The Best Lightweight Jackets for the Office (Other than Trenchcoats)

The Best Women's Lightweight Jackets for the OfficeReader E has a timely question: Which are the best lightweight jackets that look professional (other than a trench coat)? What’s best to layer on top of blazers, sweaters, and more as the weather turns colder (finally!)?

Do you have any suggestions for lightweight jackets that look professional? My office is casual/business casual (lots of people dress casually but I try to step it up a notch). I have a quilted jacket from J.Crew and a lightweight trench, but I’d love to find something shorter than a trench that isn’t a blazer. Something I could put over my outfit for chilly mornings. I know the military jacket style is in, but that’s too casual and trendy for my style. Any help is appreciated!

Great question, E! I’m assuming by “military jacket” you mean the very popular olive anorak style like this or this, which can definitely be a bit casual if your style is more conservative. I love fall weather and coats, so I rounded up a few general options. Reader E already has one, but I will note that I think every woman should have a lightweight trench in her closet — it’s a classic piece, and many of the styles are sold with removable liners and hoods so you can adjust them as needed for the weather — and when we’ve talked in the past about what jackets to wear with skirts and dresses, a longer trench is usually what’s in my mind. (I’m a fan of the mid-thigh-length ones, but they also certainly make calf-length ones, if you prefer a longer, more dramatic look.)

I’d add that a nice big scarf is a great option to add on top of these, both as an additional, removable layer of warmth and possibly protection for your hair from wind/rain. Personally, I’m a fan of bigger wraps like the office pashminas we rounded up in our post on why to keep a wrap at the office — but that’s me!

Pictured at top: green / animal print / camel.

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The Feminine Jacket. You say you don’t want a blazer, so this may be too close for your liking — but there are a lot of fun, sophisticated jackets that are a bit more buttoned up than a blazer (so, warmer) and on the shorter side. A lot of these may come in textured, sturdy fabrics like tweed, corduroy, and velvet. Talbots has a ton of these right now, but I’ve also gotten them at J.Crew, Uniqlo, and even places like Loft. (Uniqlo just had a corduroy one that I’m bummed I can’t find now — it must have sold out, but maybe will come back. If memory serves it was part of the IDLF collaboration.) Pictured.
lightweight jackets for work: cashmere ruanaA cashmere ruana, stole, or wrap. I’ve sung the praises of the Brooks Brothers ruana in the past and finally picked up one for myself during one of their spring/summer sales. This reversible animal print/gray one, in fact — it’s still available and currently marked to $209 down from $698. When I first got it I was a bit bummed that it was more like a poncho than I thought it would be, with more of a definite “collar” and shape to it than my other nice big wraps. (And I’ll admit, I was so undecided, if the return window hadn’t passed without my noticing, I might have sent it back.) But now that is fall, I’m surprised how often I reach for it. It’s warm, it’s crazy soft but sturdy, it goes on top of blazers as well as simple long-sleeved t-shirts. Ultimately I’m very happy with the purchase and know I’ll have it for years to come. Cons: no pockets. Pros: It hangs nicely on a hanger just like a coat would. Brooks Brothers has a ton right now, some as low as $136, some as high as $3,998. (I can’t speak to the quality but it looks like Uniqlo also has some similar stoles for $20ish.)
The sweater blazer. A sweater blazer can feel more comfortable than a blazer because you’ve got greater ease of movement, but it can be warm and stylish like a blazer. The pictured one is from Talbots; here’s another option from J.Crew (available at Nordstrom), as well as from Majestic Filatures. But we’ve also linked to this one-button cashmere blazer at Last Call a ton over the years, as well as this one from Macy’s (now with bell sleeves, sigh), as well as a few other sweater blazers through the years.
The trendy vest. Vests are increasingly popular, with these long, duster-length ones being the sleekest of the bunch (as opposed to, say, the short-sleeved puffer/fleece vest, or the crazy fun furry vest, which is hard to imagine in anything but a very creative environment.) I go back and forth on these — I found an interesting, heavy wool one that I liked at Century 21 for $30 so I got it and wear it, but the weather never feels quite right for mine. Still, this is a popular look, so if it appeals to you and you don’t have overly cold arms, go for it! Pictured.
best women's lightweight jackets for the office: the duster cardigan The duster cardigan. This probably also isn’t what E is thinking of, but it’s one of my favorite toppers for fall, so I’ll give a shoutout: the longish cardigan. Mine is from Halogen from several years ago, and they keep coming out in new colors, and fabric weights (a linen blend for summer, wool & cashmere for fall), and they’re highly rated. If you’re younger/trendier you may get away with a slouchier “grandpa” cardigan type of look (affordable, splurgey); if you’re more conservative/older you may want to upgrade to one from Eileen Fisher or Lafayette 148 New York. I think they look good with ankle pants, flared pants, dresses, skirts, jeans…  Pictured.

