A Black Blazer to Rule Them All

black blazer 1Throwing on a suit in the morning is one thing — but how do you wear a blazer with a non-suit outfit? Reader B wonders this question, which comes up a lot…

I’m a 30-year-old business professional and desperately need some help/advice on suit jackets, and I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for in the blog.

How do I find a black jacket to wear with all the different types of black pants in my wardrobe? I really want to look a bii more professional on certain occasions in the office, but I’m not sure what type of jacket is appropriate to coordinate with basic black work slacks. All the blacks slacks are different fabrics and different shades.

How can I look a bit more professional without having to buy a coordinated suit? Is there a certain style or fabric I should be looking for? Is there another type of garment that would work? (My entire wardrobe is black and gray, so it is extremely easy for me to get ready in the morning.)

This is a great question. Here are some of my own guidelines for wearing a blazer with something other than a suit:

1. The primary rule: if you are not wearing a suit, you should not look as though you think you are wearing a suit. To that end, the jacket should either be

a. in a different color than the rest of your outfit (e.g., black top, black pants, gray jacket)

b. or a substantially different fabric (e.g., four-season wool trousers, silk blouse, tweed jacket).
black blazer 22. Blazers that are sold as stand-alone pieces are usually the best for throwing on top of outfits. For example, the blazer pictured at the top of this post (Gap Womens Petite Classic Blazer, available at Gap for $98) or the one at right (Elizabeth and James Shrunken Elizabeth Blazer, available at Piperlime for $398).

3. Some suits can be broken up — but they are not usually your basic interview suits. The suits we feature on Wednesdays usually have the best potential for wearing them as separates — a seersucker skirt worn by itself with a white twinset, and then the seersucker blazer thrown on top of a white blouse and khaki pants can be two outfits. If you do break up a suit to wear it as separates, be sure that you dryclean all of the pieces together.

I’m curious to hear what the readers’ rules are about this — and as an aside for Reader B, I would encourage her to pick a few colorful blazers to keep at the office if her entire wardrobe is black and gray.  A maroon corduroy blazer for fall — perhaps a light blue blazer for right now — perhaps even a white blazer or an animal print.  It will add a lot of interest to your outfits!

Ladies, speak up:  what kind of blazers do you keep at the office to throw on top of outfits?  Which blazers do you wear as separates?

(L-4)

Comments

  1. I have a similar question! I bought this skirt:

    http://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/suiting/super120s/PRDOVR~86013/86013.jsp

    In the bright peacock blue color. I have several cardigans that look good with it, but I need to find a jacket (in case I get pulled into an unexpected client meeting). I tried a charcoal gray, short jacket that was tailor-made for me, a longer light gray short-sleeve jacket with one button from a “novelty” suit, and a black jacket from an Ann Taylor suit. They all seemed wrong. I also have a black J. Crew suit jacket in 120s (it was at the drycleaner today) that might work.

    Any suggestions for a jacket to wear with the skirt, or other styling suggestions?

  2. Anon Threadjacker :

    Threadjack!

    So, I’m a super planner so my brain is already trying to figure this out… My husband and I are thinking about starting a family in a few years tops and the one thing that’s holding us back is time. Niether one of us could stop working. We don’t have any family nearby so if/when we had a child, we would need to find a nanny. We make a decent living but our mortage is considerable and we have a good pile student loans from our post-grad degrees so we don’t have thousands and thousands to throw around every month. How much do nannies usually get paid? I know that location is a huge variable but I’d like to at least get a bit of an idea. I’m scared of asking the mommy boards out there since I really don’t want to get lectured on how I shouldn’t even think about having a child if I will be working. I thought you lovely, hard-working, multi-tasking ladies could help! So, if you could, would you please let me know how much you pay your nannies and for how many hours a week they work?

    THANK YOU!!!!

    By the way, I love to pair them with slacks and a nice-material shell and also love them with jeans and heels on casual Fridays but can never seem to find them when I need them. I can’t wait to learn where to find them!

    • Anon Threadjacker :

      Sorry for the typos! That’s what I get for sneaking in a post while I’m rushing to finish something!

    • This question would make an interesting post/poll – maybe as part of “tales from the wallet.”

