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The Lilia jacket, Astor skirt, and Ella sandal. Similar top and earrings: the Vicky tank and Yang earrings.

5 Business-Formal Summer Outfits That Aren’t Suits

The definition of business formal has expanded far beyond the suit. We’ve updated our popular style guide to help you dress for the office this summer.

By Madeleine Kim

When you think of a business-formal dress code, what do you think of? I’ll admit that before I worked at M.M.LaFleur, “business formal” brought to mind two things: boring suits and endless dry-cleaning bills. But if you’ve tried our elegant, office-ready styles—many of which are machine-washable—you know it doesn’t have to be that way. And after the pandemic led many companies to rethink what dressing for work should look like, our definition of business formal expanded even more.

Today, business formal means so much more than just suits. Maybe you stick with a blazer and slacks, but you switch it up with contrasting fabrics. Or maybe you forego the jacket altogether and instead opt for a floaty silk top. Read on for five non-suit outfits that are absolutely business-formal.

Business-Formal Summer Outfits

The Color-Blocked Look

Let’s start out with something simple: a classic, tailored dress paired with a cropped jacket. The Audrey-Hepburn-esque Cynthia dress features a belt at the waist, which looks beautiful with the cropped, slightly angled hemline of the Sant Ambroeus jardigan. A more traditional business-formal wearer would get the Cynthia and the Sant Ambroeus in the same color, but not you! You’re switching things up with a color-blocked look. Finish the outfit with some textured flats and bold earrings.

The Lilia jacket, Astor skirt, and Ella sandal. Similar top and earrings: the Vicky tank and Yang earrings.

The Monochromatic Look

Dressing in monochrome is an easy way to create a formal-feeling look. Tuck the silk Vicky tank into the stretchy-yet-structured Astor skirt, then finish the outfit with the tweed-like Lilia jacket. The strappy Ella sandals will hint at the swanky evening plans you may or may not have, without detracting from your professional appearance. Unconventional hoop earrings complete the look.

The No-Blazer-Necessary Look

One main function of a blazer is to incorporate formal design elements (think lapels, crisp lines, and unique bits of flair) into your outfit. But with a top like the Darcy—which features a scarf-like front panel that you can style however you want—those design elements are already taken care of. Simply tuck your top into some wide-leg trousers, then finish the outfit with a pair of slingbacks and some hoop earrings.

The Cobble Hill skirt, D-Ring belt, and Rowan flats. Similar top and earrings: the Nora top and Lillie earrings.

The Not-a-Skirt-Suit Look

Business-formal dress codes often get pigeonholed as bland or boring, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Take this outfit, for instance. The bold D-Ring belt defines your waist and creates an unexpected focal point between the camel Cobble Hill skirt and alabaster Nora top. Plus, wearing different colors on top and bottom will help you stand out from the black-and-navy-suit-clad crowd. Add the Rowan flats in leopard print for texture and the Lillie earrings to complement the ivory top.

The Column Look

This outfit has all the makings of a classic pantsuit—sleek pants, an underpinning, and a blazer—but unconventional color and fabric pairings give it a unique point of view. Instead of matching your pants to your blazer with a contrasting top underneath, wear pants and a top in the same or similar color (like the Foster pants in black and Aubry top in cool onyx), then add a contrasting blazer (like the Gaia). This creates a “column outfit,” which is apparently so named because it makes you look extra tall and statuesque. Want even more height? Add the Ella sandals.

The Gaia jacket, Aubry top, Foster pants, and Ella sandals. Similar earrings: the Yuna earrings.

The All-Black Look

Wearing all-black is an easy easy to make your outfit look formal—even if you’re not wearing a suit. For a summer-friendly look, layer the stretchy Merritt jardigan over the lightweight Maaza dress, and complement your ensemble with gold jewelry. During warm weather, choose pointed-toe pumps for your footwear; but come fall, you can sub in thigh-high boots, as shown here.

The Patterned Look

PSA: Your business-formal summer work outfits don’t have to be boring. Try incorporating a splash of color in the form of our playfully printed Alesia dress. Up the formality factor by adding the classic Yiyan blazer, a belt, and pointed-toe flats.

The (Jump)suit Look

Get the vibe of a suit with an unexpected twist by pairing a jumpsuit with a matching blazer. Made from breathable gingham linen, the Demi jumpsuit and Dolly jacket were (literally) made for each other. Kitten-heel pumps, simple hoops, and a chic silk scarf complete the look.

The Silk-Charmeuse Look

When you wear a silk charmeuse shirt, your outfit immediately levels up in formality—which means you can get away with slightly less traditional alternatives to a full-on suit. The Darcy top is not only eye-catching and elevated; it’s also machine-washable. Pair it with the O’Hara blazer and Mejia pants for your unusual take on business-formal summer workwear.

The A-Line Look

Most people associate business-formal outfits with pencil skirts and straight-cut slacks. But you can also experiment with different silhouettes and still match your office’s dress code. Try a subtle A-line style like the Gabriella dress, made from stretchy-yet-structured ponte. Shiny flats and the tweed-like Lilia jacket complete the look. Feeling warm on your commute? Just stash the Lilia in your work bag—it’s wrinkle-resistant.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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