Transitioning from a Conservative Office to a More Casual One

New Office-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by akeg.Since she’s started at a more casual office, Reader L wonders how she should transition her wardrobe of blazers and pencil skirts to an office filled with jeans and sneakers.

I’m 24 and recently left a paralegal job at a small litigation firm for a research and editing job at a large publishing company. The new job is great and a much better fit for me but I’m still struggling with the transition to the more casual attire I’m seeing in my young, tech-centered office. I see jeans and gross sneakers every day of the week, which clashes with my wardrobe of pencil skirts and blazers. Even when I try to tone it down, the basics in my closet just aren’t in the same spectrum. I’ve tried to pay attention to what the seniormost woman in my office wears, but there are a LOT of pay grades between a manager and someone in my entry-level position.

I really want to stand out, make an impression and start advancing. At the same time, I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard or oblivious to office culture. My question is: is it more important to dress in a way that feels professional and appropriate (and, to be selfish, much more comfortable for me) or to mimic the people around me? If it’s the latter, any tips on looking sharp and competent when dressed down?

Great, great question, because it can be really tricky to transition your wardrobe. Here are some of my tips, but readers, I hope you’ll weigh in!  (Pictured: New Office-2, originally uploaded to Flickr by akeg.)

First: I think it’s important to be comfortable. If you’re a blazer-and-pencil skirts kind of girl, don’t feel like you have to wear “gross sneakers” just to fit in. That said, your instinct to watch the most senior women in your office is spot on — whose job do you want to have in 2 years? in 5 years? One of the most important things to pay attention to is what those role models/mentors are saying (or trying to say) with their clothes. Is it that they’re detail-oriented? Creative? Different jobs require different qualities, and the people who succeed in publishing may be different than the people who succeed in a law firm.  If your wardrobe is classic, buttoned-up conservative, I think the only risk you should be aware of is that, depending on your personality, you may come across as someone who is mousy and lacks personality — or you may come across as someone who is bossy or rigid.  Make sure that your clothing projects the qualities that are recognized for success in this field.

There are a few ways you can take a more buttoned-up wardrobe to a more casual, creative look… some suggestions:

  • Get a great pair of jeans.  Look for a dark blue wash with very little distressing, and see how you feel about incorporating the jeans into your more conservative wardrobe.  Try wearing them with a structured, fitted blazer, or with a button-front blouse.  (Trouser jeans may be the perfect place for you to start, or even regular trousers that are made from a denim material.)
  • Look at the “weekend wear” for the shops you already frequent.  If you’re a fan of, say, Ann Taylor, Talbots, and J.Crew, they have lots of pieces that are more relaxed.  While they might not be appropriate for a conservative office, the more relaxed looks from these stores might offer great “bridge” pieces between your old wardrobe and your new one.  If you were really a devotee of a particular store, see if they can connect you with a personal shopper to help integrate your old pieces and your new ones.
  • Have fun with your accessories.  Whereas conservative offices generally encourage small, tasteful jewelry (in the best metals, featuring real gemstones), your new office may give you more leeway.  If you’re in a creative office, an easy place to start looking for “creative” necklaces is museum stores — I’ve bought a number of pieces from MomaStore.org over the years, and the quality has always been pretty good for the price.  Once you have a better idea what you like, Etsy stores and local boutiques can be a great way to get interesting jewelry that expresses who you are.
  • Similarly, reassess your shoes.  I think a pencil skirt and a pair of classic pumps will always be in style, no matter where you go, but a more casual office may permit you to wear different colors and patterns than you would have worn to a law firm, and you may even find that funkier brands appeal to you (I’m thinking of things like Miz Mooz or Tsubo here, but there are so many!).
  • Consider wearing the basics in your wardrobe in new, more relaxed ways.  For example, a button-front shirt may look great worn open and untucked with a camisole beneath it — or you may find that a blazer that has a fun lining looks chic with the sleeves rolled up.  More casual pieces that languished in your closet until a casual Friday — such as a flyaway cardigan — may be just the thing to pair with a structured piece like a sheath dress.

Whenever anyone goes through a style reassessment — which everyone should do from time to time! — I think it’s great to find someone in the public eye, who has your body shape, and whose style you admire.  What pieces work for her?  (If it’s an actress it can be particularly fun to watch her personal style versus her character’s styles, and see how her clothes differ from role to role — but also how they stay the same.)  Keep track of which outfits you really adore, and use those for inspiration.  As I mentioned above, a personal shopper is another way to go, and most department stores offer a shopper’s services free of charge.  (Just make sure you have a good idea of what you already want so you don’t end up purchasing a lot of things that aren’t really part of your new style.)

