Business Casual, The Jeans-And-A-Knit-Blazer Version

Throw on your best jeans, a pair of heels, a knit blazer – tame the business casual devil with room to spare. Jeans, de facto casual. Blazer, de facto business. The blazer is knit and therefore a little stretchy, vanquishing bound-shoulder squirm with ease. Add comfortable but professional shoes, a shirt with yet more stretch, and you should be good to go.

At least west of the Mississippi.

On the East Coast, or in the South, or in Texas (for I am never sure exactly what region Texas belongs to, perhaps its very own) business casual may still mean poplin or light wool trousers. But out here in the Wild West, one can, in fact wear jeans. Frankly, one can wear most anything. I persist in some formality nevertheless.

These are vintage Goldsign trouser jeans, as in purchased 5-10 years ago. A little more detail than usually appeals, but the trouser silhouette won me over. The shirt is from our very own NaracamicieSF, all pale blue, white, and stretch. I realize I may eventually eat my words about red shoes, as I imagine ennui setting in once I’ve tied these black Beautifeels up for the 50th time.

The jacket is Armani, also “vintage.” You can see the zig-zag knit pattern here, fighting off one of midlife’s great dangers. Yes, we are prone to Creeping Staid and we should not concede. Also note Italian spelling for Collezioni. Reminds us to muster up sprezzatura. Business casual, done well, qualifies as Sprezzatura 2011.

Knit and stretchy, with a very slight flounce at the hem and by the buttons, I wore this with navy wide-legged Armani linen trousers for full business dress. For a San Francisco Internet company, now, with jeans. Well, to be honest, with jeans and pearl earrings. Old habits die hard. Have a wonderful Wednesday.

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  • Love those jeans! On Fridays, we can wear denim as part of supporting our company’s charitable giving campaign. So, I’m always looking for ways to dress up my jeans. Great suggestion!

  • Love, LOVE, LOVE!!! the individual pieces. No way would this be appropriate even in a Midwest ad agency where creativity and freedom are prized! Very casual. Saturday morning shopping outfit?

  • Switch the printed blouse for a structured white shirt and I’m on board, East Coast.

  • The jacket is beautiful. I’d like to see a solid shirt tucked in with a cool belt, maybe open at the neck with a statement necklace or scarf. Looks a tad unfinished for this DC mama, but I understand different rules apply out west!

  • Yes, perfect business casual combo, but probably only in California.

    I think Texas is its own region.

  • I like it! My DC office is slightly more casual. Today I’m wearing jeans, a pink cotton shirt, and a cardigan. I’ve added some kitten heels to dress it up a bit.

    I love a casual office!

  • I could wear this to work, but then anything goes in my environment. I’ll admit I find the jean pockets and the centre seam line distracting — I’d prefer this with a simpler dark-wash denim jean, and I’d tuck and belt, but I love that shirt-and-blazer together. It would also work well with a simple dark skirt, ponte knit perhaps, even a clean dark denim, no? But then you people in California probably don’t do the dark opaque tights as much — they’re such a staple here from October through April.

  • Perfect Business Casual. Denim rules here in LA too. (Though today I’m in black ponte knit separates.)

  • Interesting. We expressly tell our law students that blue jeans are too casual for “business casual”. Maybe we are a bit behind the times? Or maybe the legal profession as a whole is?

  • It’s so good to see Naracamicie, and I adore your jacket. I became a big fan of knit jackets when traveling so much, they simplified life (and packing) immensely!

  • Armani jackets never seem to die or fade, they have a long shelf life. I have one or two left over from my corporate days which I still love.

  • Hmm. I´d wear a T-shirt ( long sleeved ) with slim jeans. The jacket is ok. It seems, that you have saved older pieces of clothing. The jacket burst to it´s new life : )

  • Ohhh, the internet company version of business casual! I work in the insurance company version of business casual, and jeans are verboten. I’m wearing a knit blazer today, too, but with a long sleeved tee and a pencil skirt, complete with black opaque tights. Because, as you know, baby, here in SF it’s COLD outside!

