Surprise Basics for Women’s Workwear

surprise-basics-for-womens-workwearReader S has a question about which wardrobe items become surprise basics for the working woman…

Would love to hear you and readers share which pieces have unexpectedly come into your regular wardrobe rotation. For example, I know that you’ve found purple pumps to be quite versatile. Now that many of us have found the classic basics, what are some pieces that you have found to be surprise basics?

Great question! Personally, I find that there is little way to predict what will be a favorite — it depends on how an item wears, what surprises it holds (how low does that neckline go if you lean forward?), and how it fits after you’ve laundered it at least once.  Still — there have been a few unexpected basics in my working wardrobe, including purple pumps, as reader S correctly points out.  (Pictured: Surprise, South Lambeth, SW8, originally uploaded to Flickr by Ewan-M.) Other things that might not be on every woman’s must-have list of items, but are items I’ve never regretted purchasing:

  • Colored purses. I find that really any color of purse works perfectly with my style — I have white, black, yellow, blue, green, red, purple — even multi-colored bags.  I have found that I don’t carry brown bags as often, but that’s me.  Personally, I find colored purses to be more versatile than colored shoes — I’ve had some bad experiences with teal-colored shoes (my pale legs looked positively sick) and other lighter-colored shoes (hello, smudges and scrapes).  I wear my kelly green purse a surprising amount — it’s a fun, happy color that doesn’t make it into much else in my wardrobe.
  • Olive-colored pants. I’ve always found this particular color of pants to be surprisingly versatile.  I wear them with black tops, gray tops, even purple tops.  A few years ago I even had a pair of olive green pants and an olive cardigan that matched almost perfectly, so I wore them together (with, I think, a purple tank beneath) — it’s more fun than wearing all-black, but not quite as matchy-matchy as wearing, say, all red or all gray.
  • A good watch. Hey, no one wears watches anymore, right?  We have our cell-phones and our computers and Outlook alarms to tell us what to do, when.  Still:  next time you’re at a big networking lunch, take a look around — and you’ll be surprised by how many high-quality watches surround you on other wrists, of both men and women.  It makes a statement about personality (are you a Cartier or Rolex person?), and it also has a subconscious trigger that shows reliability and attention to detail.  It also has a slight “I’m a member of the club” effect, which can be useful when networking.  This shouldn’t be a splurge but, rather, a planned purchase.  (I “bought” my watch for my 30th birthday — but it took me a year and a half of researching and deciding before I actually plunked down my credit card.)
  • A good set of pearls. Or even a good set of fake pearls.  But talk about surprisingly versatile — I wear mine to almost every big networking event like a conference, as well as to interviews.  Pearls are also great for “stodging” up a hip look — after all, they are white and basic and go with everything.  I’ve also used mine to “raise the neckline” of sometimes questionable tops — the bright white of pearls tends to bring the focus up to your face.  Mine are around 7.5MM or so, I think, and I prefer the slightly longer 18″ length (but 16″ is also classic).  Look for pearls that are as close to round and symmetrical as possible.

I think that’s about everything that might be a “surprise” basic for me — but I’ll keep thinking.  Meanwhile, things that have been disappointments include:

  • some bags that I bought because I really, really wanted to own something from that designer — and not so much because I liked the bag itself.  I have a brown Bulga and a red Kate Spade that I never wear, and they make me sad.
  • some “must-have” basics — the white blouse, for example.  I’m just not a person who wears white that often, plus I hate ironing.  Similarly, you have to know your own body — a boxy Chanel-type jacket is probably never going to look right on my hourglassy figure, and any pant with a tapered ankle just looks out of balance with my hips.

Readers, what are your surprise workwear basics? Which items surprised you by NOT being worn as much as you’d have thought?

Comments

  1. Corporate Tool :

    I’ve got a pale yellow cardigan that I wear all the time. Surprisingly it goes with basically all my neutrals (black, navy, gray, brown).

  2. Silver ball studs. I’m one of those people who really needs earrings to look “finished,” and these are as neutral as it gets for me.

    • recently preggers :

      Those were my basic, wear every day, earings — i love them — until i got my “push” gift — diamond studs :)

    • I love mine! I also have gold ball studs. I never really appreciated before how versatile studs can be. I’m currently looking for garnet (or better yet ruby ones).

      • Seventh Sister :

        I have ruby ones, and while they are pretty small, the deep red color makes them pop out. I had them set in white gold (as opposed to yellow), which apparently the jeweler thought was kind of crazy but I enjoy very much. (Gold just looks weird on me.)

    • I love me my studs! My coral studs really seem to play up my complexion. Also in rotation are – gold ball studs, single tiny diamond studs, pearl studs, and a pair of garnet studs.

    • Seventh Sister :

      I love my silver ball studs, too.

  3. A two-inch thick red patent leather belt. I bought it expecting it to be weekend wear, but now it is my secret weapon for for making an otherwise uninspired work outfit look intentional and polished. It works with black, white, gray and tan and any combination of them.