    • Are you sure you need a nanny? Because some child care centers also have infant care that take babies as young as 6 weeks. My husband and I couldn’t afford a nanny and had no family nearby, so my daughter went to infant care from the time she was 5 months old. It’s only tough when she’s sick, but we take turns taking time off when she is. I personally thought it was better for my daughter to be in the infant care program that she was in than home with me – it was an early education center where they would do different activities according to her level of development and just be “on” with her all day. I’m sure I would have been doing other things if I stayed home with her (grocery shopping, chores, etc.) and not so focused on her. Overall, I think it’s helped her to be pretty advanced at every stage (she’s two now). You should see if there are any programs like that near you.

      • Anon Threadjacker :

        Hmm. I guess I need to do a bit more research. Please forgive me for generalizing and I don’t intend this to be judgmental but I always thought day care centers were a place where a bunch of babies were put together with a few workers who were there to make sure they were fed, changed and didn’t get into harms way. One of the reasons we were thinknig the nanny route was to provide one-on-one care, affection and provide emotional and mental stimulation. I just didn’t think that was possible with a day care center but you have opened my eyes. Thank you.

        • North Shore :

          Wow. You need to do a lot more research. There are plenty of child care options, and often a day care will offer more enrichment than a nanny will give your child, depending on the nanny (and a myriad of other factors).

          • agreed on everything. both of my children go to day care (which, btw, was less expensive than a nanny for one, but more expensive for two — still like it way, way better though). In fact, my oldest is 4 and we opted to keep him in the day care’s pre-k program we like it so much.

            that said, its expensive. the price varies depending on age — infant care is the most expensive b/c of the teacher to student ratio (i think about 450/week). The basic price goes down from there to maybe 350 week for the oldest. However, as they get older, you can add all kind of extra classes (math, spanish, reading, music, cooking, soccer, bowling, etc). They do some amount of all of these things in the regular price, but these are more focused, dedicated weekly classes. I think we pay about 900/week for both kids now with an infant and a 4 yo w/ “extras” Hours your kids can be at the center are 630 to 630.

            fwiw, we live in Chicago.

        • Anon Canadian :

          My mother-in-law is an Early Childhood Educator at a non-profit daycare centre and I can honestly say she has almost as much at home prep work as the few kindergarten/primary school teachers I know. She’s always getting re-certified in something, buying materials, writting reports, and prepping learning activities to stimulate the little ones. Plus she developes strong bonds with her “kids” and their parents and it’s always a bittersweet event when they move on to the next age group.

          • North Shore :

            My MIL, too! She is a life-long teacher, and switched to a full day preschool after she retired from teaching high school. She is a professional educator. She stays up late at night creating lesson plans for her 3-year-olds, and it’s such a joy to see what she does with them at school. Parents get regular written reports on their children; all state and federal requirements are met, and then some. She lives far away from me, so I was sad that my kids could never go to her school, because it’s such a great preschool.

          • Anon Canadian :

            @North Shore, I’m really lucky because my MIL’s daycare is a 10 minute walk from were I live!! So when we have our little ones (sometime in the next couple of years) they can be at daycare with their actually Nanny, lol. And you’re right it is such a joy to see the dedication and love she puts into her job :)

        • I worked in a day care while I was in college and in our infant room, the adult to baby ratio was often one-on-one, sometimes two babies to one adult, but never more than three babies to one adult (and that was very rare.) Our state licensing requirements were six babies to one adult, but this was a high quality (expensive) center that as part of its policy maintained a low ratio. Maybe I am a little biased, but I thought that we gave all the babies excellent care. This was also affiliated with my university, and hired a lot of college students, but each room also had dedicated lead and assistant teachers.

          • Way back when my 19 y/o was born, there simply were no day care centers in our city that provided anything but the minimum ratio, which was 4 babies to one caregiver. It was not what I considered to be an ideal situation for an infant. We ended up convincing my MIL to take care of the baby until he was a little older. Could not afford a nanny at the time.

