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Chic & Professional: 6 Business Travel Outfits

Monday, November 07, 2022
Chic & Professional: 6 Business Travel Outfits

Many Americans are familiar with business trips, having taken nearly 250 million of them in 2021 alone.1 If your job has you hustling and bustling around the country (or around the world), you probably know a thing or two about weaving through the airport while balancing your wallet, phone, and a cortado. 

But if you need a few more fashion tips on how to pack business travel outfits into a carry-on suitcase, you’ve moving-walkway shuffled to the right place. The good news is that when you choose the right pieces, you can get at least six outfits out of one carry-on bag. 

We’ll guide you through a few essential pieces to keep in your hanging closet. Then, we’ll show you six different looks using simple, versatile items that work just as well in the boardroom as they do in the window seat. 

Defining Business Casual for Travel

The term “business casual” can feel quite broad, even without the “travel” modifier. Businesspeople of the past wore suits—period. But nowadays, outfit choices are almost unlimited, making it harder to decide what to pack for a business trip. 

Plus, when packing for a business trip, a woman is often faced with more options than their male working counterparts, between dress shoes, jewelry, and accessories. 

So, what is business casual for women? Insider defines business casual attire as clothing that is professional, but relaxed.2 “Relaxed” is an especially important word when traveling, because less access to your extended wardrobe means you’ll spend more time in the travel clothes you packed. 

Overall, business casual travel outfits should be comfortable enough to wear all day, but polished enough to make your best professional impression.

Tips for Packing Work Travel Outfits

Not sure where to start with work travel outfits that impress and go the distance? Before flinging clothes from your closet off the hangers and all over your bed, we’ve got a few fashion tips for you. 

To help organize your packing strategy, consider these 3 priorities: 

  • Luggage space If you’re limited to one carry-on, your packing space is valuable. To solve this problem, the key word is versatility. Pack items that can be worn multiple times, for multiple occasions, as part of different outfits. This becomes easier if you choose plenty of neutral tones. 

  • The itinerary Is there a party scheduled after the main conference? Are you meeting clients for dinner at an upscale steakhouse? Put together your one “special occasion” outfit and pack it once you have every part of it planned out to save time later on. 

  • The weather forecast If your destination is warm, you’re in luck. No packing bulky winter coats! But if your work takes you to Chicago in December or Oslo in January, you’ll need more luggage space for warmer items—or plan to wear them on the plane.

  • Essential Items for Business Casual Travel Outfits

    Let’s get specific about exactly which clothing items you’ll need on your trip. For starters, you’ll probably want at least two or three office looks, and since you likely won’t be spending every second of your trip in the office, you’ll also need a few options for after-hours events and traveling.

    Two Basic Tops

    In two different colors (black and white work beautifully). For warmer locales, a simple tank like our Scoop Tank or Roll-sleeve Tie Top goes with everything and can be worn under jackets or cardigans. For sweater weather, try something with more coverage, like our Long Sleeve Turtleneck.

    One Dressier Blouse

    If there are any parties or after-work dinners on the agenda, be sure to pack something with a little extra flare. One option is a silky top like our Drape Cami or Tie-Front Blouse. A dressy blouse on the modest side can double as an office look under a blazer. 

    Two Versatile Pairs of Pants

    The holy grail of business trip slacks is comfy and wrinkle-resistant, yet tailored and high-quality enough to wear in the office. Like your basic tops, you’ll likely want two color variations. We love our black Travel Pant and off-white Piper Pant.

    A Pencil Skirt

    Pencil skirts pull triple duty: formal, casual, and anywhere in between. Find one comfy enough to travel in, and you’ll get even more wear out of it. Black is ideal, but gray, camel, navy, or anything else that matches what’s in your suitcase. For an easy-to-wear piece that can survive a plane ride, we recommend our Travel Pencil Skirt.

    Chic & Professional: 6 Business Travel Outfits

    Two Blazers

    A staple of businesswear, you’ll need at least one or two blazers in your bag. Curious about how to style blazers? A Houndstooth Blazer is classic, chic, and goes with both black and nude tones. For colder destinations, our Tweed Blazer doubles as an overcoat to keep you warm.  

