2016 Trends: What WON’T You Wear to Work?

2016 trends to avoid wearing to workI’ve noticed a few trends that seem to be EVERYWHERE of late, and I thought we’d discuss, if only because so many of them seem inappropriate for officewear — I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What trends WON’T you wear to work? Every office is different, of course — know yours! — but it’s always fascinating to hear the reasoning behind them.  I was intrigued to see readers noting that any lace-up shoes (including flats) were inappropriate for their offices, if only because that feels like a trend that’s been around for several years, and while I can see the sex appeal of lace-up high heels, the flats struck me as almost ho-hum.  On the flip side, jumpsuits for work seem to be something that’s gaining ground, with tons of readers noting that they’ve worn jumpsuits to the office regularly.  As we’ve noted before regarding trends and a conservative office, we’re against any trend that’s body baring, illogical, or too “new.”

Pictured, clockwise: Huge exposed zipper / cape blazer / high slit / culottes / off the shoulder top

We haven’t talked about trends in a while, so let’s discuss… Some trends I’m seeing more and more of:

  • high front slits in business dresses and skirts (pictured)
  • voluminous sleeves and ruffles (for example)
  • lace-up blouses (for example)
  • bodysuits (for example)
  • exposed zippers running completely up the back (why, Classiques Entier, why?!?)
  • cold shoulders / off the shoulders (pictured — even Vogue, Glamour, and WhoWhatWear admit they’re not the best for the office, but I swear I’ve seen someone else do a tutorial on “how to wear off the shoulder tops to work”)
  • the culotte trend that will not die (pictured)
  • dusters / super long cardigans (for example)
  • wide trousers
  • high waists
  • cape blazers (pictured; similarsimilar, similar, plus)
  • moto jackets for work
  • crop tops, or crop-top-inspired clothing (for example)
  • joggers (they’ve been around for a while but I think they’re still a serious “know your office” item)

So let’s hear it, ladies — what’s off bounds for your office? What trends have you been seeing more and more around your office (either welcome or not)?  Are there other, less controversial things (like kick flares, joggers, or jumpsuits) that still make you shake your head?

cape blazers, off the shoulder shirts, and culottes for work


Pictured, clockwise: Huge exposed zipper / cape blazer / high slit / culottes / off the shoulder top


  1. The only one of the pictured trends that I would wear to my conservative office is the full length zipper. I had been peeved by them at first, but I suppose that I’ve just grown accustomed to full length zippers if (like the one shown) they are in a color that matches the dress.

  2. Senior Attorney :

    HAHAHAHA! That striped shirt looks like it was the victim of some sort of industrial accident in which it was decapitated!

  3. My office is business casual, in the finance field, and I’ve worn exposed zippers (not crazy about that trend but when the dress is otherwise perfect I can deal with it), a cape blazer, voluminous sleeves, dusters/extra long cardigans, wide trousers (in a bright pattern even), moto jackets, and crop tops (but only over another top OR with a high waisted skirt, no belly skin exposure. I would wear a lace up top if I had one. I would wear culottes and jumpsuits to my office if they appealed to me, but they don’t. Joggers would probably be ok on casual Fridays. I would not wear off the shoulder or cold shoulder tops or bodysuits to my office but I’m not going to say someone else is wrong for doing so.

  4. I don’t think exposed back zippers are in any way inappropriate (work in state-level politics). And while I wouldn’t do a super-high front slit in a skirt, that one pictured isn’t very high unless the size of the photo is obscuring it. I think crop tops and off-the-shoulder without something over is a no-go, and a duster cardigan would seem much the casual, but nothing else on the list would particularly arouse my ire, even if it might raise an eyebrow.