Readers, what are your tips for transitioning a conservative work wardrobe to a more casual one?

Comments

  1. Anon For this one :

    I had an issue when I went “casual” that we all need to be careful about. That is, quite simply, lecherous senior partners who start acting silly whenever they see younger females dressed-down into otherwise acceptable Friday casual clothes.

    For some inexplicable reason, these guys all of a sudden think we are no longer associates, but “gals” they would meet up with after work at the happy hour outside our building.

    It is not a question of revealing clothing. I think it is because they equate casual with looseness, strange as it seems.

    I think the best thing we can do is to wear loose fitting sweaters over our tops. That way, they don’t have anything to drool over.

    • My colleague wore a silk racerback mini + jeggings today. Not acceptable in my book (but I cannot tell her that as our office is casual and doesn’t have a dress code as such + she does not report to me). A senior mgr looked her up and down and went “all set to party tonight?”.

      Sleazy ? Yes. Deserved? Also yes.

  2. Research, not Law :

    As a person often found at my desk wearing jeans and gross sneakers, I say wear whatever is comfortable for you. If that’s pencil skirts and blazers, go for it. I certainly don’t hold looking nice against anyone. There are several people in my casual office who choose to be stylish and professional. It neither helps nor hinders them, but is just accepted as who they are.

    One caveat: You need to assess whether the dress code is casual (wear whatever you want) or creative (wear something that expresses). If it’s the latter, you may actually *need* to adjust your wardrobe to suit the office, just as I would need to adjust mine if I were to go back to a more formal office. Dressing appropriately for creative dress codes can be just as important as dressing appropriately for conservative dress codes. If so, I’d start by adding some interesting accessories to your current style.

    While Kat makes a good point about making sure you don’t come off as a stiff, typically those types of mis-reads are swept away as your coworkers get to know you and your work.

  3. Valleygirl :

    Be careful once you get the hang of casual dress to not swing too far into it… An admin assistant at my office started wearing conservative office clothes, sort of cycled through the bus casual look and now comes to work wearing a sweat suit on some days.

    That being said, adding in a bright pop of colors via shoes, accessories, etc. to an otherwise conservative outfit can be a great way to make it more visually interesting. Another way of utilizing your currently clothes would be to soften up your hair – if you typically wear it up, try wearing it down, etc. Also going with bare legs rather than wearing hose is a good way to bring it down a notch.

  4. I worked in an environment like this: programmers, and mostly male. Sweatpants and sneakers were not unknown. I felt comfortable but put together and not out of place wearing something like gray slacks and a button down shirt or colorful, patterned blouse. I would favor pants over skirts in a tech environment, personally; I know this goes contrary to a lot of the lawyers’ experiences here, but in my field skirts seem to get perceived as drawing attention to one’s femininity, which does not do good things.

    • I’m a lawyer, and I agree with your assessment that wearing skirts (and a number of other items/styles of clothing) can be perceived as drawing attention to your femininity, but honestly–that’s why I like them. It’s part of my “I can dress like a woman and still be a great lawyer” campaign. I’m dubious about offices in which women feel like they have to suppress their femininity to be taken seriously. There are tons of great outfits that fit well and are otherwise work-appropriate that are still powerfully feminine.

      That being said, I hear you on the mostly male work environment. I don’t discount the fact that that can complicate matters. So not disagreeing with you or challenging your conclusion regarding your personal situation…just food for thought.

      • I do this too, and I’m in a research and technology field/company. Mostly male (10% female on average in the technical areas.) One will see cut offs and tank tops, as well as t-shirts, jeans and Tevas with socks. But the top brass wears trousers and button downs (male), and conservative yet slightly more casual for the women. I wear many dresses, because I find them more comfortable. But I’ve been in this field for almost 20 years. In the beginning I wore casual clothing a bit more formal than my male counterparts, but mostly trousers too. There are many pants that are not khakis nor jeans these days. Ponte knit can be your friend!

    • It was always my understanding that in a tech environment pants were simply more practical. Its normal to need to crawl under a desk and plug in an ethernet cable, and skirts just don’t work for that. Skirts are actually against my office dress code.

  5. justvikki :

    I’m in a casual tech company and second Research not Law’s assertions. Who you are and how you perform not what you’re wearing.