  4. Grey center-creased cigarette pants. I wear them with long cardigans/tunics and flats for what I hope is an Audrey Hepburn-inspired casual look, and the pants themselves are dressy enough to pump that look up to biz casual. I love that they’re not black like so many of my other go-to pants. I wish I had two pairs as I always want them before they come back from the cleaners.

  5. Big purple plastic beaded necklace. It sounds so gross, but it’s true. It’s a vintage piece from the 60s that I bought as a fun accessory with no expectation of wearing it to work. But it is just the right amount of personality with an otherwise boring, basic suit ensemble. I think part of the reason it works is that it is very short, so it draws the attention up to the face, not to the sternum or lower. I have gotten more compliments on it than any other single item I have ever worn.

    Statement glasses. After about three years of this job, I can no longer wear contacts on a regular basis. My eyes get too dry and bleary. Since largely abandoning contacts, I have accumulated three pairs of visible glasses (as opposed to the “disappearing” variety, a la Sarah Palin’s famous spex) that I treat like functional jewelry. They’re not neon or rhinestones or anything, but they are not exactly basic, either. Different faces take different sizes and shapes of glasses, so it’s not anything I would make a uniform recommendation as to brands or styles, but in general, I am a big believer in statement glasses.

    Red shoes. These go with nearly everything, even the hard-to-pair navy pinstripe. And there’s always the Elvis Costello factor to cheer me up, too.

    • I second red shoes, both for work and non-work. I bought a pair on a whim and was shocked by how much they went with everything. Same with my red and blue purses.

    • Alias Terry :

      I second the glasses that “work” for your face and your look. For me it is a rather inexpensive copper/brown AX frames that I tried on on a whim and POW was I surprised how much I loved how they looked on me.

      A great pair of glasses are like a great haircut. They can make or break your look.

      I have worn glasses for so many years that I would only wear contacts on occasion (if I could wear them anymore) anyway.

    • I heartily second the statement glasses. They convey seriousness and style at the same time.

      I’ve gotten a surprising amount of mileage out of reptile print red pumps. I don’t normally wear animal print, but there’s something about the pattern that just gives a little extra edge to the red, while allowing them to be worn with a wider range of colors.

  6. What a fun thread! I can’t wait to see what people post. Here are mine:

    -Grey shoes: I once bought a cheap pair on a whim and wore the heck out of them. I replaced with a low heel pair of Ferragamo’s (they are silver grey) and I wear them all the time. With blue suits, grey, some shades of brown, and black. Amazing versatility.

    -Variation on Kat’s tip: colored pearls. I have real strands of white, pink and black and a fake strand of multi-colored pearls. The fake multi colored strand gets more compliments than anything I wear and goes with almost everything in a wonderful non-matchy matchy way. They are very big, in cream, gold, pink, and green.

  7. - Yellow patent Kate Spade Karolina pumps. I wear them with black, navy, gray, jeans. The best money I have spent on shoes in years.

    - I NEVER wear my white button-down blouse. I feel too stiff and like a caricature of a lawyer!

    • I will only wear a white blouse in two situations – one is with a large, colorful statement necklace (I have a toursade necklace with lots of shades of blue, and a chunky red necklace), and the other is under a sweater or sweater vest. Otherwise I feel like a waiter…

      • Alias Terry :

        Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada with her white blouse and colorful statement necklace made me start liking white shirts.

  8. My surprise basic is a pinstriped jacket leftover from a suit where the pants got destroyed by a grease stain (thank you New York subway train – I believe it was on the 2). I never wore the suit much – I had bought it on sale, did not love it, found it hard to work with. Yet I wear the heck out of the jacket – with black pants usually. The stripe has a bit of dark purply red and white, so I can wear a variety of colored tops under it which, oddly, look better with the pin striped jacket and black pants than they ever did with the full suit.

  9. - A fitted black trench coat with a belt that I bought in Beijing from a street vendor. It has a big stain now, so I’m looking for a new one before spring sets in. Suggestions would be great!

    - A multi-strand necklace of red beads I bought from a street vendor in the Bahamas. It gives a dark outfit color, brings a loud outfit down with its earth-tones, and adds interest to an all-white outfit. Love it.

    - Two bracelet-style watches (one brown, one green – should’ve gotten black too!) with hinged bands, each less than $15 at a small store in Dupont Circle. Don’t know what I’ll do when they finally die; I hate buckled/snapped watch bands!

    • anonymiss :

      I got a fabulous fitted black trench with zip-in warm liner from Nordstrom this year. It’s by London Fog and fits wonderfully. It’s quite warm and nicely water-repellent.

  10. Ann Taylor’s skinny black patent leather belt. I have no idea how I survived before it came into my wardrobe. I now own two in black, one in gray, and one in a printed gray/blue/white pattern. I stock up during their 40% off sales, so they work out to be around $20/each. Not too bad.

  11. Kanye East :

    2 things:

    1. I wear a Rolex, but it doesn’t mean I’m a “Rolex person.” You can’t tell if I’m a Jackie or a Marilyn by an accessory.