  • Not quite what I think of as business wear…you surprise me with your choices….maybe I forget the different states of America!

    Lisa thanks for pointing me in the direction of Armani trousers…while in London tried on & bought 1 black,1 brown pair great fit for shortie leg moi. They are similar to the Khaki ones in your previous post.Ida

  • Love a knit jacket – so easy. And, of course, in London one can wear jeans.

  • Great, great jeans and fantastic with that jacket, you can never go wrong with Mr Armani, still cuts his jackets the same as when i wore them 15 years ago in London

  • Yeah….no. This isn’t casual, it’s sloppy.

  • Trouser jeans, for my money, best invention since the underwire. Delighted by the pearls! What the commenter who deems this “sloppy” may not be able to see in the photo is the quality of the pieces.

  • I think it’s the patch pockets and the un-tucked shirt that bump it down from managerial for me.

    Count your blessings that you live in California and work at a casual installation.

  • Wow that outfit stirred up quite a bit of controversy.

    I just want to mention how fit and slim you look in your very cool outfit.

    But I’m a florist and dress like a teen. What do I know?

    xo Jane

  • Interesting the controversy surrounding that outfit. Love jeans done well and the quality is there. What is and isn’t business casual is so fraught with wide variations between industries and locations, but that doesn’t read as sloppy to me under any circumstances, although I could see that it would be too causal for some east coast environments. A crisper shirt would up the ante considerably.

    As to Texas, as a Texan born and bred, I would say it is a region unto itself.

  • I love that blazer! I hate that constricted feeling of woven fabrics (shirts or jackets), makes me want to pull a Hulk move and bust out of there. I’m in SoCal at a tach company and you’re dressed more “business” than most of our management team!

    If you got it like that, no reason not to have fun with it! Haters gonna hate. :cP

  • I love knit blazers. I even have a black St. John’s one that I’ve worn for years and years. Would love one in navy, they’re so comfortable. I think the jeans have a cool vibe, but would like them with something simpler than that shirt.

  • A great look for business casual and I love how you up it a notch by the gorgeous jacket too. X

  • I like those shoes…red could be fun too!

    Your hair looks so wonderful and shiny,
    and I am happy to see that pearls have made an entrance.

    I wore denim jeans today with a white polo shirt and black cable knit V neck sweater. It takes me 15 minutes to hoof it to work…
    how long are you walking?

  • I like it, but I can only wear jeans to work on Fridays. I work for a New Mexico outpost of an east coast financial company, so we’re pushing the company’s envelope a bit even on Fridays.

  • I think it seems clear to me from your posts that to go forward with “east coast business casual” in your current environment would be to risk standing out a significant amount by reason of your clothes (almost always a nono) and to communicate to your coworkers that you “don’t get” their culture.

    Having lived in the bay area – this seems to strike just the right balance between Cali tech and business.

  • Sorry, but where exactly would this qualify for business casual? IMO it is sloppy looking – – jeans are really out of style and they need to be pressed and the jacket doesn’t look like it fits.

  • I’m a Texan and think we are in different regions in different parts of the state. The Eastern part of the state is definitely the south. The rest may qualify as Southwest.

    I have a question! Do you ever wear your beautiful hair down at work?

  • Another comment–Jeans are not considered appropriate for business casual at my husband’s law firm (an international and very large firm), but if you have enough seniority, you can wear them and ignore the rule. Not fair, but it is done

  • @joan: This is definitely business casual in Silicon Valley high tech firms. Keep in mind that California is a different world, and technology companies in the SF bay area are another galaxy. Lisa speaks that language fluently.

  • I stand by “sloppy.” Those are weekend jeans, not business-casual. I find the shirt and jacket uninspiring, but they’d be fine paired with something else. It’s the rumpled combination of these pieces that reads as sloppy. Jeans + button front + blazer are great, just not THIS combination.