    A Cardigan

    Soft, warm, and easy to transport, cardigans are an essential and versatile piece for traveling. They’re ideal for carrying in your backpack when you plan to explore the city during your time away from conferences or meetings. Our charcoal Shawl Cardigan is cozy enough to dine or sleep in (should you be taking a red-eye flight).

    A Wrap Dress

    The wrap dress practically defines versatility. Universally flattering, this basic can be dressed up or down for whatever occasion arises. It’s like the secret weapon of minimalist packing, and it’s even comfortable to wear. We’ll use our Cascade Wrap Dress for our list.

    Simple Accessories

    Your choice of accessories will depend on where you’re headed, but again, keep simplicity in mind so you can mix and match freely. 

    Consider options like: 

    • Two pairs of earrings: one minimal, one statement
    • Two necklaces: one short, one long
    • A tote bag for carrying your phone and business cards 
    • Two pairs of shoes: more casual flats and your most comfortable heels

    Find a style that suits you and your travel attire in our collection.

    6 Work Travel Outfits

    Now that you have the essentials in mind, let’s talk about how to use them. Here are six business travel outfits that utilize those essentials to their fullest travel potential. 

    #1 Airport Chic

    Our first travel outfit maximizes function without losing form. To create cute outfits for the airport, pair comfy, wrinkle-resistant bottoms like our stretch-knit Travel Pant with a basic top and cozy cardigan. Throw on a necklace to bring along a piece of jewelry without having to pack it. You’ll be flying in style.

    Shop The Look:

    #2 First Impressions 

    Our first work outfit couldn’t be simpler. A pencil skirt with one of your basic tops paired with a blazer makes a look that impresses without going overboard. Our recommended accessories? Kitten heel pumps and our Two Drop Mother of Pearl Earrings.

    Shop The Look: 

    #3 After Office Hours 

    For a formal dinner, holiday party, or any nighttime event, you can jazz up your simple outfits with a little bit of shine. Swap your basic top for the dressier one. Layer it under a blazer for more formal affairs. Balance out the shimmer of your top half with a simple black pencil skirt or pant, plus your favorite jewelry.

    Shop The Look: 

    #4 Charm & Handshakes

    For our second work look, pair the off-white Piper Pant with a basic top and the Herringbone Coat. Too warm for a long coat? Swap it out with your second blazer. If your event allows, give your feet a break by wearing your flats. 

    Shop The Look: 

    Chic & Professional: 6 Business Travel Outfits

    #5 Leisure Time 

    Whether it’s a work brunch or a sightseeing break, you’ll need at least one off-duty outfit for the daytime, too. For this look, pair your trusty Piper Pant with a nice top like the Drape Cami. For colder days, add the Herringbone Coat and a scarf. For sunny weather, try our Cascade Wrap Dress. 

    Shop The Look: 

    #6 Smooth Transitions

    Here’s a look you can wear straight from the office to the after-party. Throw on your wrap dress and kitten heels. During the workday, go for more minimal jewelry, and after hours you can up your glam with larger hoops and bangle bracelets. If you get cold, grab your Herringbone Coat and strut everywhere. 

    Shop The Look:

    Travel Outfits Made Simple with Karen Kane

    Nothing should stand in the way of you commanding the room, the airport, or the dinner table during your business trip. Don’t let choosing outfits stand in your way. On the contrary, once you learn a few tips and tricks, packing for a business trip can be fun! 

    At Karen Kane, we aim to make sophistication simple. Our high-quality pieces are not only easy to wear, but are also designed to be chic and timeless (so you’ll probably want to wear them far more often than for business travel). 

    With 70% of our management team comprised of women, we see you. We make clothing for women, by women. When you’re ready to empower your wardrobe and your lifestyle, shop our collection. 


    Sources: 

    1. Statista. Number of domestic business and leisure trips in the United States from 2019 to 2021, with a forecast until 2026. https://www.statista.com/statistics/207103/forecasted-number-of-domestic-trips-in-the-us/
    2. Business Insider. What business casual really means. https://www.businessinsider.com/what-business-casual-really-means-2014-8
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