  5. Mary Claire :

    For work:
    high front slits in business dresses and skirts (pictured) – NO!!
    voluminous sleeves and ruffles (for example) – fine
    lace-up blouses (for example) – fine as pictured, not if too low
    bodysuits (for example) – not my thing but I don’t find it inappropriate
    exposed zippers running completely up the back (why, Classiques Entier, why?!?) – I wouldn’t but don’t find it to be the most egregious thing
    cold shoulders / off the shoulders (pictured — even Vogue, Glamour, and WhoWhatWear admit they’re not the best for the office, but I swear I’ve seen someone else do a tutorial on “how to wear off the shoulder tops to work”) – no
    the culotte trend that will not die (pictured) – NO!
    dusters / super long cardigans (for example) – I wear them as outerwear and remove inside the office
    wide trousers – Depends how wide…
    high waists – Hate it for myself, but don’t find it inappropriate
    cape blazers (pictured; similar, similar, similar, plus) – as outerwear, would look strange in the office
    moto jackets for work – depends, some yes others no
    crop tops, or crop-top-inspired clothing (for example) – NEVER!!!
    joggers (they’ve been around for a while but I think they’re still a serious “know your office” item) – NO!

  6. Anything lace-up, thigh-high slits, off the shoulders, all way to s*xy for the office.

    And while I don’t love exposed zippers in contrasting colors, the full-length ones are a great big NO. I was both amused and horrified to read in an account of one of the sexual harassment lawsuits at Fox News that someone had remarked to a woman wearing a dress with such a zipper that he’d like to unzip it. Obviously, the Fox News staffers should be reading this s*ite to learn what not to wear . . . if Fox will let them.

    • That sounds a little bit victim-blaming. I’m unbothered by full-length zippers, or any exposed zippers, as long as they have matching tape.

    • Totally not intended to be victim-blaming. Part of the culture at Fox was (is, I supposed) that women on-air were required to dress in a sexualized manner – sleeveless sheaths while the men were in suits or at least jackets, high heels and short skirts designed to show off their legs, etc. I do think the full-length zippers, especially the ones that also unzip from the bottom have some suggestive connotations that make them non-work appropriate. But of course it’s not okay for some a-hole to comment on them!

  7. It must have been fixed. It worked for me.

  8. housecounsel :

    I’m with Meh on the zippers . . . and on the impression of victim-blaming.

    Classiques dresses are just too awesome to abandon for a zipper.

  9. housecounsel :

    On moto jackets – I have one from Banana and another from Theory that are moto-inspired, but I think perfectly appropriate. Maybe it is an age thing. At 40-plus I think I am entitled to push the boundaries a little bit, although I never really thought these jackets pushed any!

    • +1. Wearing one today!

      • Yep — fine unless they have excess hardware all over or are weathered. Theory, Vince, Tahari motos are great for business casual offices.

        • Yeah- there are a lot of tweedy and polished moto jackets. I frequently wear one with trousers or over a dress. The extra material at the top, rather than around my waist, means that theyre more flattering than many traditional blazers.

          • Another big up-vote for moto blazers here. As long as they fit well and the material isn’t cheap, why on earth wouldn’t they be appropriate?

  10. No go:
    – Lace-up flats. I don’t think of them as “sexy” — I think of them as a more casual style. Like, I wouldn’t wear lace up gladiator sandals to the office, but I will wear tailored, peep toe flats.
    – Off the shoulder. If it requires a strapless bra… it’s probably not work wear. I actually really like the pictured shirt for day dates.
    – Wide-legged ankle pants. The slim ankle pants? Yep, sure. Wide-legged? Too much fabric flapping around, and universally unflattering.
    – Jumpsuits. Of all the things I need to deal with during the work day, undressing to pee is not one of them.
    – Obvious zippers. I still hate them as a personal style preference, though don’t view them as “unprofessional.”

    Would try, perhaps:
    – Longer sweaters
    – Cape blazers

  11. Anonymous :

    I’m out on everything except exposed zippers, wide leg pants (still trying to find the right pair), and moto (only in traditional fabrics).

  12. Wide-leg (full-length) trousers are the majority of my (business formal though not requiring a suit every day) work wardrobe. I aim for K. Hepburn rather than the currently trendy ones that are three feet in diameter at each cuff.

  13. thigh teeth :

    The links for the “high slit” one are going to a wrap-front bodysuit, and I’m sad because I really want to see that pictured look up close!

