with these old Target wide-leg pants that I WISH they still sold and my faux snakeskin boots…that I also wish were still available. Oh, and you can’t see but I have on a dusty light blue sock that is a fun surprise. Took that one from Em:) Lastly, I LOVE wearing 2-3 statement rings because it’s such an easy way to make your outfit more luxe-looking and put together. Mixing high and low, as well as vintage and non-vintage pieces, can really make a fun unique look. Just take a little step outside of your comfort zone because it will likely pay off! Oh, and I did have a thin black tank under in case I got hot but luckily I was totally fine all day:)

Here are a handful of actual vintage St. John dusters as well as a couple of similar (and “less flashy”) options:

1. Vintage St. John Basics Navy Knit Long Sleeve Butt | 2. Vintage St. John Basics Black Knit Classic Mod Coat Dress | 3. St. John Evening Jacket | 4. Linen-Blend Duster Cardigan Sweater | 5. St.John Basics Evening Jacket | 6. Long Cardigan in Cashmere

Black Top | Turtleneck (similar) | Gold Necklace ( similar) | Jeans | Shoes | Cutie in the Background (she’s MINE! similar does not exist)

What, you thought I wasn’t going to have an outfit with one of my beloved shoulder-padded top?? Ha. No way. I wear them so much that I’m pretty sure my friends think I threw away the rest of my other shirts. But I digress. This is a real “jeans and a t-shirt” twist. It’s all about the angled shapes for me. I love the broad shape of the top and the balance it brings to the wide-leg jeans. And since I’m a mere 5’4″, I think it helps that the jeans are slightly cropped so the look doesn’t swallow me up. I do think that my favorite clogs help that too since they’re a few inches tall. And I literally just noticed that the clogs also have a fun angled toe! Now I normally wear this top without a long-sleeved shirt but since I was headed to slightly chilly Seattle, I threw it under. I really like the color contrast that also ties in the shoes. Plus it’s a great option if you want the look of a shoulder pad but have a freezing office or just don’t want to show off your arms. Oh, and if you can get yourself a Caitlin it really finishes off the look in the best way.

Vintage Red Blazer (similar) | Vintage Tee (similar) | Jeans | Boots (similar)

This one was REALLY outside of my comfort zone colorwise but I loved it! Again, don’t be afraid to take a risk. They’re just clothes! This blazer was my mom’s that I recently found after cleaning out my dad’s warehouse and the shirt was refound (used to wear it in college) and was actually my dad’s! Sorry Les, it’s mine forever. The shirt was from when Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, was planning to put up stadium lights for night games. My dad grew up next to the stadium and was part of an opposition group called C.U.B.S. – Citizens United for Baseball in the Sunshine. They clearly thought they were clever:) Anyway, a vintage tee, a fun blazer, jeans, and a cool shoe is a very easy and fun way to look put together while still feeling not too dressy.

I’m pro red blazers and in case you are now too here are some cute options:

1. Stretch Waffle Knit Blazer | 2. Linen Blazer Suit | 3. Kira Notch Lapel Oversized Blazer

Ryann

Shirt | Pants (similar) | Jacket | Shoes

I know what you are thinking… this doesn’t look like a conference setting! And you’re right. As fate would have it, I ended up getting Covid days before the conference so I stayed home and had a bunch of FOMO (fear of missing out). But when Jess told me I should still participate in this business casual post, it was a good motivator to actually put on the real outfits I was planning on wearing. I haven’t done business casual in over two years so I felt a little rusty at first and even convinced myself that I don’t own anything that would be considered “business casual”. But once I started playing around I realized I have more than enough to get by (as long as jeans are allowed–they are allowed right??).

Anything wide-leg feels business casual to me so these Nili Lotan x Target jeans (sadly sold out) really called to me. I paired them with a plain black tee and then layered with a chore coat and block heels and felt very cute and ready-for-the-office.

