Courtesy of ModCloth; design by Emily Blevins
Photos courtesy of Everlane, Skyroam, Ecco, Micro, and Arc’teryx; design by Emily Blevins
Work hard, play hard with next-gen apparel and accessories that will take you from business mode to travel mode.
Business travel used to mean toting suits in bulky garment bags and paper-stuffed briefcases on red-eye flights—but no longer. Today’s earners enjoy a leaner profile when traversing the globe, and they relish after-work adventures. New business-ready styles with easy-care performance fabrics readily downshift from boardrooms to boat decks, so there’s no risk of overpacking your carry-on. And business reports can be accessed via cloud storage from palm-sized devices, further lightening the load. Here are the next-gen business accoutrements to pack on your next work outing.
For simplicity and efficiency, nothing beats a jumpsuit—and the Elegant Everywhere Ruffled Jumpsuit combines dressy style with extended-wear comfort. The polyester/spandex blend looks as spiffy as dry-clean-only fabrics, but it stands up to machine washing. And its hint of stretch keeps the garment from feeling confining, even after 12 hours of wear.
Paired with a jacket, this black suit is conservative enough for corporate environments and formal enough for presentations or keynote speeches. Yet when worn alone, the open back is an elegant look for evening fund-raisers or a destination-worthy restaurant. The removable sash lets you swap in a belt to match heeled shoes—or not—and ruffled sleeves look feminine rather than frivolous.
Buy Now: $89, modcloth.com
In our search for a truly comfortable pair of heels that look sophisticated instead of stodgy, we’d started to believe we were hunting for a unicorn—until we found the Everlane Square Toe Slingback. Its interplay of geometric shapes (a square toe, a round heel) turns the basic slingback into a modernist style statement. But these Italian leather shoes are made for real-world walking.
The heels are a comfortable 1.5 inches, and a patch of elastic on the heel strap lets it adapt to various ankle sizes, so the shoe was never too tight, even after our feet had swelled from long bouts of sitting. The versatile style pairs well with both pants and dresses and comes in six colors. And the closed-toe coverage makes it a winner in rainy cities and conservative boardrooms where sandals may be out of place.
Buy Now: $165, everlane.com
So many easy-care dresses look more appropriate at the hotel pool than in the meeting room, but the Cala Dress is a welcome exception to that trend: Princess seams and a Mandarin collar create elegant lines that impress when worn alone or beneath a jacket. Opening the top button converts the neckline to a more casual notched style. The dress is especially flattering because the two hand pockets are placed forward, on the thigh, rather than on a side seam along the outer leg where they would add width.
The versatile style dresses up with heels or down with strappy flats, and the cap sleeves are suitable for conservative environments. The polyester fabric is light enough for hot climates and has enough stretch to be comfortable through a work day topped off with a night market tour. The Cala is also relatively wrinkle resistant; any creases we noticed upon unpacking relaxed after a shower-side steam. The dress’s only downside is its tendency toward static cling—but that’s easily fixed with a blast of Static Guard.
Buy Now: $99, arcteryx.com
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Proving that a business tote can be both beautiful and practical, the Geometrik creates visual interest with an embossed design: The fine-grained leather is tumbled for softness, then polished to a shine. In fact, Ecco claims that additional wear will create an even glossier patina rather than dull scuffs.
It features an adjustable shoulder strap as well as a zippered closure that keeps contents secure when the bag is stored beneath the airplane seat in front of you. There’s no built-in laptop sleeve, although our 13-inch MacBook fit inside. And instead of a fixed pocket, the tote includes a detachable zippered pouch that doubles as a wristlet.
Buy Now: $430, us.ecco.com
Zipped, the Midtown Jacket has the structured look of a fitted business blazer. But it’s made of supremely soft bamboo fibers blended with organic cotton, nylon, and elastane, so it feels indulgent, like loungewear. The fleecy interior wards off the chill of air-conditioned meeting rooms and airplanes, while the Midtown’s dense, wind-resistant weave makes it the perfect topper in blustery weather: We didn’t need an additional hard shell to stay comfortable during a windy fall commute in Denver.
Unzipped, the Midtown takes on a more relaxed look. Hitting at the high hip, it pairs attractively with dresses and slacks, and two hand pockets offer convenient storage for a laser pointer or flash drive. And it’s low-maintenance too—bamboo has antimicrobial properties, which keep this jacket fresh longer.
Buy Now: $150, tascperformance.com
The Evolution Pant offers the ideal combination of comfort and polish in all but the most formal settings. The stretchy, machine-washable nylon twill comes in four colorways and has a sophisticated finish that pairs nicely with lapels and leather shoes, but it requires far less care than fussier fabrics: A durable water-repellent treatment causes coffee and other spills to bead right off and reduces the need for frequent laundering.
