conservative office style Mar 15, 2016

What To Wear To A Client Meeting

So you’ve got the whole workwear thing down for a regular day at the office, but now your boss wants you to start wining and dining clients, and you’re like… ummm is the Witness Protection Program taking applicants?  Because I have nothing to wear.


If you saw my tips on interview attire last week, it’s worth noting for starters that all of the same basic rules apply to client meeting attire: (1) you should wear a well-fitting, tailored ensemble; (2) you should be in polished, practical shoes; (3) you should go for minimal, fuss-free hair, nails and makeup; and (4) you should finish it all off with simple, classic accessories.  But while your interview outfit says “I’m not an axe murderer as evidenced by this crisp grey suit, so you should probably let me work for you,” you need a client meeting outfit that says “Someone is paying me to do stuff for them, and they’ve also determined that my pro-fresh style and above-average social skills will not humiliate them in public, so you should listen to what I have to say.”  

You with me?  We’re aiming a little higher with this one.

Now that you have the job and have earned the responsibility of representing your company in front of current and prospective clients, you might want to take your professional style up a notch from worker bee to girl boss.


While you want to stay clean, crisp and conservative, today’s ensemble illustrates that you can introduce a little more color and style into your look for client meetings.  By amping things up a bit, you can subliminally send the message that your ability to tie a cropped double-breasted black blazer and salmon sheath dress together with a coordinating black and gold waist belt is surely proof of creative thinking, good analytical skills and sound judgment.  Right?

Ok maybe not in those exact terms, but there’s no question looking the part not only visually reinforces command of your position and the subject matter, but it also enhances your own confidence and sense of self.  And we’re all about the good feels, here.


Unlike dressing for an interview, at this point, you know your company, you know your colleagues, and you probably know your clients too.  While you still want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately and professionally, you’re now in a position to make more advanced styling decisions beyond the basic grey/navy/black suit.


But when stepping beyond the cookie-cutter office attire, where do you start?  For women, this can be a dicey process especially if you work in a business formal environment, because you don’t want to go too far in the creativity department and sacrifice polish or professionalism.  Start by carefully considering your audience.  When meeting with clients, you want to dress to the same level as the client, or one level above.  If you’re meeting with the suit-wearing type, you don’t want to be in denim and a blazer.  However, if you’re meeting with hoodie-wearing entrepreneurs, you may not want to be in a formal black suit.  Always err on the more formal side, but don’t overdo it.


Once you’ve figured out the basics of what’s appropriate to wear to the meeting, you can have fun with color, print and texture within those bounds.  With a conservative silhouette (like my sheath dress today), you have more room to be playful with print and color—assuming you don’t go nuclear and start colorblocking neons.  When I was first working in finance in NYC, I got unexpectedly pulled into a client meeting when I was wearing a (basically) neon coral blouse, and the client asked, “So, are batteries included or sold separately with that top?”  Hilarious, bro.  Message received.

Instead of the standard black suit jacket (like this one) that I might wear to an interview, I opted for a cropped, bouclé, double-breasted version.  The texture of the jacket plays well with the texture of the pale salmon pink sheath dress featuring architectural lines that give it a little extra oomph than your average plain jane sheath.  I married the two together with a black and gold waist belt, and black accessories.  For footwear, while I might wear a classic pair of simple black pumps to an interview, this pair of detailed ankle strap pumps adds a bit more interest for a client meeting ensemble.


I shared this salmon sheath dress perfect for client meetings on instagram recently as part of my ongoing 30 Dresses in 30 Days series.  It’s actually from Rent the Runway, a service I’ve used many times for special events (weddings, formal events, cocktail parties, etc.).  However, I only recently uncovered their selection of clothing and accessories for other occasions (like work events) as well.  If you’re wining and dining clients on the reg, you probably should invest in some client-ready professional attire that you can get a lot of use out of, like all of the dresses I’ve listed below (especially this one on sale!).  However, if these business occasions occur only once in a while, renting the right outfit can be a more cost-effective option.  RTR has a ton of pieces that are awesome for work, including the dress I’m wearing today.  They also have tons of blazers, pencil skirts, pants, and even jumpsuits that could fit the bill as well.


DRESS: Moschino c/o Rent the Runway  |  JACKET: c/o St. John  |  SHOES: SJP Collection  |  BELT: old, similar HERE, HERE and even more HERE  |  BAG: M2Malletier  |  BRACELET: old, similar HERE  |  EARRINGS: Juliet & Company  |  LIPS: Nars (Bansar)


Additional favorites that are perfect for client meetings:

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18 Responses to What To Wear To A Client Meeting

  1. Xin says:

    You look so gorgeous, chic and professional in the outfit! Love the pink!


  2. Natali says:

    Oh wow!! Talking about a girl boss, classy and stylish outfit in one!? Beautiful!

  3. Christina says:

    Loving that dress!

    Christina :: Simple and Delish

  4. Brit says:

    Perfect perfect perfect

  5. Kathy says:

    Love the pink and black together. The dress has interesting seam details and you can’t go wrong with a St. John jacket.

  6. This is such a great look! I love the dress and the heels.

  7. Thuy says:

    I wasn’t too into this at first but after reading this I get more into it. I’m a fan of the boucle. Love the buttons.

