Winter in Vienna is cold, mostly around -5 to 10˚C. It can be challenging to look professional and stylish while we make our way through the snow covered streets to work. At the same time, buildings are well insulated and heated. Hence, you need a good combo of layers which keep you warm outside but do not make you sweat inside. As I have mentioned in my Business Style Guide for Singapore, I love to put a stylish twist on my business wardrobe. In this Business Style Guide, I would like to share my take on professional attire for your business trip to Vienna in winter.
Business & Style Background
Vienna is not known for glamour and fashion. It is a beautiful city with a rich history. But fashion is not our strong suit – the typical Austrian style is simple, classic and a bit conservative. In general, Austrians like to stay away from colours – especially in winter the streets are crowded with black, grey, navy and brown. The rules for business attire are not as strict as in many American cities. But they are not as laid back as in Singapore, for example. I usually recommend to find a middle ground. Of course, it depends on the industry you work in (law firm, banks and consulting companies are usually stricter), your corporate culture and your personal style.
When I am in Vienna, I try to give my outfits some colour – you will see me stand out in the crowd with a bright purple, blue or red coat, some big jewellery or funky shoes. This is just who I am. I will always encourage you to add a personal touch.
Nine Business Attire Good-to-Knows for Vienna in Winter
1. Skirt Length and Tops
You do not necessarily have to cover your knees. It is perfectly acceptable to wear skirts that end shortly above the knee. However, everything shorter than that is inappropriate.
It is not necessary to always wear button-down shirts. In most organisations, you can wear a simple top (not revealing too much cleavage).
In general, high heels are fine. Most Austrian women opt for kitten heels or flats because they prefer the comfort. For professional meetings, I wear high heels. However, in winter they are highly impractical. You will easily slip on the sidewalk. Vienna is a walking city, even in winter. If you have to head to meetings, flat shoes might just be the better option. Invest in a pair of nice boots. If you walk to the office in the morning and stay inside all day, you may also get a pair of rubber boots and leave a pair of high heels at the office. This is what I did most of the time.
It is a popular thing to pair pants with ankle boots. I personally do not like this style for two reasons: Firstly, I do not find it aesthetically appealing. Secondly, when there is snow, the pants are outside of the ankle boots and will get wet. I prefer to wear skinny pants and put them inside my boots instead.
Suede leather boots are stunning but they are very difficult to keep clean in the snow. Furthermore, the sidewalks are covered in salt or gravel to prevent them from freezing. Hence, you may get white marks on the leather. I recommend to go for smooth leather because you can easily wipe it after you arrived at your destination.
I have quite a few pairs of boots with high heels – but I chose block heels. I only wear these types of boots on the dryer days – I am clumsy enough and do not want to imagine myself in the snow with high heeled boots.
3. Fashion Trends
Austrians are not known to be opinion leaders when it comes fashion trends. I often make fun and say that Austrian women only try out new trends when they are already over in the major fashion capitals. Austrian style is rather classic and understated. Understatement is important in the professional field. While you do see the logomania on the streets, it is frowned upon if you show up covered in brandnames to a meeting or job interviews.
I usually opt for a mix: classic pieces which I pimp with trendy items. This not only holds true for Vienna. I think it is better to invest in a high-quality and long-lasting wardrobe with fewer but classic items instead of always running after the newest trend. However, if you want to go with the current trends, it is perfectly fine too.
4. Fabrics and Layers
Because of the cold winters it would be tempting to wear really thick wollen clothes. However, buildings are heated and insulated well and the temperature is usually around 20-23 degrees Celcius. Hence, it is better to wear layers. I try to avoid synthetic fabrics such as polyester. Thin cashmere jumpers or blazers paired with long-sleeved tops are usually the things I go for.
5. Coats, Scarves and Layers
You will definitely need a proper winter coat. Invest in a nice wollen coat either in a classic colour like camel or – like me – in bright colours. I also strongly advise you to get a nice scarf – wool or cashmere – and definitely some gloves. If you feel cold easily, wear tights under pants as well and maybe an additional tank top under your top. Do not underestimate the cold. While winters in the UK are humid, for example, they are very dry in Vienna. But there can be strong winds which make the cold feel even colder. A pair of cute earmuffs or a nice headband, beanie or hat are also a very good idea.
As I mentioned previously, colours are muted in Austria. However, it is perfectly fine to add some pops of colour and stand out in the boring crowd. 😉
Most of the guides about business styles are very conservative. Most of the time I find them boring and way too strict. I have worked in different industries and even though I did not work in a bank or law firm, I actually never thought it was true that we cannot wear colours at work. I usually get many compliments if I wear a unique colour.
Everything is acceptable. I usually have a big tote bag to fit my laptop and all the winter accessories inside. Designer bags are acceptable, but they are not as big as in Asia. (Even though they have become a much bigger topic recently.)
8. Tights, Tights, Tights
It is cold, you will not survive without tights. Pair your skirt with opaque tights. If you are more resistant to the cold, thin tights are also pretty. I love to wear patterned tights to add a special touch to my outfits.
Wear a simple day makeup. Also because it is cold, your nose will run, you will blow your nose a lot and too much makeup will just get really messy after some time. For evening meetings, you can go bolder. However, stay away from the intense make-up which is popular in the Middle East or Asia.
Now we know the basics, let’s translate them into outfits. I have listed my favourite pieces below. As mentioned above, my fashion style is not very conservative. You will never ever see me in a grey pants-suit combo and a white button-down shirt. Just because I work as hard as a man, I do not have to dress like one. I love to experiment with colours, cuts, fabrics and accessories. My advice is that you should feel comfortable and confident in whatever you wear. We need to look professional with our power outfits – but please make them fashion. 🙂
Tops, Jumpers and Blazers
Have you been to Vienna for business? What did you wear?
Do You Need More Tips for Vienna?
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All information as of the date of publishing/updating. We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience and opinion of Elisabeth Steiger.