What to Wear to a Big Meeting at a Casual Office

big-meeting-attire-casual-office

2017 Update: We still stand by our advice for what to wear to a big meeting at a casual office, but you may also want to check out The Ultimate Guide to Business Casual for Women.

When you work at a company with a casual dress code, how should you step it up for a board meeting — or for other important meetings — when you want to look professional but don’t know what others will be wearing? Reader A wonders…

I have a fashion question: How does one dress for the board meeting of a “casual dress” company? We are a start-up — this is our first board meeting — so I really don’t have a precedent to call on. During a normal work day, my boss (the CEO, age 45+) and I typically wear jeans and a sweater or T-shirt, as we only have phone/email contact with clients. However, it seems like the board meeting calls for a more professional look. I asked my boss about it, he said “What you’re wearing is fine.” (Faded jeans, a long-sleeved Tshirt and a scarf.) He is not the type of guy I would normally take fashion advice from, and I’m not sure he fully understands the nuance of female dress! Most of the other officers and board members are lawyers, lobbyists, or CPAs. I don’t want to show up in jeans, but I don’t want to be the only one in a suit either. Is there something inbetween? Dress slacks and a cardi? I am age 35+, and a size 14 (XL), so I don’t want anything too clingy or “young”. Suggestions?

We’ve talked about how to do business casual without looking overdressed, a casual-but-professional uniform for womenwhat to wear to a casual office on your first day, shoes to wear with jeans at work, and more — but not this.

Interesting question, A, and I’m curious to hear what readers say. For my $.02, I would avoid the “dress slacks and a cardi” look when everyone else is in jeans because you inevitably end up looking like the mom of the group. So I’m going to offer you two suggestions and suggest you go with the one that feels right — but again, I’m curious to hear what the readers say.

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Weekend Open Thread

Something on your mind? Chat about it here.

There are all sorts of reasons I shouldn’t like this jean — it’s a skinny pant, it’s ankle length, it’s bright royal blue, and it’s expensiveish — but I can’t help it: I really want a pair.  I think they’d look as cute with motorcycle boots and a big comfy sweater as they would with a more polished casual look, such as ballet flats, a crisp white blouse, and a neutral blazer.  The jeans are $175 at Net a Porter. 511 mid-rise corduroy skinny jeans
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Weekend Open Thread

Alexa Chung for Madewell It's All Happening Denim TrousersSomething on your mind? Chat about it here.

I am drooling over a lot of the denim at Madewell, and particularly these wide leg trousers by Alexa Chung for Madewell. They have just the right amount of ’70s vibe to them — you get the laidback feeling without having to set your entire weekend to a Cat Stevens soundtrack. These are $145 at Madewell. Alexa Chung for Madewell It’s All Happening Denim Trousers

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Wednesday’s TPS Report: Ruched Cotton Dress

Our daily TPS reports suggest one piece of work-appropriate attire in a range of prices.

Donna Ricco Ruched Cotton DressNordstrom has a ton of cute work-appropriate dresses in the $150 and under range right now.  We’re really liking this simple black faux wrap dress which, apparently, is almost a “stretchy denim material,” according to the one reviewer (who raved about the dress).  We like the collar, we like that it’s lined, and we like the ladylike length of it.  Lovely.  It’s $118 at Nordstrom in sizes 4-14.   Donna Ricco Ruched Cotton Dress

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Weekly Roundup

Liking these posts? Follow us on Twitter or fan us on Facebook — this is the edited version of what we’re reading! (We also Tweet if we hear about a good sale.)

Untitled pictureDesignBoom reports on an office chair designed specifically for women:  the Lei, by Monica Forster (pictured).

The WSJ notes the rise of “power denim,” worn by world leaders and executives alike.

Forbes has footage of Indra Nooyi talking about the challenges facing women in business.  Meanwhile, Hiring Partner posts some thoughts on women as rainmakers.

Shine suggests 10 drugstore shampoos you should avoid.

– Finally, from The Onion: “Group of Popular Girls Reduces Nation to Tears.”  (We’ll bet they insulted the nation’s shoes.)  Also:  Fashion Under $100 has a ton of fun Halloween costume ideas.

Incidentally — we’re going to be experimenting with posting these recommended articles to our Facebook page, as well as to Twitter — please let us know how you think it’s going.

Poll Results: Jeans Are Often Appropriate… But Perhaps Not To Brunch

what to wear to brunch with your bossWe stirred up quite a bit of controversy last week when one of our readers asked us what to wear to Sunday brunch at her partner’s house.  We suggested trouser jeans and a blazer, raising eyebrows and bringing forth vehement disagreement from some of our readers, who insisted that trouser jeans were not appropriate for brunch with the partner.*

We then decided to poll everyone to see when, exactly, jeans were appropriateAs always, the poll is still open, but from the initial results, readers think jeans are appropriate if…:

  • You’re invited to a barbecue at the boss’s house – 79%
  • You’re in the office on the weekend, working directly with the boss – 72%  (We actually gave specific suggestions for this situation a while ago — that post is here)
  • You’re invited to an outing where activities might take place (boating, golfing) – 66%
  • You’re traveling for an extended period of time with the boss, and meeting at a non-office space (hotel, restaurant) – 52%

Only 5% said that jeans were never appropriate if you’d be near the boss, and only 1% said that jeans were never appropriate, period.  (Funnily enough, we’ve been to barbecues at the boss’s place where tents were set up and there was a lobster bake on — if it’s that kind of barbecue we’d actually recommend wearing trousers or a dress (assuming it’s all work people).

* We have been procrastinating writing this post all day because we do not like admitting this, but:  Fine.  You were right, and we were wrong.  Hmmn, that’s not quite as gracious-sounding as we’d planned.  In all seriousness, this is one of the reasons we started the blog — to flesh out the confines of what is and is not appropriate for young, intelligent women in traditionalist professions — and we’re so glad to see Corporette turn into a forum for that.

Pictured: 7 For All Mankind® High Rise Flare Trouser Jeans, $189 at Nordstrom

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