    My transition is from fat girl to less-fat and I don’t like spending a lot of cash on it, since the loss continues. My wardrobe savior at the moment is stack of long sleeve classic T’s from the gap (about $15 each). They’re spot on with a nice scarf, jeans or trousers and cute flats. I’m in San Francisco, though, so hot summer weather is mostly a joke.

  6. 1 tsp of inspiration :

    Food-related threadack…

    My husband and I are both busy but we LOVE food (yum) and really enjoy eating at home since it’s our chance to catch up and spend some quiet time together. I am in major need of menu inspiration and planning help. I would just die if there was a website or an app that would help me build menus for the week. For example, we usually sit down each Sunday morning with tons of cookbooks and our ipads in-hand and try to build a menu for the week making sure we use some of the same ingredients to make good use of our groceries. It’s tiring, exhausting and getting really old. I would love someone/thing to tell me: Monday, cook this. Tuesday, cook this. Wednesday, cook this, etc. A grocery list would be a plus.

    Is there anything out there like this?

    • Real Simple did a 4 week menu plan article at some point in the last year of magazines (I’ve been going thru mine in anticipation of throwing them out).

      Not an app, but their website lets you search recipes by ingredient, which might be helpful.

      • Ha! We must have posted at the same time!

      • Don’t they actually have a new app now?

      • sparkpeople.com

        It is a weightloss website, but has a nutrition tab for healthy meals! It plans out your meals for the week, and if you don’t like one of them you can click on it and switch it out. Even better is that you can print out your grocery list for the week just by clicking a button. If you have dietary restrictions, they also allow you to select those and then they won’t include meat or dairy or whatever.

        I have cooking “issues”, so I really like being able to try new things. Plus I’m lazy so I don’t want to do the search for something through cookbooks. It’s just easier for me to have it all planned out right there at the start of the week.

    • Real Simple has a nice set of recipes each month that usually center around a theme, and often include grocery lists. They also do different types of recipes each month (one slow cooker, one quick and easy, one make ahead) I find their recipes fairly easy and lacking in surprises.

    • Google “relish menu planning”. I don’t want to post the link and get stuck in moderation.

      One of my friends is gluten-free and swears by a *very* similar site, the name of which I cannot recall. (You and your H might not be interested in that one anyway, since it caters to those with restricted diets.) Anyway, I think this looks like a great idea, but would want to try some of the recipes and look at the meals before subscribing. If you end up doing something like this, would you report back?

      • Equity's Darling :

        Would you maybe mind passing on the gluten-free one? I’d be really interested to see it.

        • I cannot remember the name of the online service, but I googled it and it appears that Meal Mixer has a gluten-free menu-planning option that might work for you. (I would ask my friend for specifics, but we have been out of touch lately.) Relish also has a sister site called GFree that does meal planning as well! I just signed up for Relish, so I will review it once I have made a few weeks worth of meals.

    • Weekly Greens is a food blog that plans weekly menus around one seasonal ingredient. She even provides a shopping list for the whole week, which is great! It’s www. weeklygreens. com. I heard about it on NPR, actually, and it’s a handy site.

    • Anonymous :

      I’ve been going through the same thing and I emulate my Italian grandmother by matching a day to a kind of meal. For instance, Wednesday was soup night at Grandma’s. What I do is: Monday is a make ahead meal that I hopefully prepare over the weekend, Tuesday is chicken or fish, Wednesday is pasta, Thursday is finger food/ sandwich (e.g. tacos or burgers). Weekends are up for grabs. It’s a lot easier to plan that way and I’m not wed to the schedule if I want spaghetti on fish night.

    • 1 tsp of inspiration :

      Thanks for the great ideas! I’ll look into all of the suggested sites and will report back. I also like the meal of the day of the week idea. It takes some pressure off of planning since you know you just need to find a specific kind of recipe.

      • My mother was a career woman long ago. She had 14 dinners and cycled through them every two weeks regardless of season. I used to think that everyone did this. Was glad to start my own household and break out of this rut. My dinners are totally keyed to the seasons. Frinstance, here in the West it’s now the season for fresh wild salmon.

    • I think the Flylady site includes something about “Saving Dinner” but Ive never given it more than a passing glance so not in a position to recommend.

    • I’m a big fan of epicurious, and they have a function on their advanced search that allows you to search only recipes that have, e.g., beats, green beans, or goat cheese in them. This is an excellent way to pull up a bunch of similar recipes at a time. It also prints out shopping lists for you from the ingredients of the recipes. Of course, some epicurious recipes are too complicated for your average weeknight cook, but you can also narrow searches by “healthy” and/or “quick and easy.”