  8. Kate says:

    Long time reader but first time commenter here… I really miss what your blog was like a year or two ago. I don’t mind that you’re incorporating more C/O items, trendy items and casual looks, but I miss the consistency and realistic style your blog/style used to have which made it a must read for me! From extremely high price points to sneakers with work wear to the frequent culottes, I can’t relate any more.

    • Mary Orton says:

      Sorry to hear you’re no longer enjoying the blog! In terms of price points, in the past two weeks alone I’ve featured brands like White House Black Market, Asos, J. Crew, Everlane, Ann Taylor, NastyGal, Rent the Runway and even Target, to name just a few. I’m not sure how much more relatable you can get than a $37 dress or $30 pants! As far as sneakers go, you must be thinking of one post three weeks ago, in which I explained why I was wearing them with workwear, and offered more conservative alternatives. Lastly, to speak to your culotte concern, I’ve featured culottes on the blog only four times in the past six months. I’m not sure I’d classify that as frequent!

      This site is a personal blog–one that reflects the evolution of my life and personal style. I have always mixed high and low price points, I now live in San Francisco and can sometimes wear sneakers to my office, and I freaking love culottes. I always listen to readers’ comments and requests, but at the end of the day, this blog is and will continue to be a genuine representation of me, and nothing more. If who I am now no longer resonates with you, no sweat!

  9. Monika says:

    Love that colour on you! Such a pretty dress!

  10. Maggie says:

    I love those shoes!! They go so well with this look.

  11. Anca says:

    I really love this dress and it came to the right moment, as next week I am meeting with a possible new client. I am an entrepreneur, and I could take a more relaxed outfit, but when I am meeting big clients who work for large companies, I prefer to stick to a business attire. Love you blog, by the way!

  12. coffeeslag says:

    Haha I love this post, pretty hilarious. Love the look too, definitely very steamlined and tailored. Perfect client meeting attire!


    COFFEESLAG New Phone Cases!

  13. welovefur says:

    Pink is my favorite color so i’m in love with this very chic dress.
    Pink and black is always a winning combination of color.
    I love your style and your blog.
    Visit mine if you want
    many kisses

  14. Margo says:

    Love this! Where did you get the glasses?

  15. Pamela says:

    What an amazingly attractive yet professional outfit. I love both the dress and the jacket. I’m not overly crazy about the T-strap heels but that’s just my personal taste. They’re absolutely and completely acceptable and attractive. And AT LEAST they’re not some big clunky, bulky, ugly looking thing with straps and buckles everywhere. WHAT happened to women wearing FEMININE looking shoes? Everything is completely perfect except for ONE vital thing. WHERE are your hose? The American women MUST return to wearing hose again. Have you noticed The Duchess of Cambridge is ALWAYS wearing hose? I don’t know who began this ridiculous trend but I’m so sick of it I could just SCREAM. Its bad enough in the summer but in the winter there aren’t words to describe how incredibly stupid it is for women to do this. Now I like the dress you’re wearing. I think it is extremely pretty and at least you have the jacket to wear with it but at least the day of the sleeveless dress in professional settings, especially in the winter is gone for the most part. Have you noticed how rapidly women are going back to dresses with sleeves, even LONG sleeves once Michelle Obama left the White House? That’s who inadvertently began that trend because she didn’t know any better. She definitely needed better guidance in dressing her first year or two in the position of First Lady. I’m just glad someone got her out of those little cardigan sweaters she would wear that were SO small they looked like they wouldn’t fit me and I’m 5’2″ and a size 8 or 10. I believe she began wearing those sleeveless dresses because she was starting to deal with hot flashes and not having the social etiquette experience of a spouse who has been in politics for YEARS, especially the social scene of Washington DC of all places (I live an hour outside of DC) she had no clue this unprofessional wardrobe choice would echo around the nation. I was raised that a woman NEVER, EVER wore sleeveless clothes in a professional work setting. But….women are DETERMINED to be in what they consider “style” no matter what the cost. The day I was sitting in a physician’s waiting room when it was approximately 15 degrees outside, everyone else in sweaters, boots (it had recently snowed), coats, gloves, hats, you name it and here comes this twenty-something YOUNG women, in some sort of office type of job and she has on a pair of slippery heels, NO HOSE, nothing on those bare legs and they were downright blue with the cold, she removes her coat and she’s wearing a STUPID sleeveless dress. She had some big expensive purse, most likely a Michael Kors or the like, no hat (that would ruin any hair) and you could see in her eyes she was MISERABLE. But….she was dressed in the latest STYLE. This thing of “style” regardless if its practical or logical is only a VERY recent idea. Even in the 70s and 80s clothes made SENSE for the season. It’s the whole reason for light and dark colors. White is much cooler to wear, it reflects sunlight. Black and dark colors hold sunlight and are WARMER to wear. People wore LONG sleeves in the winter because they’re warm. Fashion is useless if it doesn’t keep your body safe and comfortable. But the sad part about any of this is, the ones who NEED to be seeing and reading about it all will never do it. Every 5 or 6 years the youth and the younger half of the population get scruffier and scruffier and scruffier. If I had a dollar for every pair of UGLY shoes or else flip flops that I see in supermarkets or other inappropriate places I could buy the summer home I’d love to have. Not only would I like to get my hands on the person who began this “no hose” thing, I’d like to also get my hands on the IDIOT that started this trend of wearing ANY sort of flip flops other than the beach too. Do the American people understand AT ALL the atrocious and despicable SLOBS they’ve become? When is someone of SOME importance going to let them know?

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