    2. It’s worth taking the time to educate yourself when it comes to jewelry. I’m a Mid-Law partner with a design background, and I started making jewelry when I realized how easy it was to get quality materials at wholesale prices. I work with a lot of pearls, and here’s my 2 cents:

    A strand of beautiful pearls can be a wonderful investment–if you can afford perfect South China Sea or Tahitian pearls, they can be worth it–but it is not worth going into debt for jewelry.

    If you want to go that route, learn about what you’re buying and where it comes from. Buy for the quality of the product, not the brand name. (I know the Tiffany name has major pull, but trust me, they make mass-produced, factory products, for the most part.)

    Fake pearls are a budget-friendly option (if you’re interested in higher-end fakes, look for Swarovsky glass pearls or “shell pearls,” which are beads made from mother of pearl or shell), but so are freshwater pearls. You can find beautiful freshwater pearls in virtually any size, shape, or color.

    There are tons of options for buying pearls online, but I highly encourage you to browse Etsy. You can find just about any variety of pearls on hand-knotted silk cord there, and buy directly from artists for a lot less than you’d probably pay elsewhere.

    • Great advice, thanks. Going to check out pearls on Etsy now…

    • I mean, maybe I am buying the wrong size or something — but you can get a nice necklace of pretty nice pearls from honora for <$100. On RueLaLa, sometimes you can get it for MUCH cheaper than that (like, $30). I think mine are 7mm.

      I think fake only makes sense if you are getting those giant pearls that Jackie O or Michelle Obama wear.

    • I recommend pearlparadise.com – they have a great selection and great prices.

      My surprise basics:

      - pearl drop earrings
      - a slim bangle
      - classy watch
      - burgundy pumps
      - silvery grey (pewter?) pumps

    • Freshadamas at Pearl Paradise. Love, love, love.

      My pearl-snob mother ordered a set for herself, she liked mine so much.

    • I love Etsy! Just bought a pearl item from there and the same artist is making me a specially designed necklace of antique silver , pearls and beads. It will be elegant and different!

  12. Belts have been a sleeper hit for me. Silver belts, leather belts, suede belts, chain belts, belts with bows, leather obi belts, you name it. And I don’t spend alotta cash on them either (catch on sale at White House Black Market, Cache, TJ Maxx, 6pm.com, Talbots whatever).

    Aside: My Calvin Klein chambray pants came today. I had such high hopes! Sadly, they seemed to be adverse to ba-donka-donks (booty & thighs). A little bit of Theory “modern sizing” in their game, I suppose. Back they go… $16 in shipping for $39 pants. Sob. These may be more promising, but I’m burnt out at this point. http://www.calvinklein.com/product/index.jsp?productId=11291261

  13. My go-to jewelry are a couple of pairs of earrings that I bought from artists. I wear either one or the other almost every day. I love that they are one-of-a-kind and interesting, but subdued enough for work.

    I also get a lot of wear out of a lilac-colored cardigan, which I find flatters my dark brown hair, green eyes and fair skin.

  14. Taupe heels. It’s a grayish-purplish-taupe. They seem to be both a cool tone and warm tone at the same time, and I think it’s becuase of that that they go well with every suit I own – black, brown, charcoal, light grey, navy, tan. “Taupe heels” sounds like they would be boring and impossible to wear, but mine are awesome.

  15. Faux snakeskin ballet flats! The pattern is mostly camel-colored but also has splotches of brown and black. I wear them constantly, both for work and off-hours. Per the two-patterns ethic they are totally fine with a polka-dot blouse or striped button-up as long as I separate them with neutral pants.

  16. Colored coats – both winter coats and raincoats. I get so many compliments on my brightly colored coats and they make me happy.

  17. 1. Eggplant-purple cashmere open cardigan (goes with dresses, shells, and weekends)
    2. Colored pumps: red patent, mustard yellow leather, gray leather
    3. Pearl earrings (gift from the hubby): didn’t have any idea they’d turn into my favorite work earrings.
    4. Herringbone blazer.

    • I would put eggplant in the same category as colors like oxblood and dark aqua (I can never remember the name of this color!) that work like a neutral but read as color. I love it.

  18. I have a yellow purse – bought it on clearance on a whim, and have been shocked to find how often and with what I can wear it. It really pops against neutrals and adds a nice splash of contrast to a lot of brights. Yellow shoes (not to be worn at the same time as the yellow purse) are now on my spring shopping wish list.

  19. Threadjack – my in-laws have made it clear that they would love to move across country to be closer to my husband and me and our kids. They need to take care of some things with their small business and also sell their home, but I expect that the move will take place in about a year. I am dreading this move. They are “know-it-alls” with strong opinions about everything and they have no friends (they are quick to judge others and perceive every small thing as a slight), and they will expect us to visit (or they will come over) every weekend because there are no other relatives who live within driving distance from us. How do I cope with this? Husband shares my view of them but does not see any other way out since the parents have no need to live where they currently live since all of the kids have grown and moved away.

    • Boundaries! I would suggest that they move somewhere that is not too close (eg not in the same town, and/or not within an hour drive if you can help it). Then be unavailable the weeks that you don’t want them to visit.