        • There’s a big difference in child care centers – along with price. We paid $1,120 per month for infant care. There are cheaper ones (and pricier ones), but we liked the one we chose because there were actual professionals – people with child development degrees – coming up with curriculum and monitoring the teachers/children. I also learned that I am not the most creative and patient parent when it comes to toddlers, so at school she gets to do all the water/rice/sand play and fingerpainting and watercolors, etc. that I would not be thrilled about setting up, monitoring and cleaning up when she was done. I can also only take so many nursery rhymes and songs, whereas her teachers seem to LOVE that stuff.

          • This is meant for the above poster who referenced 4 babies to one caregiver. Most states require a ratio of 3 or 4 babies to a caregiver. This is totally fine — there really is no need for more than that. I believe my daughter’s current ratio is 4 to 1 and her care is top notch. Babies do not need to be held all day.

        • I have a nanny and she is great with my child (lots of personal care, affection, etc) and she is now helping him to practice his letters when he gets home from school. I cannot speak for daycare centres but the nany experience has been great.

          I pay a fraction of what you’d pay in the US (presumably) – around US$600-700 per month + all her living expenses (she’s a live-in).

      • 2nd these comments. I would also add that from a very young age I have seen my son benefit from being around other kids – they definitely learn from each other and stimulate development, something you won’t get from a nanny.

        I don’t think there’s any one option that’s “right” – each family has to work that out for themselves – but with time available to you, explore all the options and don’t assume – just like there are all levels of care you can get from a nanny, there are all sorts of day cares.

        • I don’t believe infants benefit from being around other children. Certainly when they get a little older, but infants benefit from having someone focused on their needs.

    • I’m also curious as to what people pay for daycare.

    • We pay ours approx $28,000 a year – which generally consists of a weekly salary of $540.75 (comprising 40 hours at the regular rate of $9.84 per hour and 10 hours at the rate of $14.75 per hour). We also subsidize health care at $142.00 a month. And, don’t forget about state workers comp fees, depending on where you live, which for us is about $500 every 6 months. For us, with three kids, it wasn’t all that much more than daycare, plus we absolutely love our nanny. She is like a member of the family and goes above and beyond the call. She will also do any household “kid-related” job, such as their laundry, picking up forms, etc. for the kids.

      • Corporate type :

        That sounds about right, although our nanny’s work week was shorter (about 30 – 35 hours a week total) at nearly the same weekly salary. And there is social security, state fees, health insurance, and we gave her a car. If someone is going to take care of your children, you want her to be happy with her position. Our nanny worked with us for nearly 15 years. The peace of mind was wonderful. My husband and I worked full time, and we never worried about child care.

        We live in DC, so salaries are higher than you might find in some other places.

      • All of the babysitters we hire for date nights charge between $15-20 an hour, and they’re high schoolers. We live in the suburbs. How on earth did you find a nanny for $10 an hour at 40-50 hours a week?

    • Keep in mind that you will need to be able to take time off work occasionally. If your child gets sick, they can’t go to daycare. If your nanny gets sick, somebody has to stay home.

    • TheOtherCoast :

      We put our 8-week-old in a small, in-home daycare. Large centers were prohibitively expensive (around $300 a week in a large midwest city), as was a nanny. We pay $150 a week, and she gets plenty of love and attention, and gets to be around a few other kids. She’s 7 months old now. She caught a mild cold twice and that’s it. She loves her daycare provider and I honestly believe it when her provider tells me that she loves my daughter. Not like a mother would, of course ;-) You really have to vet your childcare provider and check references carefully. And don’t overgeneralize and discount the mommy boards! You can find a lot of useful info that way.

    • I personally was more comfortable with a day care center because I wanted my childcare provider to have supervsion. In most areas the caregiver/baby ratio is quite low for licensing.

      Later, when my kids were between baby and preschool age, we had a part-time nanny, as my husband was then working just part-time.

      Expect to pay a nanny between $10- $20/hour depending on where you live. I’m in the SF bay area and we’d be looking at at least $15/hour, depending on how much experience the nanny had. I’d require the nanny to have taken infant and child CPR within 6 months, and I’d want references from her absolute most recent job, not just the references she chooses to give you. If she won’t give you her most recent job reference, there was probably a problem there.

      Some people in this area do a nanny share, where one nanny watches two babies of similar age and they split the cost. You’d have to decide where the care takes place and you’d probably have to buy a double stroller, but it seems to be a pretty good deal for most families I know.