1. The Getty High Waist Wide Leg Jeans | 2. Maeve Wide-Leg Jeans | 3. The A Wide Leg Jean

Shirt | Pants (similar) | Shoes

As you can tell by the wrinkles I haven’t pulled these bad boys out of my drawer in what feels like years. These are also a Nili Lotan x Target collab and yes, another wide leg with the same plain black tee. I am a big believer in wearing the same articles of clothing over and over so if we were in the office, my lovely coworkers would see this t-shirt (and probably this outfit) A LOT. A matching blazer over this would be really cute too but I don’t have that. Maybe it’s time to get one?? You tell me.

Button up (similar) | Pants (similar) | Loafers

This feels like a Wednesday office look. Picture this: it’s mid-week, you’re feeling a little stressed and ready for Friday, so patterned pants may be the only thing to lift your mood. These pants in particular (sold out in this pattern but still available in other colors here) are SO comfortable and have so much stretch so sitting in them is a breeze. I paired them with a simple mens button-up from Goodwill and my trusty GH Bass Weejuns.

1. Brown Check Home Long Pants | 2. The Wide Leg Trouser | 3. Plaid Jules Pants

Jeans | Button up (similar) | Shoes (similar)

This is a very “me” outfit. If I were in the office every day, I realistically would have 5 or so button-ups that I’d rotate with jeans every day of the week. The shoes are my cherished vintage Manolo Blahnik‘s and what my mom would call “sitting shoes”. They are very hard to walk in but I love them and I do have a desk job so if we were in the office, I can see myself wearing them every once in a while (with flats in my purse just in case).

Jeans | Blazer (similar) | Shirt | Shoes (similar)

Did you think I’d leave you without a blazer look?? I could never. Again, as long as jeans are acceptable this is such an easy look to pull together but still a looks-like-you-tried outfit. I dressed up the jeans with heels and paired the same black tee with a vintage blazer. This is a business casual outfit formula I would repeat over and over. I’d also wear loafers with this exact outfit if I didn’t feel like struggling to walk all day 🙂

1. The Oversized Blazer | 2. Double Breasted Oversized Blazer | 3. Wool-Blend Blazer Coat

Mallory

Pants | Shirt | Shoes

I’ve been on the hunt for a good wide-leg trouser for quite some time now, and I’ve officially fallen in love with the effortless pant from Aritzia. They come in like 100 colors and are so comfortable. I was thrilled when I tried on this pair and it was a perfect fit. Don’t size down on these (I tried on a 2 and they gave me a camel toe no one should ever have to witness) but the size 4 (which is my usual size) was a perfect fit. I highly recommend!

1. Effortless Pant | 2. Mason Wide Leg Pants | 3. Suzanne High Waist Wide Leg Trousers

Shirt | Pants | Shoes | Jacket (similar)

This look was what I wore when we spoke on the panel at the Meridian Experience conference (which was SO much fun). This shirt is the perfect shirt to go from the office to date night. I love the way that it drapes and the sleeves are so good…it’s the perfect “peasant/romantic/renaissance-esque” top without going too overboard. It’s still modern, super lightweight and I love the color scheme and square neckline. 10/10 for a top like this…it’s the real star of the show here.

1. Tie-Sleeve Smocked Waist Top | 2. Smocked Embroidered Top | 3. Florian Top 

Dress | Boots (similar)

Ah, my go-to dress yet again on this blog. I firmly believe everyone needs a dress like this. You can wear it for EVERYTHING. For example, I literally wore this to the conference and then straight to the airport…that’s how comfy, flowy and easy it is. Plus it’s SO lightweight that you don’t get too too hot in it, but it’s still long sleeve so you don’t get cold really either. Gah, I love this dress. Of course, I bought it full price for $75 and now it’s like $20…SMH. Get this dress. It’s amazing for every single occasion and everyone is probably sick of seeing me wear it and link it all the time but sorry not sorry!