  14. Cape blazers are a thing? How have I missed this? All of my sartorial dreams are coming true!

  15. I’ve rocked all of the following at my casual office (legal in fintech):

    – high front slits in business dresses and skirts (pictured)
    – exposed zippers (though not entirely running up the back, but not opposed in principle)
    – culottes
    – dusters / super long cardigans
    – wide trousers
    – cape blazers
    – moto jackets

    I don’t care for any of the other items Kat listed.

  16. DragoCucina :

    Off the shoulder or joggers would get someone sent home to change.
    Most culottes I’ve seen are too voluminous. The pair pictured here aren’t bad. The right length. I would think of them as practical with all the stretching, bending, and lifting we do during the day.

  17. I actually own the dress pictured (scooped it up in purple during the NAS) and while I wish the exposed zipper would go away, the dress itself is so flattering and fabulous I’m willing to overlook the full length. I work in a conservative law firm and the first time I wore that dress I got such compliments (including from 2 female partners) that I didn’t think twice. I actually don’t think I even realized the zipper was full length until this post. Whoops!

  18. I own multiple duster length cashmere open front cardigans. They look great over tweed sheaths with tights or with tissue weight turtlenecks and flannel trousers in the winter. I also have a couple suits with duster length coats ala Princess Kate, but in business formal colors and fabrics.

    I also am all about the high waist pants. I am short waisted with a pooch and properly proportioned high waist pants hide the pooch and make me look like I have longer legs. Definitely a win for me.

    I would consider a moto inspired jacket for work (AT had one last season in tweed trimmed with pleather that was cute but not available in my size), but cut, fabric and proportion would be important.

    Now what I’m really excited about is the return of the double breasted suit. They always fit great in my size (no gapping at the bust!). I plan to get at least two this fall.

  19. WorkingMom :

    LEGGINGS. I am still firmly in the “leggings are not pants” camp. (Now, running errands on the weekend, or hanging around at home, with friends, etc – fair game.)

  20. ManagementConsultant :

    What do people think of split-back blouses? I’ve seen people at my business casual office wear those in otherwise-appropriate cuts/fabrics, but I think it looks way too exposed for work.

    Best example I can find with Google Images is this, which is DEFINITELY not appropriate for work, but hopefully you know what kind of top I mean! http://v1.everything5pounds.com/cdn-thumb/280×420/e5p/images/mu/2015/07/08/pearl-neck-split-back-blouse-12983-2.jpg

  21. I have that Classiques Entier dress in burgundy- it’s my favorite, but I’d feel weird wearing it to work with the zipper going over my very-curvy tuppet. I work in finance Tech/media/telecom, so maybe I could see it if I wore a blazer over the dress while I’m visiting the NY office. Maybe.

    My style is generally a bit more formal and refined than my peers, so maybe I’m just a prude? Or spent too much time in a client facing role in NYC before this job? Plenty of women in my current workplace are wearing lace-up heels and skirts slit up to heaven (I just took the plunge and wore open-toed booties to the office, on a Friday, two weeks ago).

    There’s a very visible, senior and upwardly mobile female finance executive here that tends to only wear bright colors, florals, lacey, flouncy, dresses with matching bright booties, which has me reconsidering what’s actually appropriate for the workplace.

  22. Culottes are basically a skirt with 0% chance of blowing up to show your arse, so they’re surely a YES for workwear. High waisted, wide legged trousers are a pretty faithful riff on the original “Charlie Girl” working woman’s wardrobe that gained traction during the ’70s feminist movement. Definitely office appropriate!

    I think the aversion to wide-legged pants is a reaction to the skinny trousers that have dominated the market for the past decade or so. Once everyone’s eye re-adjusts, a wide leg won’t seem so “shocking”.

  23. I wear pointy-two flats with lace-ups to work (business casual law firm). They aren’t court wear, but whatever. COME AT ME. I still don’t wear open-toe flats. Most of the other trend verdicts I agree with.

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