  • Jen – Thank you!

    Cynthia – Interesting, not even in an ad agency? The regional differences are profound.

    valentine – I usually do wear a structured white blouse. This was pushing the edge.

    Anne – We really don’t tend to finish like that out here, not for work. Almost nobody tucks their shirts in:).

    Susan – Clearly you are right:).

    Emmaleigh – I had no idea that places like that existed in D. C. :).

  • Mater – I agree. I have more often worn this jacket with simple dark wash jeans. I don’t like skirts, so I am just the wrong person to validate that idea…

    deja – California Rules.

    Callie – In the law, you are right. I work for an Internet company. Completely different.

    TPP – So great for travel. I agree.

    chicatanyage – Armani and Chanel and who else? Jil Sanders? We should have a jacket hall of fame.

    mette – I cannot wear slim jeans. Perhaps I need to put that as a banner on top of this blog? I have a long torso and short legs. Skinny jeans make me look like an upside down bowling pin. I am serious;).

  • rb – Cold! Totally cold! But we are big wooses:).

    Ida – My pleasure. So glad you liked the Armani pants. I am certainly in need of new ones myself.

    That’s Not My Age – London is OK with jeans? How fun to know! Thank you.

    Jody – Glad you approve:). Armani, the Jacket King:).

    E – Thanks for your opinion.

  • Duchesse – Ha! The lighting certainly keeps the quality of the pieces difficult to see. I wish I still had the time to take photos in my little “studio.” But I’m doing these in the morning before work, so they lack. I appreciate everyone bearing with me.

    RoseAG – Untucked is the norm out here. But I agree, the jeans are too fussy, really, with that shirt and jacket.

    Jane – Well, thank you ma’am:).

    Mardel – I really didn’t look sloppy, in real life. A little too much going on, yes. But not sloppy. Industries do differ, and in mine I’m very high on the formal scale. The controversy is interesting. I keep wondering, does some of it have to do with my age? What do you think?

  • Monica – Why thank you so much! And tech really is its own world. I kind of wonder how Austin, TX software companies dress:).

    kathy – I passed the St. John’s on Market the other day. Next time I’ll go in:).

    Sarah – Thank you Ms. Dish! Hehe.

    Hostess – I walk 30 minutes either way, but I only do it 3-4 times per week. Still, I feel my old leg muscles making a gradual return.

    NancyDaQ – Yes, I can imagine the culture differences between New Mexico and New York.

  • Arachna – You are exactly right. I’m on the formal side of the spectrum already in this corporate culture. And the culture trumps personal style, in my opinion, every time. As it should. It’s a job. We need to share values.

    joan – I am glad to hear your opinion. I work in San Francisco, downtown, for an Internet company.

    Susan – I haven’t worn my hair down yet on purpose. Only occasionally because it’s bugging me I will let it down a bit. Thank you! And seniority does have weight.

    Louise – Thank you. At the very least, I promise you that I was not sloppy in context.

    E – As you should. I am happy to have opposing voices here. I take away that the pants and jacket and shirt had too much going on. But one cannot make the statement that “those are weekend jeans, not business-casual,” and not remain open to dissent. Because here, in San Francisco, in an Internet company, they are business casual. Business casual, that devil, is a fully contextual construct, one that needs to be parsed for analysis. And if you think I just pulled out all my big words, you’re right:).

  • Love the outfit and as an East Coast transplant, am relieved to see that SF business casual is somewhat “flexible”. Jeans beats poplin trousers or those dreaded khakis any day!

    8:51 am
    Lisa said...

    Khakis terrorize me:). I finally found some that were good for casual, but they are cropped! Aaack, can’t wear to the office. And so the search begins again.

  • Jumping in late with my two cents:

    I LOVE the shirt. Love the jacket. Regarding the jeans, I like the wash and fit for this ensemble. However, the pockets seem to call for a long sleeved tee or even a turtleneck perhaps – solid or stripey. I applaud your energy and effort to push the envelope.

