Style Help: Cold Weather Business Casual

Several people have asked for business causal looks for cold weather, and whenever that happens I chuckle.  I live in sunny San Diego where “cold” for us is 60 degrees.  While I’m not totally foreign to cooler weather (thanks to growing up in Northern California and to traveling to the midwest and east coast for work trips) I still don’t feel adequate to talk about cold weather outfits.  Especially when some of you say you’re in -30 degrees!
That said, how about we make this a communal collection of tips instead?  I have a few to get us started, but I know some of you have magical cold weather tips up your sleeves that will really help others.  Please share them in the comments!
Today is specifically about business casual looks.  What counts as “business causal” can be a rather broad spectrum in terms of casual vs. business, so I tried to draw out general tips and outfit “formulas” that can be adapted to your own personal style or work environment needs.  The “formulas” are the basic skeletons of each outfit so if your style isn’t like mine you can still use the bare bones formula with pieces from your closet that suit your tastes and needs better.
NOTE: Assume I would add a coat and/or scarf to each of these outfits when necessary.

Blazer: Target (similar)  |  Sweater: Forever 21 (similar)  |  Top: (similar)  |  Pants: Old Navy (exact) |  Shoes: H&M (exact)  |  Bag: Nordstrom (exact)

Outfit #1:  Patterned button up + Pullover sweater + Blazer + Khakis or dress pants
The little pop of pattern underneath the sweater helps makes an otherwise all solid outfit slightly more interesting.  I usually add a short necklace when wearing a collared button up + pullover to add some femininity.

Tip #1:  Layer–yes, to stay warm, but also to stay COOL!  In some buildings the heat is cranked up, so even if it’s frigid outside you might be sweating indoors.  If that’s the case, you can peel off or add back layers as the heater fluctuates.  In the outfit above, the blazer could come off and the outfit would still be business casual appropriate.

Tip #2:  Thin layer underneath.  I wear a cami under almost every top, but in the winter I wear long sleeve heattechs from UNIQLO.  They’re really thin, soft, and stretchy, making a great layer.  I usually wear S/M and get these in M so it’s not too tight.  They come in various necklines and sleeve lengths.

Dress: LOFT  |  Cardigan: H&M  |  Tights: c/o White Plum (exact)  |  Boots: Target (similar)

Outfit #2:  Dress + Cardigan + Fleece lined tights + Boots
I actually like dresses more when it’s colder because it’s provides an extra layer over your legs whereas pants only have one layer.  If I wore a dress in a colder building I would go for a thicker dress, perhaps a thicker cardigan, add a scarf, and would definitely wear a layer of Heattech underneath.  (Plus the usual coat, gloves, etc.)

Tip #3:  Fleece lined tights.  Definitely a MUST HAVE.  Tights or leggings, it doesn’t matter, except that it’s harder to wear booties with leggings vs. tights.  Before I discovered these, I just sucked it up and let my legs be cold for the sake of not wanting to neglect my dresses and skirts all winter.  One option HERE.

Shirt: Old Navy (exact)  |  Sweater: Everlane (exact)  |  Skirt: Forever 21  |  Tights: Bare Necessities  |  Boots: Kohl’s

Outfit #3:  Button up + Pullover + Skirt + Fleece lined tights
Same top half layering as Outfit #1, just paired with a skirt.  I like this one because both the top and bottom halves have multiple layers.

Tip #4: Change shoes for commuting
I’ve never actually had to do this, but I’ve heard others talk about it.  Boots of some sort for commuting (rain, snow, or riding boots, depending on weather), then switching shoes once in the heated indoors.  I’ve read about these Hunter Tour boots that fold down for easy packing!

There are cheaper options besides Hunters (not foldable, though): this classic pair in 4 colorsa cute polka dot pair, a classic matte pair of Joules from Nordstrom or Target (diff colors), a striped pair, or lastly, a pretty quilted pair.


Sweater: Target (similar)  |  Blazer: H&M (similar)  |  Pants: Target (similar) |  Shoes: H&M (exact)  |  Bag: Target (exact)

Outfit #4: Patterned sweater + Blazer + Colored bottoms
Your sweater could be a turtleneck or you could add a white button up underneath for extra warmth.  Whatever the sweater is, pairing it with a blazer is a nice way to instantly look a little more polished while also giving you another layer.

Though some business casual settings allow jeans, I would have gone for maroon slacks instead if I had them.  Anyway, since the top was all neutrals I added colored bottoms, but it would work well with neutral bottoms too.

Tip #5: The right boots for straight-legged pants and slacks
Some people have asked how to wear boots with pants with non-skinny silhouettes.  It’s a great look for business casual–you just need the right kind of boots.  I personally haven’t managed to look put together with straight legged pants over riding boots, and instead I’d opt for a boot with a sleeker toe and at least a small heel to elongate the leg line.  (A boot like this, for example, or a knee-high version of that to stay warmer under slacks.)  These will look sleek with skirts and dresses too.

Unfortunately I don’t have any outfit examples of this because I don’t own boots like these anymore!

(Random fact: I used to wear straight legged jeans or slacks or dresses with boots like these all the time pre-blogging, even though I was much younger, in college, and didn’t need to dress polished in any way, shape, or form.  Totally did not fit my lifestyle or the environment I was in.  You could say it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed, but really it was so out of place that I just felt awkward!)

Alright, your turn!  What are some of your favorite tips for cold weather business casual dressing?  Favorite materials, pieces you think others would benefit from, layering secrets, etc.

OR, what cold weather business casual style problems do you need troubleshooted?

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