      Also, it should be your husband’s job to put his foot down about not having them visit every week, since they are his parents.

      Good luck! I am fortunate that my in-laws live halfway across the country and don’t visit often!

      • Bk foette :

        I agree — hubby needs to be the one to explain that you all will not be available 52 weekends a year. But also, live the life you want to live — make plans that don’t involve them, preferable out of the house so they can’t just show up.
        Will they start another business here? Are they active in church or community activities?

      • I agree! Have your husband make all the arrangements/ telling them you are busy. They are not going to hate their son, but they can hate their daughter-in-law for not letting them see their son and grandchildren! At least that is how they would take it.

    • Do what I’ve done – move to a new city every three years. It seems to be the only way to keep the MIL from moving next door. (I’m only half joking.)

    • Be up front with them before they move, so they can’t guilt-trip you later. Tell them what your schedule is, what your weekend obligations are, and let them know the maximum amount of time you would commit to them weekly or monthly. It won’t be a comfortable conversation, but it could prevent many uncomfortable conversations later.

      Also, I’ve learned that sometimes I just have to ignore calls/e-mails etc from parents and in-laws; if I’m going to be cranky and unhappy because I feel obligated to answer, or it’s a bad time to talk, it’s much better to wait and respond the next day, or set a good time to talk when I will be available. It’s amazing how nothing explodes when I don’t exactly meet everyone’s expectations….

    • Well, they’re adults and you can’t really stop them from moving where they please. But I agree about setting boundaries – you absolutely can have a rule that they must give you two hours (or two days, or two weeks) notice before coming over, explain to them that you all already have activities on the weekends and are unavailable more than once a month (but maybe they’d be welcome at a kids’ soccer game or something else out-of-the-house?), etc. Also, you have to get your husband involved in the boundary setting discussion with them. United front and all that.

      • Completely agree with the boundaries and the husband’s involvement! I think it’s good to also give them a little bit of a schedule of what time belongs to whom. For example, once they’re in town, are they going to expect to be at every birthday party, mother’s/father’s day, holiday, etc? Are they going to expect an invite to every game night or dinner party? Definitely let them know that certain times belong ONLY to certain people, and make sure you give THEM a specific time. It might help them see that while you do value time with them, you are busy, and need to allocate your time to everyone that’s important (including yourself!).

    • I definitely think it’s your husband’s job to set and define boundaries with them, not yours.

      I think a discussion, initiated by him, regarding their expectations of the frequency of visits would be good. If anything, it will give you a baseline of where they’re coming from, and also give you both an opportunity to set their expectations regarding your schedules. What you don’t want is for them to move across the country with the expectation that they’ll see you and the kids all the time, and then pull the rug out from under them. (Not that you would be doing that, but they could perceive it that way, which will just lead to hard feelings and resentment on both sides.)

      It sounds like you both are on the same page, but I think you and your husband should agree before any such discussion on how often you both are willing to see his parents.

      And I echo the suggestions that there are often out-of-the-house events that would be a good way to mollify their desire to see you all, but your and his need to keep the visits short and contained.

      In addition to frequency of visits, you should also agree on the need to preserve time for your own immediate family (you, husband, kids). They may be invited to little Joey’s soccer game, but Sunday morning breakfast at the diner is reserved for just you guys. Simply because they’re in town does not mean they are “allowed” to join every family activity.

    • I hear you! My in-laws have threatened the same thing. My husband initially was a wimp about confronting them. What worked for me was putting it in terms of our relationship. My in laws are extremely passive aggressive and also have an effect on my husband’s moods. So, I told him that having them around all the time would likely lead to our divorce, because I was not sure that our relationship could handle that much stress (I said it a bit nicer, but not much). He has talked to them and explained that if they move to our state (from the opposite coast), they will not be part of our daily lives. They will need to be invited over or at least call/ask. I want my kids to have a good relationship with them, but I want to preserve my sanity and our marriage more. We’ll see how it goes when my MIL retires . . . .

    • Although I agree that it would be fair to make this your husband’s job, I also know that my husband is way too passive to set the boundaries I would need to stay sane, and I would be angry at him and the in-laws if my boundaries weren’t respected. I personally would have this conversation with myself, my in-laws and my husband at the table, and ignore the fairness component.

      • I agree with EC. But, I am also not great at conversations like this, and so, I had this discussion with myself and set some personal boundaries that I follow with my inlaws. If they call on a saturday morning for breakfast that very morning? I am regretably unavailable on short notice. If they want to swing by or meet up too often, I am not available, (or I have already made plans with the kids or whatever), but maybe my husband wants to go or is available. Basically, I have freed myself from my guilt over saying no in these circumstances that I have defined in my head, but, because I have not had a big sit down with everyone, no feelings have been hurt and I am still free to say yes if I want. If dh wants to go or doesnt know how to say no, then he is more than welcome to go, or he can decide he is also “unavailable” but I am not bound by his inability to say no. It is really easy for the inlaws and DH to let me take on the social calendar when it comes to the parents, and I have just not let myself be put in that position.