    As a Californian now living in Northern Virginia, I have learned to tuck in all my button front shirts (to convey “seriousness”) and have had to actually buy belts. Imagine my culture shock.

    Oh and I fully encourage a visit to St. John. Do it. Try on many. Their jackets seem to perfectly balance quality, structure, versatility and comfort. I don’t know how they do it. It’s almost magical. Be sure to employ the cost-per-wear factor because you can easily wear a well-cared for jacket for 10 years or more. When you find a keeper, you’ll have them tailor it just for your body and you’ll never want to let it go. Enjoy the experience.

    8:53 am
    Lisa said...

    Sylvie, I have looked at their stuff online now and I like their current offerings. The George Boucle Jacket in particular. And guess what boutique is right on my walk to work?:)

  • As for me… I’ll take off the fitted blouse and wear a nice white fitted T… keep the blazer, keep the jeans and most definitely keep the pearls! :)

    Thanks for your kind words xoxo

    8:54 am
    Lisa said...


  • I work in San Jose for a huge internet company. I think you look fantastic–you always do! Coincidentally, I read this after I got home today. I’d worn jeans, black booties, a silk shirt, and a STIFF blazer. The blazer caused the outfit to fail: it was a little too formal, and not awfully comfortable. I love your knit blazer… of course that’s what I should have worn.

    Google and I went to work, and we found this:

    It’s not perfect, but I think it is indeed just fine for business casual. Especially with the right blouse and shoes/booties. I’m tall, so a riding jacket works. But am also a bit hippier than you, so I need a long jacket.

    What I find as a 50-something woman in high tech is that business casual for me, esp. as someone who’s also managing a staff, is a bit different than it is for younger employees. Always walking a fine line. At the end of the day, it’s best to be in an Armani blazer (even vintage) rather than a cheapo. But as long as other elements are higher end, you can get away with one cheater item. At least I hope that’s the case. :)


    8:55 am
    Lisa said...

    Yes. Double yes. That jacket is a keeper, particularly for the narrow-shouldered (peaked lapels). It’s a great look, at least online, one of those times when the price has absolutely no impact on the design. High end doesn’t have to mean dollars, not always. I’d say this is an example of great design at any price point.

  • Love this, it’s perfect!!
    xo J~

  • I have mixed feelings about this look. It is hard to “judge” at a distance; as Duchesse noted, we can’t see the quality of the pieces. I think the biggest disconnect for me is the formal blazer with the beach looking top. And the jacket seems to be looking for its’ match, the suit pants or skirt.

    It is so much harder for us “women of a certain age” to find the right mix for business casual. But if you’re not management, there are bound to be guys in dubious shorts and message tshirts, so what you wear may not have the same impact it would in another location/industry.

  • I just discovered your blog a week ago (thanks to deja pseu), and I have to tell you that, while I love you to pieces and wish I’d met you 30 years ago, I don’t care for this particular combo either. I totally get that California has its own aesthetic (I lived in San Diego in my early 30s and my husband in a native Angeleno), but I think my objection is that the weight of these pieces (both fabric and pattern) don’t complement each other that well. Still, to each her own!

    And I must add that while I may live in conservative Philadelphia, I’ve always considered red a neutral. (Perhaps it’s my devotion to the Phillies or the Red & Blue of my alma mater?) If you ever decide to take the plunge and shod yourself in something red, I highly recommend Lucchese boots: Made in the USA, comfortable as hell, and pure Artsy Cousin (or whatever it is you call that contingent). I own these, and nothing makes me happier than prancing around town in them, even if the locals assume I’m Republican. I don’t have your budget to work with, but this was money very well spent:

    8:34 pm
    Lisa said...

    Very nice to meet you! I am always fine with hearing people’s opinions, when they are honest and civil. And I have had a secret craving for cowboy boots for a long time. Red ones would be icing on the cake.