    • It’s smart to be researching childcare options now. We used very part-time care when our kids were tiny (grad school) but enrolled our son when he was 4 in f/t care at a center that was *fabulous.* I would not hesitate to have an infant there.

      You might consider a nanny-share with another family – my SIL did this and her girls have been very happy (although they’re in preschool/kindy now.)

      Look for an NAEYC accredited daycare/preschool (National Association for the Education of Young Children) as it’s a good way to sift through your initial daycare options. You could also ask around among parents you know at church/temple/mosque or the gym for their recommendations.

    • Daycare Options :

      I second (third?) the recommendation to look at daycare centers . I really like the Kindercare chain, which is where my son goes. He didn’t start until he was 2 (for various reasons), and when he started, he was practically mute. He mostly said “ba” for everything other than “mama” or “dada”. Within 6 months his language had really taken off, and I’m sure it’s the exposure to other kids and people who have early childhood education degrees working with him. Yeah, he would have talked in his own time, I’m sure, but I think it helped. He’s now 4 and in their pre-k program, and he does math and phonics (pay extra) in addition to the regular day to day stuff they do. He gets so much more interaction and playtime and education there than he would if I was home with him or if a nanny was with him.

      A good friend of mine was a teacher in an infant room in a daycare, and she absolutely loved it. They totally hold the babies and play with them, so it’s not like you’re putting your child in a warehouse where they’ll sit in a bouncer all day.

    • Standard disclaimer: each family is different and each nanny and daycare situation is different so do what works for you. In my own case, I have a 5 month old and we initially checked out the only “professional” (not in-home) day care center in our small town. It was fine but since I only had 12 weeks of maternity leave, to me it felt way too institutional to leave a young baby there and there’s not really “nannies” in our area. Luckily, the stars aligned for a fantastic in-home situation where there are only two other kids (the childcare provider’s grandchildren) and I couldn’t be happier with it.

      This is outside the scope of your original question, but I would advise at least consider cheaper housing/a smaller mortgage. To be a working mom, good child care is key and you usually get what you pay for.

    • We pay our nanny 16.50/hr, on the books (we take out taxes etc.). This is for 35 hrs a week, greater Boston. We don’t give health insurance or other perqs, but she is able to take the kids anywhere and have them at her house all the time, which she really prefers. She loves our kids and being a nanny (she previously ran a home day care), and

      Depending on where you live, it may be very difficult to find a nanny who will accept being paid on the books. We interviewed 19 people and only 2 said being on the books was OK, and then at the last minute one of them bowed out – and the other one is the one we hired. (note, this was before the economy went in the tank, so things may be different now) I did speak to a couple of “professional nannies” (women in their 40s or 50s) but they wanted $20 or $22/hr, which was too much for us. You can also go through an agency (we found our nanny on Craigslist), but the agencies around here charge something like a $3K placement fee.

      I found that day cares around here were either (1) full, (2) too expensive (more than the nanny) or (3) couldn’t/wouldn’t take babies. The one day care that was cheaper than the nanny was dark, dingy and had 3 or 4 infants to 1 caregiver, and the babies were all crying at once (made me sad). This also really depends on the region in which you live.

      • Boston here too, and I pay similar, on-the-book rates. I’ve had both day care and nanny experience, and the only thing I can say is that if you don’t have predictable 9-5/6 jobs, it is very difficult to go the daycare route. My nanny works until 7pm, and will occasionally cover through bedtime if my husband and I have work emergencies.

        Boston day care rates run btw $1000-$1500/mth.

    • Anon Threadjacker :

      Wow, thank you so much for all of the info. It was fascinating to hear everyone’s experiences. Most of my friends with kids are either stay at home moms or they make much more than what my hubby and I make and have live-ins and night nurses so I had absolutely no reference point. I didn’t realize how close-minded I was and how interactive day care centers can be but now that y’all put it the way that you did, it completely makes sense. I will definitely research the centers around us and will keep an open mind when evaluating our options.

      BTW, I just can’t believe how expensive kids are. Between child care costs, food, diapers, extra-curricular costs and etc etc., it’s crazy… and daunting.

