Mauro Grifoni from YOOX

What to Wear to a Retreat

 
The Corporate Retreat.
 
As hard as it may be to dress for work day-to-day under a perplexing Business Casual regime, the dress code becomes even more uncertain when work moves off-site. A few months ago, I published a revolutionary post on office pool parties and now I shall hold forth on retreats.
 
Unless your retreat has a particular athletic focus, the dress code is probably Casual. What does this mean?
 
Let’s start with what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean that you should dress as though you are at home. You are at work! No ripped jeans, no athleisure wear. Casual for the retreat looks a lot like Casual Friday, except that it lasts 48 hours and involves an evening event in the middle. You want to look like an adult, although ironically, the maturity of your dress should be inversely proportional to your age. (You can wear retro Nike sneakers if you are 60, but need to wear real shoes — flats, penny loafers or brogues, if you are 30.) Here are the pieces; you mix and match.

A Casual Jacket, cotton . . . but with a little structure:
 
JCrew Downtown Field Jacket in

JCrew Downtown Field Jacket

Mauro Grifoni from YOOX

Mauro Grifoni from YOOX


DSquared2 from YOOX

DSquared2 from YOOX

Tru Trussardi from YOOX

Tru Trussardi from YOOX


A Blouse, not a t-shirt . . . although a fancy jersey might fit the bill, too:
Joie Mosaic Tile Blouse

Joie Mosaic Tile Blouse

Rebecca Taylor Pop Paisley Top from Shopbop

Rebecca Taylor Pop Paisley Top from Shopbop

Enza Costa Hi Lo Shirt from Shopbop

Enza Costa Hi Lo Shirt from Shopbop


Khakis
 
Gap Classic Khakis

Gap Classic Khakis

or Jeans, but not tailored wool or linen (too dressy)
 
JCrew Japanese Matchstick Selvedge Jeans

JCrew Japanese Matchstick Selvedge Jeans


Fun Shoes
 
Cole Haan Pinch Campus Loafer in sunray

Cole Haan Pinch Campus Loafer in sunray

Cole Haan Pinch Campus Loafer in Grape

Cole Haan Pinch Campus Loafer in Grape


This shoe: Coach Noella Flat

Coach Noella Flat; I am loving these


If you are wearing a casual top (i.e., a jersey), a dressier shoe will provide balance. The reverse is also true; if you are wearing a more decorative jacket or blouse, you may wear Converse with impunity.
 
To round these outfits out, I would bring a large scarf for warmth (cold conference rooms are the norm) and wear an interesting bracelet (to admire or fiddle with when things get dull — remember, no peeking at your iPhone when someone is talking). Good luck!

Have a fantastic weekend!

5 thoughts on “What to Wear to a Retreat

  1. This is great sound advice – and would probably also suit the situation of traveling with business colleagues to an event. Yes?

  2. Hi Directrice. We have something people in my kind of work go to each year, where most stay in the hotel hosting the event for a few nights. The event involves a big dinner and drinks and etc each evening. The outfits people wear to the 2 day long conference cover the gamut from extreme casual to business suits. The extreme casual end of the spectrum looks terribly sloppy but the business suits make the majority in the middle feel nervous (though the more formal dress still looks better than the sloppy!). I really like your cotton with structured jacket idea, and outfits composed around such a jacket always look super appropriate at such a gathering. I do think though that as long as you have a jacket, cool street sneakers ie New Balance, work with any age group, which you do allude to re the Converse but you seem to hold a contrary view on re Nike.

    • Oh Justine, I know exactly the kind of conference you mean. The cool street sneakers work — Nike included — with two caveats. First, they cannot be your actual gym shoes. Second, I do think for younger women it may be be preferable to not dress ultra-youthfully.

But what do you think?