        As an aside, once we had kids, I learned quickly it was not us they wanted to see anyway. So, frequently, dh takes the kids, or they take the kids without us! We are so grateful for their help now, and Im glad I did not overtly push them away.

      • I was just joking above, but EC has nailed my situation. My husband cannot and will not stand up to his mother. His argument being, effectively, that since I get to spend all my time with him and she only gets him on visits, she gets to demand, and I have to suck it up.

        I put up with it for 14 years, with all sorts of insane passive-aggressive behavior (way too long to get into, but an example of her behavior included her literally taking over my (new) home and moving all the furniture around to suit her liking, digging up our garden and replanting “better” plants in their stead). When I finally took it upon myself to give her a written set of rules to abide by when she was a guest in my home, she found new and clever ways to be hostile. Finally, I had it and effectively told her to get out of my house. Since that day (8 years ago) we have had a very chilly relationship, and I do whatever it takes to not be there when she is visiting with my husband and my children.

        There are people who just cannot accept boundaries, and my MIL is one of them. These people are convinced that rules don’t apply to them, and attempts to interfere with what they believe are their god-given rights (to do as they please) are like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

        You need to understand just how far your in-laws are on the spectrum of “unacceptable” behavior, and just how much your husband will or will not support you in dealing with them.

    • Oh no i deeply sympathise. my inlaws live with my bro-in-law & his wife (they do not need to for any reasons other than they “want” to spend time with grandkid). luckily i live abroad! But my sis in law and bro in law really suffer in every way imaginable!

      Boundaries. Learn to say NO when you need time to do other stuff. Maybe you can set 1 Saturday per mth to see them/have a lunch date or whatever. Your husband needs to be the one doing it, not you.

      • Few more points:

        - Men (atleast when it comes to Mommy dear) tend to shy away from straight talking, so you may end up doing it yourself
        - Be nice when you set the boundaries (I am sure you would be, just saying…)

        When I had my sone, inlaws came over to visit (to help out, apparently) for 2 mths, when son was 2.5 mths. MIL criticised (in passive aggressive way) everything about my schedule that I had taken so long to get right…when they came, son had just started sleeping thru the night. I basically broke down (hormones helped) and just threatened to leave for my mum’s place if she did not back off.

        After a night of sobbing, next morning, I sat them down and explained that we had waited a long time to have kids since i wanted to be the one taking care of them, not them. Hubby supported fully BUT refused to have this ‘talk’ himself. probably the best thing I ever did as her behaviour in my home is drastically different from that in bro-in-law’s place where neither husband nor wife wants to say NO. (husband refuses, wife not allowed to).

    • Very familiar story! Two years ago my parents moved to our town. Here is my advice: be up front now about what you expect and what they expect. We were happy to have them come but nervous about having them be too present/involved, demand weekly time together, use us at their sole community, etc. (And we were worried that I would constantly be the adolescent, annoying, winey version of myself that I am in their presence–a version that isn’t good for my kids to see or for my marriage.) In advance we told my parents that our lives were hectic, that they would need to call before stopping by, that we’d give them keys to our house but did not expect them to let themselves in without advance notice and permission, etc. They were very open to this and have respected these boundaries 95% of the time. We also told them that our careers are young and that we may move someday and we could not be expected to never leave just because they came to live here. They understood that too.

      I strongly believe that you and your husband need to have this conversation with them together. If you expect him to do it without you, you take yourself out of the boundary-setting relationship and trust me, once they arrive you will need to be part of it. To be honest, they are no longer just his parents, they are your relatives too and they are your children’s grandparents, so it’s naive and silly to think you can simply lay the responsibility on him.

      Decide whether you think you’d prefer to have structured interactions (Sunday night dinner every week or they pick up your kids every Wednesday, feed them dinner, and drop them off at home at 7pm) or you’d prefer to play it by ear and make plans week to week. I think you will do best if you and your husband consider what you two would prefer, and then propose that to his parents as a way to structure your interactions.

      I have found having my parents in town to be a tremendous help (two working parents, two kids and expecting twins!). They love being with my kids and generally are reliable and responsible care takers. My children definitely benefit from the frequent interactions and no doubt have richer lives because they know their grandparents so well. More people around who love my kids unconditionally is a good thing. Focus on the positives of having your in-laws nearby to help balance all the annoying parts :)

    • I almost got divorced over this very issue and we’re still in couples counseling addressing it. We met and married on the east coast, and then moved to the midwest for his job. We moved to the same city where he grew up, and where his parents lived. And his parents apparently assumed that this meant they had carte blanche to spend as much time with us as they pleased.

      My husband was NOT on the same page as me. He wanted to spend time with his parents, and I did not want to spend that much time with his parents. We argued about it constantly. Eventually he would go over there for the weekend and I would go to work. That lasted about a year, and then he told me he wanted a divorce (there were other issues, but this issue was particularly big for me).