Caitlin

Skirt | Bodysuit | Clogs | Denim Jacket

This is actually what I wore to our panel at Meridian before a gnarly case of food poisoning and a lingering kidney infection landed me in urgent care for the weekend. (Let me know if you guys wanna see a slideshow of my “sick as a dog and sleeping nonstop for 4 days” fashion picks, because that’s more my expertise.) I went with an ice skating leotard as my base layer (why spend money on bodysuits when I’ve spent 20 years patronizing Capezio?) which worked out way better than expected – something about this fabric is awesome at keeping you warm OR cool, which I love. I paired it with a pretty simple leopard midi – this one is from Farm Rio, but there are tons available out there! Footwear-wise, I had to go with my trusty Charlotte Stone clogs. (Someone at the conference asked how many pairs I had and I thiiiink it’s at least 10 – being so tall makes me feel really in charge, you know?) It’s not groundbreaking or particularly like, fresh and chic, but it did make me feel comfortable while sitting in front of 100 people and that’s all I really wanted 🙂

1. Marlo Fandango | 2. The Jordyn Clog | 3. Women’s Peony Pumps

And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed our “EHD does business casual” journey and stay tuned for a FULL post on the incredible Meridian Experience conference. xx

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wally
16 days ago

I love seeing actual outfits – and esp love all the wide legged pants (esp cropped ones) – but I wish these clothing features depicted more size diversity.

hickenack
16 days ago
Reply to  wally

So are you saying Emily should hire more fat people or she should hire more skinny people?

This was a feature of what her current employees wore. She didn’t hire models for this post.

Anna Ty
15 days ago
Reply to  hickenack

Don’t be a jerk. The point is not who her staff are, right? Isn’t it possible that she could’ve looked a bit further for representation?
Oops- I forgot, we chubby blackish older girls don’t exist in her office, and beyond that, we’re unimportant.

wally
15 days ago
Reply to  Anna Ty

Or at least show plus sized options for the clothes? There are a lot of ways to be more inclusive. In general, articles on clothes on this blog are not. And, as you note, representation in images and articles goes beyond clothing – it shows who can do these kinds of careers.

wally
15 days ago
Reply to  hickenack

in my comment, I was talking broadly about the articles about clothing, not solely about this one. There didn’t seem to be any plus-sized options even in the clothes linked as similar to what was worn by the staffers. And broadly, more size diversity in clothing articles would be really great.

JMB
16 days ago

Yeah this is more weekend or solo travel then business casual (title typo fyi).

LouAnn
15 days ago
Reply to  JMB

It’s business casual in the company where I work.

Gotta giggle
15 days ago
Reply to  JMB

The irony of this comment pointing out a typo.

Lucy
16 days ago

I’m guessing you haven’t worked in an actual office in a long time – the majority of these looks would not fly in any office that I know! Waaaay too casual or inappropriate for work. Cute outfits, but not business casual!

🥰 Rusty
16 days ago
Reply to  Lucy

I think it’s not intended for ‘stsndard’ office wotk, but you know, trendy, hip, design-y workers on a casual conference, rather than actual office.

LouAnn
15 days ago
Reply to  Lucy

Why assume that “any office” you know is the only office. Where I work — in an office with 250 people — all of these outfits would qualify as “business casual.” Sheesh.

JMB
15 days ago
Reply to  LouAnn

Isn’t that what the article did? If you are going to call it business casual then you need to represent more than just your own casual requirements for the conference they went to or title it differently. The low cut tops , midriff tops and checked pants would not fly where I work or at any company that I have worked at in the past. Even a more relaxed sales meeting at a destination location would frown on the low cut and belly baring stuff. It’s called dressing like an adult who wants to be taken seriously. Jess was the only one who would make the cut. They always say dress like your boss unfortunately their boss does not set a great example as she looks like she is headed to the mall.