    • Everyday Food (the tiny Martha Stewart mag) does this in every issue. They give you a grocery list divided by what you need, what you need but probably already have, etc., and then a week’s worth of dinners. All are pretty simple and often build on each other so you don’t have to buy as much food overall; nothing takes too long. I usually really like the recipes and you can mix and match sides, desserts, etc. Plus the magazine is small enough that you can easily take it with you. If you subscribe you have access to every recipe they ever published, online.

    • This website is easy to browse: http://simplyrecipes.com/

      I also like Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/

      And I’ve found some good recipes at The Pioneer Woman (I know, I know): http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/

      Yup, I’m addicted to food and fashion (as evidenced by this post) blogs.

    • Foodily is great for the times when you have a bunch of something left over and want to figure out how to use it. You can search by an ingredient and it returns results from all over. A bunch of my friends who got CSA used it when they could not come up with yet another way to use spinach.

  7. I’m an attorney in a biotech company and there is no dress code. The scientists wear jeans and tees and those of us who do not go into the lab are definitely on the business casual side. I find that trouser jeans and neutral colored slacks are my staples. I will usually pair them with a nice top (love Elie Tahari stretch silk tops!) and a cardi. I usually pair the neutral bottoms with a top with a print, a feminine detail OR a pop of color. Also, I find that if I am wearing jeans, I can pair that with a more conservative (corporate) top, like a crisp button down. If I’m wearing slacks I will pair that with something more casual on top (tank with a cardi). Wear something that makes you comfortable. To me, pencil skirt and slacks are equivalents… I just feel more comfortable in pants.

    • JC, do you mind me asking how you ended up working with them? I recently left my big-law job and I’m in search of a non-traditional position, ideally something relevant to my litigation background, but I have no idea where to look… I’m in the DC area, and I’ve been trolling indeed and lawjobs, and monster with no success. Any tips would be appreciated!

      • ISO, I started in-house and have been in many biotechs, mostly startups. I have attached my email if you want to email me and we can chat about being in-house!

        • JC, I can’t see your email, but mine is annebird2011[at]hotmail[dot]com. Thank you!

          • There are a ton of biotechs in the DC area. Also, trade organizations such as BIO for biotech and PhRMA for the pharmaceutical industry might be a place to look. It’s not so easy to get into government now, but I would bet many of the science-based agencies (NIH, FDA, EPA) have lawyers, if you wanted to get into the science field.

  8. When in Rome :

    I say embrace the new surroundings. For example, if it was standard for every person in your department, including the department-head, to meet in the kitchen at 2pm for a 15 minute cappuchino, it would make sense for you to join them even if you didn’t partake in the cappuccino drinking. I guess what I am saying is adapting to the dress code (either unofficial or official) is just as important as adjusting to the rest of the corporate culture.

    With that said, if you don’t like wearing sneakers, by all means, don’t. Wear cute flats, wear heels with dark jeans… if you want to wear your blazers, go for it but pair them with slim pants and expressive jewelry.

  9. I’d invest in some good casual t-shirts – something fitted with some spandex in them. I like the ones at Ann Taylor. I find the scoop neck ones to be more professional than the v-neck, and they have a variety of colors year round. If you hit AT when there’s a sale, you can get them for $12-$15ish each. You can pair them with pencil skirts and a cardigan to dress the skirt down a bit. They also look nice with trousers or with dark jeans and a blazer. It’s a quick, inexpensive way to give some versatility to your current wardrobe. Once you get comfortable mixing dressier pieces with more casual ones, you’ll start to figure out what direction you want to take your style.

  10. AnonInfinity :

    Threadjack (I don’t think there’s a coffee break today) –

    I just noticed today that I seem to be getting a rash on my chest. It seems to be coinciding with an increase in exercise, so I think it’s either a heat rash or maybe some mild acne. Has anyone had experience with these or any idea how to get rid of it with over the counter stuff? WebMD seems to indicate that a heat rash will go away on its own if you don’t get hot or sweaty, which is not possible in my hot and humid location (not to mention that I want to keep exercising).

    I figured I’d try some type of home remedy and if it doesn’t get better by Monday/Tuesday, go to the doc.

    • get some cortisone cream, readily available at a drugstore, and smear it on. and depending on where on the chest it is, try to “air yourself out” and not wear anything too tight/constrictive/snug in that area. ventilation!

      make sure it’s not hives, which indicate an allergic reaction. I think hives are best treated with antihistamines … e.g. pills … and not topical creams.

      hives look round and bumpy/puffy, like fresh bug bites. fun.

      good luck!