If you want to go hiking after your meeting in Taipei, these are the only pants you need to pack: Elasticity and abrasion resistance allow this office-ready travel pant to tackle trails, but the high-performance material lacks the plasticky feel typical of technical fabrics. A process called air-texturing turns the Evolution’s Supplex nylon into soft, silky fibers that feel like cotton but wear tough, like Cordura (we noticed no pilling on the fabric where our shoulder tote rubbed on the hip). Best of all, it’s sustainably-made in a Bluesign-approved mill in Sweden.
Buy Now: $149, westernrise.com
Although some corporate strongholds still expect men to wear wingtips, the tech and creative industries tend to favor more informal styles like the Atom. This lace-up trainer eschews garish colors for a somber, monochrome look that’s suitable for city sidewalks and business summits. Better still, the foot-comfort geeks at Kuru obsessed over this shoe’s construction, giving it a proprietary undersole that places an extra-fat pad of cushioning under the heel to prevent soreness from pavement pounding. We can attest that after 14 hours of museum-hopping in Paris, our feet felt wonderfully unpunished.
The Atom is also one of the most breathable shoes we’ve tested. On windy days, we could feel air pushing through the mesh upper—a refreshing improvement over sweat-trapping models. And because it’s supportive enough for sport, it’s the one shoe you need for days that start at the hotel gym, progress to the conference room, and end at the company mixer.
Buy Now: $130, kurufootwear.com
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The three-button Parkway Light Blazer is so much more than a sharp addition to your wardrobe. Supple, lightweight fabric in black or taupe lets this jacket pack down small—and re-emerge free of wrinkles. Its four-way stretch gives wearers full freedom of movement and adapts to the tug of backpack straps or shoulder totes. And a zippered chest pocket on the jacket’s interior offers a safe but convenient place to stash a smartphone or passport.
The Parkway also fends off rain with a water-repellent fabric coating that kept us dry during a sudden downpour in Paris. The construction isn’t fully waterproof, so the Parkway isn’t the best choice for a whale-watching excursion, but it does provide protection for rainy-day dashes between Lyfts and subway stations.
Buy Now: The Parkway Light Blazer will be available as part of Lululemon’s Spring 2020 collection and, for globe-trotting business travelers, is worth the wait. Until then, the insulated standard Parkway Blazer is currently available for $248 on shop.lululemon.com.
While smartphones include a built-in hotspot that translates cellular signal into Wi-Fi connectivity that your laptop can use, a hotspot can support multiple devices, making it preferable if you’re traveling with colleagues. The Skyroam Solis makes international transitions seamless. It provides 4G wireless for up to five computers at once—with a battery life of 16 hours (many hotspots only last for three hours). And the data rates tend to be cheaper than phone carriers’ roaming plans: A 24-hour pass costs $9 for 1G (and $9 for every 1G after that) or unlimited data for $99 per month. When you’re not using it for online computing, the Solis doubles as a power bank that can recharge your devices.
Buy Now: $99, amazon.com
Like other universal adapters, the Micro allows you to plug into a wide array of outlets, but this device is less bulky than most: The finger-sized adapter cleverly accommodates two-prong and three-prong plugs. One spring-loaded switch releases two flat prongs for American plugs that can be rotated into an angled formation for Australia and similar styles. A second spring-loaded switch on the adapter’s opposite end exposes two round prongs that work in Europe (and the slender shape fits inside those recessed outlets). And a detachable plastic prong turns the Micro into a three-pin plug for the United Kingdom.
The Micro doesn’t work in South Africa’s distinctive three-prong plug. Nor is it an electrical converter, so it won’t protect hair dryers and other appliances from the varying voltages that travelers encounter worldwide. But it does include a built-in (replaceable) fuse that protects your laptop and other e-gizmos from power surges. Still, at just 2.4 ounces, it packs a lot of capability into one impressively small package.
Buy Now: $20, amazon.com
Yesteryear’s business bags organized papers; today, travelers carry more cords than paper products and the PowerShuttle Mini keeps them all tidy without adding weight and bulk to a carry-on. The compact zippered organizer measures 11 inches by 5.5 inches, so it slides easily into any tote bag. Despite its sleek size, it manages to corral an impressive number of electrical accessories: USB adapters, wall plugs, power banks, and ear buds all fit into its arrangement of elastic straps and mesh sleeves. It’s worth noting that it’s not quite capacious enough for a laptop charger, and over-ear headphones require a separate container too.
Buy Now: $20, rei.com
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