      • Just a quick thought on the costs of children: It is highly variable based on where you are living and your expectations. I bought a great book called “Baby Bargains” when I was pregnant with my first child — it is so helpful to help determine where to spend $$$ and where you should pinch your pennies. So much of what you CAN buy for your kid, they simply do not need.

        Oh, and to echo the other daycare comments — I looked into nannies, nanny-shares, day care centers and home centers. My son stayed in a home-based center (fully licensed) for two years, learned some Spanish from the provider and her helpers and generally got along great (cost in Northern Virginia area was $200/week). We moved and now have both kids in a child care center in a church. I used to feel guilty not having a one-on-one provider (like a nanny), but I always remembered seeing nannies at the zoo (when I had a day off) totally absorbed in cell phone convos and completely ignoring the kids. Some nannies are awesome, others notsomuch. In a child care center, I actually feel more comfortable because there are more people watching over my kids’ care.

        As a complete aside, it is refreshing to read the posts on this topic and not see judgmental “mommy wars” erupt…

        • I wanted to echo Red’s last sentiment – I am in shock that an online community managed to discuss a hot topic like infant care in a civilized and respectful manner. This may be the first time I’ve witnessed it.

          A shout-out to Kat for fostering this amazing environment!

      • You ain’t seen nothing yet – I just finished paying for 4 years of tuition that ran about $200K. Good thing she was an only child and finished in 4 years. And found a great paying job in her field -Yippee!

      • One option I don’t think has been mentioned here is a family daycare run out of someone’s home. I think this is a great option for infants because they get lots of personal care from a small, consistent group of caregivers in a home setting. We did this with my older son and loved it. By the time he was around 2, he pretty much grew out of it and benefited more from a busier and more social environment, so we switched him to a daycare center. The baby got stuck in the daycare center with his big brother, which is also fine, and he is well cared for and happy. But I would definitely choose the home daycare again for an infant.

      • Wow – I’m surprised at how inexpensive most people’s nannies are. We have a housekeeper for 20 hours a week and we pay her $20/hour on the books. My boys are older – 7 & 9 – and she meets them off the bus, cleans the house, does laundry, and cooks dinner. They don’t need a lot of supervision but she’ll take them for walks, help them with homework, have them do their chores, etc.

        This summer the boys will be in day camp for 5 weeks – she’ll pick them up from camp and do the same. It costs a lot but she’s phenomenal – like a grandma to them – and she’s a part of the family. The boys adore her.

        I was a SAHM and then worked part-time. I was not comfortable with daycare, but if we have another, I’d have to hire a full-time nanny or consider daycare. I like the idea of my kids coming home from school and getting to be home – and she can bring them to sports practices, etc. It’s also lovely to come home at 7 and have the house clean and dinner made, although I miss eating with the kids.

        You’ll figure out what works for you. Don’t rule out working part-time or taking a year or two off. I quit my job because it was completely impossible to have kids (I was on the road 5 days a week). I was home full-time with my oldest, started grad school part-time one night a week when he was 1, took a year off from grad school when I was expecting #2, graduated and started teaching 2 nights a week at the university and doing a little consulting. Now I’m full-time, work about 50 hrs a week plus an hour commute each way, and my husband works from home 3 days a week (about a 60 hr week) and travels 2 days a week. It’s not the greatest, but it works well for us and the kids are happy.

    • Boston too :

      I pay $15/hour for my nanny. It was really difficult to find someone in that budget but there was no day care convenient to my home that had a space for an infant. And it’s actually more costly than that for the nanny because any classes, enrichment, and organized playgroups typically charge. The public library is free though. My older child is in a day care, moving to public school. Now that my child is almost 2, I’m thinking about day care but may have to combine a half-day day care (very hard to find) with a nanny due to my older child’s hours. I spend about $35k/year on childcare. You have to visit day cares to get a feel for them, there are some I would love to have my child in and some that make me want to run screaming. I spoke to one in-home provider on the phone several times and she seemed wonderful but when I visited, her home was a wreck and had a strange vibe. Among the big names, Bright Horizons is very good, at least in the Boston area.

  3. Reader, what is the resistance to buying a “coordinated suit”? I used to buy a lot of separate pieces but then decided it was silly to have to buy entire additional suits because I hadn’t bothered to get the other matching piece to what I already had.