      • AnonInfinity :

        I did originally think of hives because I’m under stress right now (studying for the bar exam), but the rash is flat and red or tiny raised red bumps that are like really small pimples, so I don’t think it’s hives. It’s not itchy, either.

        I like the cortisone cream idea! I’m definitely going to try that.

        • Did you recently finish taking antibiotics? (same situation and that’s the culprit for me)

          • AnonInfinity :

            YES! I took a round last week. Is yours going away on its own?

          • It happened once before to me and it took like 2-3 weeks, but yes, it cleared up on its own. So gross though! This round is finally going away, too. I haven’t found anything that works to make it go away sooner, except maybe eating yogurt to replace some of the good bacteria (this is unconfirmed but I’m eating it anyhow).

    • Showering immediately after exercise, baby powder, and perhaps some hydrocortisone cream could help.

    • Not to be gross, but in case it is acne – be sure you wash your sports bra every single time you work out. It’s a pain to let them air dry every time, but it is worth avoiding all that nasty sweat bacteria.

      • Oh, and in the meantime – I find that if any acne pops up, TendSkin is a lifesaver. It disappears in a day. Witch hazel is good, too, though not *as* good.

    • Also not to be gross, but if you’re younger (<30) and they're flat, scaly spots it might be tinea versicolor. It tends to show up on younger people (because your skin is oilier) on the chest/back areas first. Anti-fungals (like Lotrimin) should do the trick in that case.

    • Locomotive :

      Keep yourself as dry as possible! I had this issue (acne on back and rash on front) and I started immediately showering (and changing if showering wasn’t possible) after working out, washing all of my workout gear after 1 wear, using a salicylic acid soap bar on my chest/back (I use the Clinique one – giant hunk of soap for a good value), and trying to wear looser clothing when possible. See a derm if it doesn’t clear up within a month or something?

    • Another Sarah :

      If it doesn’t go away after a couple days and if it gets worse, GO to the doctor and get it checked out. Are you on any prescriptions for anything (antibiotics, antifungals, etc)? If it spreads, moves around, gets painful, different parts of your body ache, get thee to a doctor/hospital, stat. The last barzam (in Feb) I had a horrible reaction to a medicine I was taking that manifested oh, about 4 days before the bar. It actually ended up being pretty serious, and I had (well, I chose) to take the bar under horrible physical conditions that I would never wish on anyone. But in the end I was actually very lucky, since I narrowly missed an even worse reaction. But since it’s Thursday, if it doesn’t get better/clear up over night, I wouldn’t even wait until the weekend to get that checked out. Better to get it done and out of the way than to make it worse.

      • AnonInfinity :

        I actually did just get finished with a round of antibiotics last week. I almost never get sick, but in the 6 weeks I’ve been studying, I’ve had sinus infection, bronchitis, and now this rash. Sucks.

        • Another Sarah :

          Then for serious-if it is still there/more so tomorrow, go directly to your MD. My reaction started out the exact same way – red splotches, looked like little pimples, etc. It turned out to be an allergic reaction to the medication I was on, and extremely painful. Worse, I couldn’t take any pain medication and had to take the barzam while, essentially, covered in blisters (that’s what the little pimples turned into). That aside, my doctors were worried about organ failure once they figured out what drug was causing it. So, if it’s not better by tomorrow, GO to the doctor. At the very least you’ll be rest assured that you are in good health. At the worst, you’ll get it out of your system BEFORE the bar.

          • I agree – go to or at least call your doctor, as the rash could indicate an allergy to the antibiotic. I’ve had allergic reactions to two different antibiotics, and the symptoms were very different — with Augmentin I broke out with a rash all over my torso and chest. With Sulfa, my throat and tongue started to swell. I went to the doctor both times, and I think that they gave me cortisone shots both times too. I now list both of these drugs as allergies on all medical forms, and my doctor said I should not take either again.

          • AnonInfinity :

            Good news. I put some witch hazel on it last night (didn’ thave any cortizone cream), and it is 80% gone this morning. Phew! I think it was the heat rash. I’m very glad that it doesn’t seem to have been an allergic reaction like you guys had. That sounds very painful and scary.

    • I get a similar rash due to heat. I powder my chest with Shower to Shower powder every day (and also put it on other sweaty areas) and always wear either a low-cut top or a moisture-wicking fabric top to work out. If a rash develops anyway, I use cortisone cream to treat it and it goes away in a day or two. Also, i never wear any sort of necklace or scarf in the summer; jewelry in particular makes my rash worse.