      At any rate, we did not divorce and got counseling and we’re still together. Our counselor’s advice was that he needed to set boundaries with his parents after WE agreed on the boundaries. It was difficult coming to an agreement about the boundaries because he wanted to spend more time with them than I did. But eventually… we worked something out.

      First off, let me just say that it’s really difficult to say, “We’ll only see them 1x/month” or something similar because there are always going to be special circumstances (a death in the family, someone comes for a visit, etc). But you can do the best you can and say, “Even if we see them more than that, I want to limit it to two hours at the most” or something to that effect.

      Second, you CAN talk to them about boundaries before they move, but I personally would not have faith that they’re going to understand, internalize, and accept what you’re telling them. In your situation, I would especially worry that they’ll feel they moved “for you” and that you therefore have an obligation to entertain them and make them feel comfortable in the new environment. And so even if you decide to talk to them before they move, I would plan for them to not really “get” what you’re telling them until they move and arrive.

      Good luck. It is a sticky situation. I know there are some people who just love their families and in-laws and want to spend time with them on a regular basis. I am not one of those people. I value my privacy and my alone-time.

      • Anonymous :

        No advice. Just here to say that, more than one time, my MIL has allowed her drunken niece to drive with my son in the car. Must say that hubby backed me up on how that was unacceptable. But, still, no one should have to say, “please don’t let a person who is drinking pick my kid up from school when you said you were going to do it.” Thanks for allowing me to vent.

    • All the recommendations about talking to them are the right thing to do, but I know I couldn’t have done it. It’s not in my personality. We were expected to visit the in-laws every single Sunday morning while the kids were in Sunday School. My husband worked lots of weekends, so usually that meant I went there and tolerated not only MIL, but brothers and sisters-in-law who did NOT see the world the way did. I also tried my best to avoid the fresh pecan caramel rolls that I was sure MIL made specifically to sabotage my diet.

      Fast-forward 25 years: MIL is in a nursing home with dementia and doesn’t say a word. Visiting now is much, much more painful. And I’d give $1000 and 5 pounds for one of those pecan rolls.

  20. Things I wear often, after not expecting to:
    1. Yellow blazer w/ sewn-down-ruffle collar (boden) – makes me happy!!!
    2. Suits – instant authority dose.
    3. My latest haircut – bangs and graduated bob, long in front, short in back. Professional enough, but still very edgy. I love it!

    Things I have, but never wear:
    1. belts
    2. earrings (I don’t have pierced ears, and actually I don’t have any earrings either)
    3. pearls
    4. watches
    5. button down shirts

    • Me too! I never wear:
      1. earrings
      2. pearls
      3. button down shirts

      I always wear a watch though. I often am lecturing or presenting in front of a crowd and I think it is much more convenient and professional to glance at a watch rather than a phone. Also, when at the table or in a work meeting, checking your phone means you might be looking at a personal message, texting, emailing, or checking the time. A watch makes it clear I am just checking the time…not reading a text.

      I have a go to little black dress for work. I can wear it in summer, winter, fall, or spring and accessories anyway I want. I love it.

    • I would love to wear earrings and have pierced ears (and a pile of old earrings from yesteryears). But at some point in my mid-20s, my ears got very sensitive, and now, whenever I wear anything in my pierce holes, I get all the symptoms of an allergic reaction. I’ve tried the whole gamut of post compositions (hypo-allergenic, 24k gold, platinum…) and nothing works.

      I never wear belts, watches or button down shirts either!

      • SeaTownDiva :

        I have the same problem – earring allergy. Try this: coat the earring post with neosporin before putting them in your ears. If I do this, I can wear even the cheapest earrings for up to a few consecutive days.

        • I have the same allergy problem with jewelry. My dermatologist gave me a perscription for elocon ointment. Some jewelry still bothers me but, after a day of wearing jewelry that irritates my skin, the ointment makes the symptoms go away very, very quickly and I seem to have a much better tolerance now that I’ve been using it for over 10 years.

  21. (1) Grey tweed blazer from J. Crew (found it on here as a “cheaper option” someone posted for a similar designer version by Michael Kors). Wear it a lot, both on weekends and to work. Love it.

    (2) Turquoise two strand necklace. Adds zing to all black outfits.

    (3) Maroon red sweater vest from Brooks Brothers that I wear over a button-down shirt. Gives me a whole “boyish” look for the day and makes me happy.

  22. MDChristina :

    Could someone please address the Cartier v. Rolex issue (I tried to search, found nothing). I’ve been looking at a Cartier tank watch for sometime, was in the mall the other day and happened upon a Rolex display. The salesperson asked what other brands I was comparing and immediately knocked Cartier for a lower resale market. Are there assumptions based on what brand of watch people are wearing?

    • I think both are classic brands, but I suspect the Rolex tends to be a little more showy. I.e., a person who may know next to nothing about watches, knows a Rolex is expensive. I know some people who, as a result, have somewhat negative associations with Rolex (e.g., that it’s a gawdy brand, etc.) but I think those folks are in the minority. Cartier is a bit more understated, traditionally.