    The short answer is that you can’t find a black jacket to wear with all kinds of black slacks for precisely the same reasons you mentioned: different shades of black, different fabrics. So, suck it up and buy the whole suit, which I think is more economical (you can wear jacket / bottom separately or together as a suit), or invest in different colored blazers to go with your black slacks. If you buy the whole suit, either buy tailored jackets (I have a fabulous black Theory suit jacket, and I can wear it with anything–even jeans) or get them tailored.

  4. Lindsay S. :

    If you have a number of black pants in your wardrobe that are all different fabrics and shades, I agree in that you should not try to “match” black with black. Try a nice charcoal jacket for winter and a lighter gray for summer. Make sure that the gray looks different enough to look intentional. I love gray as a neutral, and I think that it’s often a better color for people. Black can look extremely harsh (although most people don’t realize this thinking that black looks good on everyone. NOT TRUE!). I think if you also got a gray/white tweed jacket, this could look really nice as well. I often wear my gray jackets as separates.

    • Along the same lines, I was just thinking that a fine houndstooth jacket would most likely go with different black slacks. Personally I like my patterned jackets to have a more swing coat / A-line cut to them with 3/4 sleeves, lets them work nicer over sheath dresses, too.

    • This is true. I have a light gray jacket is a kind of 60′s/Jackie O style that goes great with all sorts of black skirts/pants.

      I look great in black and do have a black jacket but I tend to wear it with a dress that has a print with black in it. (I’ve got a white dot on black and a black/white/gray weave linen.)

  5. semi threadjack – anyone seen this in the flesh?
    http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi26273&rootCategory=cat90030&catId=cat80008&sortKey=Default&section=Sale&conceptIdUnderSale=cat90030

    what about this?
    http://www.talbots.com/online/browse/product_details.jsp?id=prdi26273&rootCategory=cat90030&catId=cat80008&sortKey=Default&section=Sale&conceptIdUnderSale=cat90030

    Would be grateful for first hand opinions as have been eyeing both for some time but am unsure, as an international shopper, whether I ought to order

    • I was just in Talbots today (petites section only)! BTW, both links show the same jacket. I don’t think I saw that exact jacket, but I did see several dupioni jackets. The fabric is fabulous and luminescent, but they seemed really dressy, even leaning towards evening category for my more casual office, so I didn’t try them on.

  6. Maddie Ross :

    I think you can buy black jackets to go with non-matching black pants/skirts, but the material needs to be drastically different. In the winter, I love pairing my black pants with a black velvet blazer. I also have a thick black boucle jacket that matches well with all-season wool pants.

    That said, I do have a simple black jacket like the Gap jacket Kat featured hanging on the door of my office. It matches nothing in my wardrobe (I got it at BR on super super sale), but it could work in a pinch for court appearances (think TRO situations). Granted, I would be mortified the whole time about how I didn’t match, but not as mortified as if I showed up in a cardigan.

  7. I agree with Kat and Lindsay S. A black blazer may look like you think you are wearing a suit but grabbed the wrong pieces in the morning. I suggest buying a jacket you can keep at the office, and because it’s close to 100 degrees here in Texas and my brain can only think of being hot, perhaps you find a 3/4-sleeve jacket or bracelet-length sleeve. I like others’ suggestions of a couple of lighter neutrals – light gray, perhaps a white or beige depending on your skin tone.

    After reading Herbie’s comment, it occurs to me that by not buying a full suit, you might wind up spending more without the same end (a matching suit) because, as you state, black suits come in 100 varieties and colors and finding a blazer to match more than one is next to impossible. I have a couple of suits that I wear both pieces together, but otherwise, I absolutely break them up and wear them as separates.

    • I have 2 light gray blazers in my office, and a tweed and a corduroy one for the winter. They match everything.

      Don’t do black. Get standalone blazers in non-black that have no risk of clashing with what you’re already wearing.

  8. Bk foette :

    The black cannot be a solid black or else it looks like you are trying to match. I would suggest something like: http://shop.nordstrom.com/S/classiques-entier-atelier-diamond-pixel-wool-jacket/3134966?origin=category&resultback=2166 — I think the cross-hatching makes it look not matchy matchy, but it goes.
    I have a black jacket with a black shiny window pane detail which I pair with black pants all the time. Again, it does not look like I am trying to match.
    I also have blazers in a few colors – a red, a herringbone (ok, not a color), army green – to pair with black pants and skirts as well.