JMB
15 days ago
Reply to  JMB

correction…didn’t see them before but a couple of emilys balloon Jean looks aren’t bad but would probably swap out with mom jeans where I work ( no rips or frayed hems)

Heather
13 days ago
Reply to  Lucy

I had the same reaction but I figure that different parts of the country have different definitions for ‘biz casual.’ CA is always on the cutting edge in many ways. NYC, Miami, etc. in other ways. I live in Boston and I too had the ‘wha???’ reaction to these ‘business’ outfits but it’s a big country. If people in CA saw what we wore to the office I am sure they would be as puzzled as I am and wondering ‘what the heck is the matter with those people in Boston?’

mouseface
16 days ago

I like all these .. and wide leg pants are SO BAD on me ! LOL. Jess I really like how your blazers and/or padded shoulders add a witty, architectural element that make everything feel intentional. I was surprised to hear you were pushing yourself, you looked comfy cause the looks were fire. Vintage St John’s knits areT HE BEST. Packable, breathable, chic. St John’s vintage knit pants are also amazing – come in many colors, killer with a clog. Yes a blazer, height and someones padded/ puffed shoulders is my go to for power in the workplace. I have huge shoulders already so I just lean in.

Heather
16 days ago

Ryann,
I finally did it. After putting them in my cart and then never following through every time I see you wearing them, I just completed my purchase of a pair of Bass Weejuns!!

Ellie
16 days ago

While these are definitely not “business casual” attire (with the exception of Jess’ adorable first look), I still enjoyed this post very much! Emily, your “controversial” Tibi jeans are fantastic! Like something GOOP herself would wear. I for one will be stalking them in the hopes they go on sale.

🥰 Rusty
16 days ago

Crikey!! This is the jam. Casual business wear other than ‘casual Friday’? Yesss!!! Emily, your ‘fly is at half mast’ in the r/hand pic!🤣 Lurrrve that blouse!!! Hehe, the one pic with Brian casually 9n the bed in the background! I think the new casual work vibe you’re ricking DOES look Badass Boss Lady! Jess, “Just take a little step outside of your comfort zone because it will likely pay off!” This is what I needed to hear! After years of wearing vlothes I was told to buy/wear, I’m findjng it rricky to rediscover what vlpthes I actually like… and with so little money, I can’t afford to buy the wrong gear!  Perfect combo of your mom’s blazer, ypur dad’s t-shirt and a Caitlin in the background! You’re lookin’ edgy snd crisp! Ryann! You didn’t get to go? Well, good on you for still playing nice and showing us your outfits! I like the last one best – both shoes would be great! Mallory, the dress is gorgeous! It should be called ‘The Mallory’-it was made for you. The whire pant outfit is very cool, too. Caitlin? OMG! Did that happen to you in Seattle?! Well, your outfit is brilliant… Read more »

hickenack
16 days ago

Lovely looks on all but has “business casual” (or is it causal?) recently been completely redefined?

These looks range from “never appropriate in an office” (skintight tank top) to “appropriate for church if you switch the light wash denim for a cardi”.

Jeans and tight tops are casual. Plain casual. Not business casual.

Business casual is slacks and polo shirts or short sleeve button ups.

Also, puh-leeze hire a professional editor.

Eliot
16 days ago
Reply to  hickenack

There is a wide range of interpretation on this matter, clearly. For most creative industries, all of this would fall under the umbrella of business casual, while it would likely be too casual for a more corporate setting. And any way, who wants to read a style post about slacks and polo shirts?

hickenack
16 days ago
Reply to  Eliot

Respectfully disagree. These fits are “creative industries casual”. Not business casual. Of course typical business casual attire could be boring in a post. These outfits are not boring. It’s just an incorrect title, that’s all.

Rachel
15 days ago
Reply to  hickenack

They are still businesses though so I’m not sure how the title is incorrect. The one office where I was made to wear ‘corporate attire’ I felt it was so sexist and old fashioned. What is the point of it?

Eliot
16 days ago

Where are on earth are you? The looks are cute, but you all look like you are dressed for winter in the Northeast. Boots, cardigans, in the summer? I would pass out. My makeup would melt off my face before I got out of the hotel.

Kj
16 days ago
Reply to  Eliot

The conference was in Bellevue, WA from 6/8-6/11 and the daily high was in the 60’s: https://www.wunderground.com/history/weekly/us/wa/bellevue/KSEA/date/2022-6-8

Sheila
16 days ago
Reply to  Eliot

Seattle in early June can be quite cool and rainy. And every US conference hotel I’ve been to has had frigid AC even in mid-summer. I always plan layers and keep a pashmina in my briefcase in case it’s really bad!