      The whole thing is rather silly, imo. Some Cartier watches (esp. recent designs) can be quite in your face, and many Rolexes are very classic and elegant. I think the point of a nice watch — at least in a professional setting — is that it should be nice but never ostentatious. There are many brands that fit that bill, I think Kat’s Cartier vs. Rolex comment was just a reference point, as for some people their “nice” watch has a tendency to be either one or the other.

    • I dunno. I kind of think of Rolexes as being flashy and for people who are more interested in showing off a flashy watch, and Cartiers as being more classic. I realize that’s probably an unfair generalization; as AIMS says, both brands have watches that are very classic and watches that are very flashy. However, one of our consultants recently came in for a meeting wearing one of those gaudy 80s-style Rolexes and after she left, everyone commented on it jokingly, which I realize was not nice, but there you have it.

      In my area, guys wear Breitlings or Tag Heuers and women wear Guccis or Movados a lot, if they wear anything. I notice fewer and fewer people with watches these days. I think expensive cell phones are becoming the new expensive watch, as a status item :)

      • Where do Tag Heuers fit in for women? I’ve been wearing a plain, stainless Tag for many years now and love it…and wondering how I’m being judged for it!!

        • Let me clarify – the group I was with who didn’t like the consultant’s watch still hired her to work with them. It wasn’t like the gaudy watch (which was one of those diamond-studded ones with the shiny gold, FYI) was a business-relationship deal-breaker. If you love your watch, who cares what anyone else thinks? Although FYI, I love Tag women’s watches and wish I could afford one for myself. :)

          • I can’t believe no one has mentioned Omega watches. I got a silver one as a gift for my first communion. That’s a beaut.

        • I love Tag watches. I think of them as a bit sporty (not sure why) and youthful, but very classic. I don’t think you’re being judged :)

      • My suggestion for anyone looking to invest in a watch is to get one that incorporated both gold and silver because it will match everything you wear and any other kind of jewelry. The more “classic” rolex designs are like this and I think it is the greatest idea! I haven’t taken mine off (literally) in 3 years.

        • Seconded… my boyfriend got me a Seiko with gold and silver hardware for Christmas and I love that it matches both colors.

          • I have long struggled with the steel/gold issue. I have a steel Cartier and platinum wedding bands, and I question whether or not where yellow gold necklaces, earrings, etc. I recently lost a lot of weight, and my husband purchased a few sessions for me with a stylist/image consultant when I received a new job. She helped me with my wardrobe. Her advice was that watches and wedding bands are classic and can be worn with any other accessory/metal, so I mix them with yellow gold. Hope that helps!

          • I have a steel watch and I don’t think it looks off to wear it with gold. I like some mixed metal watches, and generally like the idea, but I don’t think a mixed metal watch is necessary to look pulled together. Although I do think it might get tricky where the watch is all gold and the jewelry is a white metal. But that’s more of a “feel” or style issue, I think.

      • Jade Moon :

        I wear a beautiful Omega, pearl face, pewter and gold bracelet, goes with everything, wear it to court and out to dinner in Waikiki. No diamonds on it at my request (husband bought it for me about ten years ago.) I’ve got diamond issues — origins, sales manipulation by the diamond companies, and . . . really so many other gems are awesome.

        • +1 for omega. Mine has a two tone metal strap, mother of pearl dial and tiny diamonds where the numbers should be. Lovely, classic, versatile.

    • I really love my Baume & Mercier. I suspect people rarely know how expensive it is…bottom line, though, the watch should suit your frame and you should love it if you’re going to drop a large amount of cash on it.

      Nice watches look nice, even if people can’t really guess the cost if they are unfamiliar with watches (I tend to prefer things like this anyway).

      • Charmed Girl :

        I agree– I’ve had my Baume & Mercier for close to 15 years and I love it. I got it as a college graduation gift and it has seen my through to my mid-30s and I still like it and it still suits me. Love Baume & Mercier!

    • most people don’t notice the type/brand of watch you’re wearing, unless they’re a watch person. They’ll notice the styling more: is it really big? Is it covered in “diamonds,” is it “solid gold”? (I put these in quotes because this applies to fake and to real). Nothing beats a classic Rolex Datejust, a classic Cartier tank (bonus if on a leather strap!), or other classic watches (Omega, etc.). I’d say that if you own one of these watches, then you’ll recognize them on other people. But most people don’t, and won’t, notice unless you’re shoving your watch in their face. For my 2c, I don’t want to pay $$$ for a watch that runs on a $2 battery (Cartier, le sigh!) and prefer mechanical watches.

    • I wear a watch and in fact feel pretty naked without one. But if someone was so crude as to judge me by what kind of watch I was wearing, I would really think less of that person. I think of my watch as a tool. It is for telling time. Yes, I like to wear a nice one, but it is for me to enjoy, not for the people around me (especially since it is usually hidden by long sleeves anyway).

    • Rolex = perceived to be more showy. I live in Singapore, where Rolex is terribly popular & has a fan following among old males (same type that would buy a Jaguar at 50). So perceived as a flashy, blingy thing, possibly also rather ‘nouveau’ given that newly well to do Asians in a certain large country plunk down cash for Rolex all the time.