Readers, what do you think are the best women’s lightweight jackets for the office for fall and spring? Do you have a favorite trenchcoat, sweater blazer, or other lightweight jacket that looks professional? 

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We rounded up the best women's lightweight jackets for the office -- the lightweight jackets that look professional as the weather gets colder.


  1. I actually own the previous version of the Alfani sweater blazer (with normal 3/4 sleeves) and wear it all the time. I had no clue it came in colors other than gray and black (I bought it in a store and those were the only colors available). I’d buy more if it weren’t for the sleeves as the silhouette is very flattering.

  2. I’m not sure if OP means something that would work for wearing indoors or just a jacket that she would be comfortable wearing to a more formal office. I have a shorter trench that I really like for the commuting purpose. And I’ve been tempted to get something like this for the in between: MULTI&isFromSale=true&isNewSearch=true&hash=row0 (FYI – it was an extra 30% off recently, not sure if that promo is over but will probably come back soon).

  3. Coat Lady :

    This might be a know-your-office thing, but I think a nice leather jacket could be a good option (

    I also have a very lightweight wool coat from Uniqlo that I wear in the fall and on warmer winter days that I love. This one looks even lighter and I’m tempted to buy it in red. (

  4. Salary Bump :

    HELP LADIES S.O.S, I have been at my job about 10 months. I have been passively looking because I am very underpaid for my industry and experience. My plan was to stay at least 1 year. Well, I just got a huge job offer which will give me a $40k salary bump and an amazing title! Should I take it? It all checks out and is a great opportunity but I will not be able to stay a full year as they are moving so fast with this new opportunity. The team is swamped and they need support. I do not want to burn bridges at my current company but hot d*mn this is a GREAT opp. What should I do? I have a beater of a car currently and a mountain of student debt – so my mind tells me that I should take it and vanquish my debts and be able to save rapidly (no kids). Should I put my self first and take the job or should I stay for another 3 months at my current job and pass this up? I should mention I am in a highly competitive industry and do not have lots of connections nor do I get head hunted like this often!

    • I literally just did this and was really torn about leaving before a year. A mentor (who is also a senior HR person, not at my company) reassured me that in this market, it’s your company’s responsibility to recognize and reward you for your talents and you have no obligation to stay until some arbitrary marker. If this is really a great opportunity and you think you’l be there for a while, TAKE IT! People who are rational understand that great opportunities come up and probably “get” why you would take it.

    • I was where you are 3 years ago. I was worried it would “look bad” to leave the job that underpaid me and made me miserable simply because it had only been a few months since I started. I hadn’t even been looking for new work because I thought I had to “at least stick it out for a year.” When another firm approached me with a much higher salary and an opportunity to get out of my current situation, I had the same reservations you have, but I took the offer and left previous firm. Fast forward to present day and I am still happy at the place I joined 3 years ago. If you have a great opportunity to move forward and work for employers who value you, I say that turning that down just to stick it out another few months at the place that undervalues you makes no sense. Take the job and the new salary without looking back. Good luck!

  5. TO Lawyer :

    I love that vest! Wish it wasn’t so expensive – I haven’t had much luck finding a stiffer wool vest. Also I’m always cold so it’s probably impractical but I love the look.

  6. Anonymous :

    I got a sweater blazer from Banana this season and I adore it. My office is really casual so I would look weird in a regular blazer, but this one makes me feel more professional and keeps me warm.

  7. I just bought a wine colored moto jacket at Ann Taylor, and it fills this need for me perfectly. They have a couple different styles right now, and keep doing 50%.

  8. Anonymous :

    What about the fashion conundrum of having a duster/long jacket as an “indoor layer” – part of the outfit you are wearing at your desk during the day — but then also wanting an additional layer for outdoors? I’ve got a winter coat that covers this when it is actually cold, but I get confused in fall and spring. I don’t like the long sweater layer hanging out from under a shorter outdoor jacket. I have a trench coat, but that feels like a rain coat, and I live in the Bay Area; it feels strange to wear a rain coat when it’s not going to rain. Suggestions?

    • I add a heavier scarf to the duster cardigan and I’m fine outside. But I’m not a “cold” person and I’m not commuting on foot. If I needed more warmth, I’d probably wear the long trench, or put the duster in my bag and wear the regular/short/warm coat for the commute….

  9. I have no need for a wool blazer because a) I work from home and never see clients; and b) I live in the Carolinas and it never seems to get really cold anymore, but WOW that green Talbot’s jacket is lovely. I adore that shade of green.

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