Erin
16 days ago
Reply to  Eliot

Think I read this was a Seattle conference, Albie’s Meridian Experience if you are a regular reader. I am just North of Seattle and am sitting at a cool 57 degrees today, I think we have had like 1 day that hit 70 or above this year which is unusual. I will take shade from mother nature as opposed to the heat wave or flooding going on in the rest of the world. But even regular PNW summers layering is a must, we can have 40-50 degree mornings with 70-80 degree afternoons and afternoon showers. “Atmospheric rivers” are our new norm.

Amanda
16 days ago

Are the outfits cute? Yes. Are they appropriate for a normal business setting? Absolutely not. Almost none of these would fly in an actual office setting– perhaps a title change to “Creative Studio Business Casual” or something along those lines would be appropriate! I’d hate young people entering the workplace to stumble across this and think that they can wear a minidress or a skin-tight tank top or anything that bares their midriff to a normal job.

Amanda
16 days ago
Reply to  Amanda

I wish I could edit my comment, but alas, I’ll just add to it– for the record, I’m a 20-something designer working for a tech consultancy, so I’m part of the creative arm of a semi-traditional workplace, and the only outfits here I would wear to work (and probably not to meet a client unless they have a casual workplace or I was very, very familiar with them) are Emily’s #1 and 3, Jess’s #2, and Mallory’s #1 with a cardigan or something over the tank.

hickenack
16 days ago
Reply to  Amanda

Thank you for demonstrating common sense! Cute fits. Not business casual.

LouAnn
15 days ago
Reply to  Amanda

So much judgment. So little time.

andrea
15 days ago

OK, I must be missing something….very strange combos. they look forced

Jackie
15 days ago

Emily, I love the navy cardigan in outfits 1 and 2! Who makes the actual cardigan you are wearing?

Amber
15 days ago
Reply to  Jackie

I think it’s Alex Mill from a past season.

Christie
15 days ago

Very cute outfits! I have to agree with some others that outside of Emily’s outfit #1 & 3 and Jess’s first outfit, I could definitely not wear some of these to work. I didn’t think my work was that formal to be honest. Business casual for me would be a blazer with a plain shirt or dress shirt & jeans, a polo/dress shirt with a skirt or dress pants, or a sheath dress where I work. No bare midriffs, ripped jeans, etc. Maybe they aren’t technically banned but I would definitely get some side eye lol. Maybe it’s a regional thing? So to anyone looking for business casual, maybe check with your actual employer before using this as a guide 🙂 But very cute looks and now I want a vintage St John duster ha

Sherrie
15 days ago
Reply to  Christie

ripped jeans to a business conference? tank tops? Seriously?

Ash
15 days ago

Hey Ryann! Just wanted to let you know that your book collection is the bee’s knees! I had fun zooming in the photos and saying “yes, YES!” about the variety of wise titles.

Ellen
15 days ago

Unfortunately I have to agree with most comments that these are not really (corporate) business appropriate. And not even creative inspirational for that kind of event. I loved seeing Shavonda Gardner’s and Carmeon Hamilton’s style during this event, they both rocked it. Fashion forward, colorful, modern. I really think it’s depending on the event and I think this event could have use some more creativity from the EHD team.

Tanya
14 days ago

I’m in a casual sector (environmental non-profit) and have to agree these very cute outfits mostly miss the mark for “business” casual. If my intern came in in some of these, we’d have a “teachable moment.” I definitely get that the creative/design sector is different, but anyone googling for business casual ideas should be made aware of its outlier status.

Jordan
12 days ago

These are cute casual outfits. I think business casual is something else in most workplaces. I work at a medical association that has casual dress and I play it safe with my choices, which means: no ripped jeans, no tank tops, no yoga gear. I have a collection of sweater blazers from J Crew and J Crew factory in different colors that are my main workwear staple. I pair them with jeans, flowy midi skirts and fun oxfords/loafers. I recommend those blazers to everyone because they are just so comfortable and versatile.

K
10 days ago

You girls look so cute! Thank you for sharing!

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