    • SheWhoBrokeHerLeg :

      It may be too late for you to get this, but if you are just finishing an antibiotic, it could be yeast — you can get it on your skin as well. Call your dr and ask about an oral med and it will be gone in a couple of days.
      I broke my leg in the spring and had a long term antibiotic and got yeast on my skin. It was tiny red bumps, sort of like a combo of razor burn and acne, and every cream made it worse. I washed with a teen anti-acne face wash twice a day on my chest and took an oral med to clear it up.

  11. So, Corporette fashionistas – what is your perfect pair of dark jeans?

    There are so many brands out there and I’ve no time to go from store to store looking for good ones. Any suggestions? I’m 5’7″, a bit curvy (140 lbs) and tend to like a boot cut or straight leg.

    thanks!

    • Sounds like I am the same shape/size as you and recommend AG jeans. I recently bought this pair and love them : http://www.sundancecatalog.com/product/womens+clothing/womens+pants/womens+jeans/a+g+ballad+slim+bootcut+jeans.do?sortby=ourPicks&page=2

      Though I definitely had to get them shortened, they were ridiculously long.

    • I really like Gap’s jeans, and find that they tend to hold up reasonably well.

      • I second this. I used to buy Joe’s and Citizens, and I still have them, but the Gap’s newish line of denim is great and the price is so much better… I like the perfect boot and the long & lean (which does not describe my body type at all but more the cut). I wear the dark washes to the office on Fridays.

      • YES. I bought a pair of Gap jeans a few months ago–after not having purchased jeans in TEN YEARS–and find myself wearing them all the time. Apologies for the Ellen Caps, but these are really, really good jeans–flattering, fitted, durable, and well priced.

    • Anonymous :

      Paige denim, either the hollywood hills (straighter/slimmer cut) or montecito (curvier) cut. both come in boot, and I think the hollywood hills comes in straight, skinny, etc. I love me the boot, though. The “dusk” is a classic solid indigo wash, but there are other dark washes as well. I like that the waists are high enough that you can do all the sitting/bending you want and no one’s going to be throwing quarters at you, but it doesn’t feel restrictive when you sit down. I’m 5’8″ 155 and wear a size 31 for the office, but could do a 30 if I liked a tighter fit. Try zappos for sales, and you can just order like 12 pairs in various sizes and washes, and t hen send them back for free. That’s what I did. Note that unless you have a 34″-35″ inseam, you’ll want to get them hemmed. This discovery is a result of a 10-year “perfect jeans” search.

    • I am similarly shaped. I swear by CJ by Cookie Johnson (who I believe is married to Magic). I have them in every dark color they come in. NOTE: I hang them to dry to keep them dark. http://www.cjbycookiejohnson.com/Grace_Bootcut__Cosmos/pd/np/117/p/1012.html

    • It sounds like you are about the same size as me so I’ll just tell you what I wear. Citizens of Humanity Ava (straight leg, very stretchy and comfy) or Kelly (boot cut, not as stretchy as Ava) in Faith wash are my go-to dark jeans. They have another boot cut called Ingrid, which fits a little different from the Kelly (I think it’s meant for a straighter body type). I also have a nice pair of dark trouser jeans from Anlo which I feel are a bit more dressy (I prefer those for the office).

    • I like the uniqlo dark wash ones. The color is good, and price is reasonable.

    • I’m about your height and weight (145lbs 5’6″-5’7″ish) and I just bought a pair of curvy fit bootcut jeans from Ann Taylor Loft (size 8). So far, I’m loving them!

  12. officedweller :

    Don’t forget about your hair and make-up. They can serve to dress down an outfit or dress it up. On days when you dress more casually, you can spend some extra time on your hair and make-up so itlook polished and you maintain a professional look. On days where you decide to bust out your pencil skirt and button-up shirt, maybe you want to wear your hear in a ponytail to keep it “fun”.

    I’ve found that the more formal the dress, the more polished hair and make-up is… and the opposite is true too. Just because someone can wear jeans doesn’t mean they don’t have to brush their hair!

  13. cakehands :

    I was hoping that some of you exercising Corporetters could help me out with the website I am looking for. It is supposed to alert you when your favorite work out brands go on sale. I am in desperate need of some new sports bras and running shorts. Thanks!

  14. I can’t decide whether the hubs and I should move to Brooklyn. It would be nice to get more space for the same (or less) money. But I have such a Manhattan mindset and our current apartment is right by the water in a wonderful neighborhood. I think of you all as my girlfriends, so it seemed appropriate to share here.