  9. Very curious as to what constitutes a work-appropriate animal-print blazer …

  10. Reader – I think the best solution depends on the specifics of the “certain situations” that you mention. If these are planned events, like scheduled client meetings, then your best bet is to buy a full suit. Or, are you looking to keep a blazer at the office to throw on for unplanned events with the effect of looking like you are wearing a suit? (You mention that you have several pairs of black pants, and I can certainly see the appeal of having a universal blazer that that would turn whichever pair you happen to be wearing that day into a suit.) If the unplanned events are infrequent, I suggest keeping a full suit at the office, as the universal blazer is a myth (sigh). If the uplanned events are frequent, then I second the suggestion of picking up a few black blazers with very different fabrics from your pants, and letting those blazers live at the office.

  11. Ditty the grey suggestion. If you really want a black jacket, I would suggest a textured jacket, like boucle. I got a black and white tweedy jacket at Pendleton that I wear with my black bottoms all the time. They have a cute graphic black/white silk jacket now that I think would work, too. I guess my answers are consistent with those above: try non-black, black texture, or black patterned.

    • This. I keep a black boucle jacket from Boden in my office which is my goto unexpected meeting jacket. It pretty much goes with anything I wear.

  12. I disagree with the idea that you can’t wear your basic suit pieces as separates or that you are better off seperates with the suit-of-the-week picks. First, a basic pair of pants or pencil skirt is easy to wear with anything, without the suit jacket. As for the basic suit blazer, that may depend on the suit but it’s certainly not impossible. Second, the suit-of-the-week picks strike me as much harder to wear seperately since they are usually not so basic, and, thus, clearly look like there is a matching piece missing somewhere.

    I do agree that black and black is hard to match, and is best avoided, unless you are doing a different fabric/texture.

  13. I wear blazers fairly frequently. I have about 10 different blazers that I wear to work. In the winter, I like to wear my velour or tweed blazers. In the spring and fall, I opt for lighter weight fabrics. Often, my blazers have a pattern. I wear those in various ways, including with jeans on casual Friday. I 100% agree with Kat – the keys are (1) the blazer shouldn’t look like it has matching bottoms and (2) the color should be different from the bottom. I actually have 2 black blazers (1 velour and 1 that is more of a knit) but I never wear them with black bottoms. I wear mostly wear them mostly denim or gray bottoms, though the knit one also works well over dresses.

    I tend to pick patters or colors that would be “too much” to have a matching bottom in the same color. I do not keep a blazer in the office – I keep a full suit.

  14. headed for the big time (eek) :

    Late afternoon threadjack –For the last few years I have worked from home, but in a couple of weeks I will be starting a new position at one of the leading companies in my field. I’ll be doing doing pretty similar work, just at a much higher level. It’s in a big Canadian city.

    I do dress professionally to go to occasional meetings at the moment, but a lot of the work I do is via email or over the telephone, so going into a (male dominated as far as I can tell) formal office every day is going to be a big change- basically starting from scratch on a new work wardrobe. The new position involves dealing with top people in the financial sector and public companies.

    I know this is a broad question, but does any one have tips on where I should start, shopping wise –in terms of both items of clothing and Canadian stores? I’m expecting to be under a lot of pressure in the new job so the one thing that I don’t want to worry about is whether I look the part in the first few weeks.

    I moved to Canada (not from the US) recently, so struggling with where to start. Before that I was in a much more casual office environment (and with more temperate weather!). It seems that a lot of the stores mentioned on the blog are not available this side of the border. I’m curvy/busty and still in my 20s. (I’ve been reading the blog religiously the last few weeks!)

    • Congratulations on your new job!

      For professional clothing sources in Canada, try:
      - The Bay – big department store, pretty good for basics and stocks a variety of labels, reasonable price point;
      - Femme de Carriere – I am not sure this store exists everywhere, but I do know they have stores in Toronto and Vancouver, and I find them very good for slightly “different” suits;
      - Banana Republic – though people have different experiences with them depending on body shape, they are pretty popular for basic suiting, including work pants;
      - Michael Kors – recently opened up some stores in Canada so worth checking out;
      - Brooks Brothers – ditto.