      Cartier – more sedate/classic / perception of better taste.

      So I’d say it depends on where you live.

      Full disclosure: I own neither!

      • I think that cartier watches tend to smaller in size and more understated. I have been wanting one for years and years, and finally got a beautiful classic tank watch as an anniversary gift this year. I love it. I got mine with a leather strap, because I don’t like wearing the metal bracelet. Added benefit — you can change out the color year to year and feel like you have a whole new watch! But, I think more people prefer the metal bracelet.

        Also, I have an old (1970′s?) baume and mercier watch I got from a family member. Again, I had the metal strap changed to black croc, and I think it looks great and very classic. I get tons of compliments.

    • anon for this :

      Ugh! I had a very long and detailed response posted, which I don’t think went through. So, I’ll make it short. Watches are my thing, so here are my thoughts:

      Cartier = jewelry watch. What I mean is their women’s watches aren’t mechanical, and are all operated by $2 batteries. If you don’t care that the inside of your watch is cheap, then they’re very pretty. Same goes for Chanel, Bulgari, Coach, etc. I wouldn’t buy my watch where I would buy a purse.

      Rolex = classic American mechanical watch. Lots of fakes out there, lots of douchey guys wearing big flashy submariners and big gold date justs. Unnecessarily bad rap that shouldn’t apply to the ladies. Women’s watches are classic and lovely and generally understated. I have one, and no one has once asked me what kind of watch I’m wearing or if it’s a Rolex.

      Other mechanical watch brands: Omega is equal to (or slightly “below”) Rolex. What the astronauts wore to the moon–classic. Baume et Mercier is on the same level. Tag is significantly below Rolex in quality of movement. Fancy pants brands = Jaeger LeCoultre, Audemars Piaget, Patek Philippe.

      My suggestions: check out watch forum (timezone). Buy the annual watch guide at Amazon for inspiration and to see what’s out there. Consider German mechanical brands like Sinn or Nomos (watchbuys is American Authorized Dealer) for a good quality/value balance. ALWAYS negotiate the price of your watch. I got 15% off my Rolex. Get at least 8%, and up to 20% or more if it’s solid gold.

      Final thoughts: it’s hard to find a good quality mechanical watch that isn’t covered in diamonds, hearts, or pink. It’s worth the money though, since they last for decades. Practically no one will notice or know what kind of watch you have, unless it’s very distinctive (Chanel J12, Movado), very big, or very flashy (diamonds). If you wear something understated, it could be a $20k Patek and no one will know. So, get the watch you want because you want it.

  23. - Wide belts with funky hardware. I work in a pretty casual office and have found that a lot of my boring outfits look a lot more hip if I integrate a belt into them.

    - Red shoes. They look great paired with gray and black, which I wear a lot of.

    - A cream-colored wallet. I bought it to replace my old, beat-up black one and so far it is both cheerful and a lot easier to find in my purse.

    - $15 jewelry from Etsy. I have several different necklaces now, from different sellers that had been recommended on Corporette, and I get compliments on them whenever I wear them. Lot of impact for minimal investment.

    Disappointments: I echo this:
    “some bags that I bought because I really, really wanted to own something from that designer — and not so much because I liked the bag itself.”

    Made that mistake this past summer – I bought a Botkier mostly because I wanted a Botkier and this one was on sale, not because I liked it. I carried it for a month or so and then realized it was just not me. It’s headed to a consignment store in the next couple of weeks.

    - Buying too many black tops, because they’re safe. I like to wear black pants a lot. Too many black pants + too many black tops = too much black, period. I’m trying to branch out some and buy more colorful tops now.

    - Button-down shirts. I buy them and they go to Goodwill barely worn. I just don’t like them – I don’t like how they feel and I don’t like how they look on me.

    • Can you share the Etsy sellers you buy from? I’ve found lots of trendy stuff (like here, love: http://www.etsy.com/shop/thevamoose) but not necessarily work-appropriate stuff.

      • OK, I had to get home and look it up, as I haven’t bought anything on Etsy in awhile. The sellers I got really nice things from were amitiedesigns, NYMetals, gosia, PiperBlue and tyrowild. They are unique but still work-appropriate, at least for my work, which is business casual.

  24. Items I love:
    1. Pink Ann Taylor mid-length winter wool coat; have had it for many years and keep coming back to it, depsite many other winter coats in my closet
    2. Pearl necklaces – of different colors and size; white, black, 7 mm, 10 mm (fake), 16 inch, 18 inch
    3. Colored purses; my obsession right now is a yellow mustard Kate Spade; also have pale yellow, pink/green striped, pink/brown patchwork
    4. Silver flats
    5. Watch, which is a Rolex (I hate it when people look at their phone/BlackBerry, even if it is just for the time, to me it says I have more important things to look at than pay attention to you)

    Items I no longer wear:
    1. Button down shirts, no matter what the color, I just don’t like them unless they’re under a sweater

  25. I get a lot of wear from my kelly green shoes. Like red shoes, they add a nice pop of color.

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