    • I live in Manhattan, and very much have a Manhattan mindset as well! A girlfriend moved to Brooklyn Heights and loves it, and I have a lot of friends who think Brooklyn is far superior to Manhattan. For me, though, the dealbreakers were problems getting cabs to go to Brooklyn, proximity to the office (I walk to work now), and an inability to find a decent, affordable apartment near a “good” subway line (although I suspect that was largely due to my timing issues, and not necessarily a lack of supply).

    • Brooklyn born and bred :

      Not to be mean, but please don’t move here if you have “a Manhattan mindset.” I’m tired of real estate going up to the point where I can barely afford to live in the neighborhood where I grew up. Try Jersey City – more space, cheaper, by the water, and no one misses what it was like before the Manhattan people moved in.

    • I love Brooklyn and honestly wouldn’t want to live in Manhattan even if I could get a bigger apt. for less money. My bf and I rarely go into Manhattan on weekends and generally enjoying Brooklyn restaurants, bars and neighborhoods more than Manhattan but I know it is quite easy to feel the opposite. Just an idea – what about staying in a boutique hotel in a neighborhood you’re thinking of living in for a weekend, not going into Manhattan and seeing how it feels to you? If you don’t like it as much as a weekend in Manhattan then I’d say stay in Manhattan.

      • Oh and I can’t afford to live in the NYC neighborhood I grew up in either BK Born and Bred but I think lashing out at people who can afford to live there, or like the changes, is a bit mean

        • Accountress :

          I agree- and it’s not just in hotspots like NYC. When my mom and dad moved to Florida (from Pittsburgh), a woman my mom worked with made a snide comment about how all the new people coming to the area were ruining it (as an aside to that woman only: puh-lease, it got “ruined” as soon as they built Cape Canaveral and all the engineers came around and wanted better schools for their kids and decent stores to shop in and, I don’t know, more paved roads). It should be a compliment that people are eager to live in the place you grew up- they want their kids to have the same experience you did!

    • I’m a Manhattan girl too and I went through a period where I thought – well, Brooklyn’s nice too and I could probably do very well for myself there. I looked around for a while with my real estate agent friend and actually found that in the neighborhoods I was most interested in, there wasn’t a whole lot of additional bang for your buck. I ended up staying put.

    • I think it all depends. I lived in Manhattan for years and have lived in Cobble Hill, Williamsburg/Bushwick, and now Park Slope. I preferred all of them to Manhattan because I really value having more space and a slower pace of life when I’m at home. I find Manhattan to be too much for full time living. The problem is, if you’re looking for a cheap, suburb of Manhattan feel, you’re probably not going to love it. I love that Park Slope and Cobble Hill were their own thing–they weren’t Manhattan-lite. They have their own purpose and sense of community in a way that I never found to be true in Manhattan–and that’s what I love most about it here. I would also caution you not to move too far in if you’re still feeling Manhattan-oriented. I love Park Slope but it’s not all that close to the city–I probably wouldn’t have liked that ten years ago.

      And to echo what others said, the areas closest to Manhattan are priciest. Brooklyn Heights is great, but probably not much cheaper. Williamsburg isn’t for me, but it’s a (slightly) cheaper alternative.

      • I think the move to Bkn really depends on where you are in your life. When I was single, I was a Manhattan girl all the way. Lots of drinks and dinners out with friends, lots of high high heels (necessitating cabs). Then I met my husband, and we preferred to stay inside most nights and cook, or order in — we even got into board games and the like. When we go out for dinner (which is still pretty often at this point, pre-kid) we actually prefer what we call “the Grandpa hour” — hitting a hot restaurant at like 5:30 or 6:00 and having the entire place to ourselves for an hour or two before lots of people arrive.

        Friends got into relationships also and instead of going out 4-6 nights a week it would be more like 1 night a week, and then we’d meet at someone’s apartment to split a bottle of wine. Lots of friends have also moved to NJ or Westchester (or other parts of the country entirely) to prepare for kids.

        Times change — for me Brooklyn Heights is perfect right now because we have the space and the quiet we need. We’re so close to the subway that we tend to explore Tribeca/West Village/Chelsea restaurants before we explore Brooklyn ones (which can be a long hike away), and that’s ok with me.