      If your budget allows it, it is worth looking around Holt Renfrew as well – Holt’s is Canada’s high-end department store and they have beautiful things, but most of it is very expensive. Holt’s has a house line of very good basic shirts and cashmere sweaters and also stocks labels like Diane von Furstenburg and Theory.

      Sometimes Club Monaco also has good basics, but it really varies depending on the season.

      Good luck and have fun shopping!

    • Equity's Darling :

      You can also try Judith and Charles- I like their shells + shirts, and if you’re looking for separates, they have more interesting cuts than some other places. And, I love the textiles they use. I know they have a couple of stores in Calgary, so I’m sure they’re in Toronto/Vancouver/Mtl as well.

      You can also try The Room@ the Bay, if you’re in Toronto. They’re similar to Holts.

      Holts does complimentary personal shopping, which can be really nice when you’re starting from scratch- and they’re pretty good at knowing what’s appropriate for various industries, in my experience.

      Finally, once you know your size in brands, Nordstrom/Saks both ship to Canada, and include the duty + taxes when you pay online, so they can be another option; they’re also sometimes cheaper than Holts, so I sometimes size myself for clothes at Holts, then order from Nordstrom/Saks. I assume you’ll be busy in your new job, and so taking the time to go shopping can be a pain, and Holts does not offer online shopping.

    • Congratulations!

      It depends on the city. Toronto’s Bay St, think Manhatta fashion. Sleek, well cut, subtle colors. Try Femme de Carrier, Club Monaco, Joe Fresh, Roots for leather accessories. Holt’s in Ontario is useless lately, but The Bay Queen Street is pretty good for Department store stuff and Bayview Village and Yorkdale are two great malls. Yorkville Ave. is super posh but there are great resellers there for designer stuff (Whole Foods is there too).

      Montreal is a bit different. Holts is still OK there and women like color much more than Toronto women do.

      East Coast, it’s a bit more relaxed and laid back styles. Calgary is a western town with mining money. West Coast (Vancouver) is laid back, but label conscious and trendy. Right now they only care about hockey and will barely notice what you’re wearing.

      HTH, good luck.

    • headed for the big time (eek) :

      Great, thanks for the tips and insight. I’ll be putting them to good use this weekend!

  15. Kate Middleton seems to do the blazer + dress well and often. I love her look! When I’m unsure of a blazer + skirt/dress combo, I look to pics of her for guidance.

    • Anonymous :

      She does, very well. Unfortunately I feel like this is a look for the relatively straight-of-hair only. I have curls, and whenever I try to pull off the blazer plus dress combo, I end up looking like I’m auditioning for a supporting role as “stuck up wealthy b*tch” in an 80s high school coming of age movie.

  16. I think that cropped blazers are great for this. If you have a cropped blazer it doesn’t touch your pants and you can get away with doing more of a black bottom and black top too. Just make sure they are very similar!

  17. A jacket over almost any outfit pulls the whole look together and makes you look more polished. This is a great post on how to make that happen. I believe that any suit can be worn separately to make additional looks, which increases your wardrobe.

    If your clothes are mostly black, add color with blouses, scarves and jewelry. As Kat mentions, this also includes using colored jackets to make that happen. Make sure you buy jackets in colors you love and that are in your color palette so you will get the most use from them.

  18. Brooke Novak :

    All, I really value your comments! Thanks for taking the time to share your advice.

    I feel like I can do some jacket shopping now! I think it is also time to invest in a full suit (or two), even if I only wear it once a month.

    Again, thanks! And keep the advice/pictures coming.

  19. I tend to buy a lot of patterned blazers with black in them (black and cream herringbone, black and tan herringbone, black/tan/cream plaid, glen plaid, I’ve got a bunch). I wear them all the time with black pants. I get tired of wearing suits every day, especially since I’m rarely in court more than once a week. Now that I think about it, my wardrobe is kind of boring, I need to branch out.

  20. I am so coveting the E&J blazer.

    Also: love the title of this post.

Add a comment.

Questions? Check out our commenting policy. Tech problems? Please report it to the tech team.