      • Bar Studier :

        I agree with the others about staying in Manhattan with your Manhattan mind-set! I’ve lived here on and off for several years: first on the Upper West Side, then Soho, and now Park Slope. I moved to PS very consciously for a prettier, greener, more chill home and I absolutely love living here. I also get a lot more bang for my dollar here then I would in Manhattan and I live on some great express trains, so my commutes (to school/ internships) is under 30 minutes.

        Definitely agree with the Jersey City comments for those who want a cheaper, close suburb of Manhattan. JC and Hoboken really orient more as bedroom communities than as their own communities. Might be just the ticket for you.

        • academicsocialite :

          I live AND work in Bklyn, so I am a bit spoiled in that I can walk to work and hardly ever go in to Manhattan unless I want to do something more “tourist-oriented” like walk the High Line or go to MOMA. My husband and I live in Prospect Heights, and we like the slightly more relaxed environment, although as far as going out is concerned, I have to say we have more bars and restaurants we like nearby than we did when we lived in a studio in Chelsea. We’re super close to the park, which is great for our dog, and I definitely feel that there are good neighborhoods to have kids, if you can afford it! I have definitely thought about moving to Kensington or PLG if we decide to expand our family in the next year or so.

          That said, if you feel like you “have” to move for financial reasons, you may be setting yourself up not to like it. For us, our friends are here, as are many of the things we like to do (great restauarnts, shopping, etc). so it works amazingly well.

  15. I think flats vs. heels can make a difference, too. A skirt with fun flats is a notch or two down from a skirt with pumps (in the interest of full disclosure, I do have a 35″ inseam so don’t worry as much about lengthening my sufficiently long leg line :)

    In my case, the biggest transition from business casual to casual was that I got much more mileage out of my weekend wear–sweaters, fun scarves, boyfriend cardigans, etc.–since it now qualified as office wear. But, my company’s president is usually at the office in jeans and a t-shirt, so casual really is casual. Unfortunately, some people take that to mean that tube tops and yoga pants are office appropriate…

  16. I have to agree with Kat: pick up a nice pair of dark jeans and/or a pair of trouser jeans. If you love your pencil skirts, maybe leave the blazer at home and wear a more casual top with a cute pair of ballet flats. And congrats on the more casual work environment!

  17. anotheranon :

    I would be very happy if I could get away with wearing jeans and sneakers to work. Instead, with time and the help of this site, I am slowly transitioning to a more professional look. Without too much kicking and screaming along the way, haha. To each their own :)

  18. I’m in a casual office myself, where the wardrobe runs the gamut from business casual – the director and one of the consultants are always in buttondowns and neatly pressed button-up shirts – to jeans and tees, and I’ve always had trouble finding a good middle ground. I came from a scientific consultancy, where business casual meant no jeans except Friday and wardrobes were more uniformly professional, and I’ve felt it slide when I’ve been here.

    Having said that, since starting to read Corporette I’ve made more efforts to professionalize my work wardrobe back into business casual. No jeans except Friday, more refined tees, more blazers, more cardigans, and my pencil skirts get worn every week.

    If you prefer skirts, as I do, I’d recommend getting a couple in more casual fabrics. A good, dark denim pencil skirt, one in a khaki brown or olive color, maybe, that you can wear with your button-ups or with nice tees. That’s the easiest way to look polished, I think, without looking like you’re completely missing the company culture.

  19. I work in a tech office (guys in flip flops are rampant today.) Monday – Thursday I dress at least business casual if not in my suit separates. Think BrooksBrothers. I’m just more comfortable like that. I can go to lunch or cocktails w/ my big-law hubby downtown w/out feeling out of place. But I do wear nice, dark jeans and no-iron button downs or t-shirts on Fridays.

  20. My own office is fairly casual but I love to wear skirts and dresses, and I keep from looking too “corporate” by wearing big, eye-catching jewelry or fun shoes–my current favorites are my python peep-toe heels. (They go with more than you’d think!) Pairing a graphic tee with a pencil skirt is one of my favorite looks, especially with a great pair of heels. Another trick is punching up a plain button-down and slacks with a statement necklace and cocktail ring. Etsy and Charming Charlie’s are my go-to jewelry stores; you can get trendy pieces for very little money.

  21. There is definitely a learning curve to the casual office, I would suggest wearing your wardrobe basics, nice pants, pencil skirts with more casual weekend blouses/nice tees and fun ballet flats. Tee shirts and ballet flats are cheap and tend to cost less than other clothes.

    Incorporate pieces from your personal style into your workday looks, a fun belt, necklace or even headband could work in these settings. Wear dark jeans and more “office-y” tops with heels some days, its easy to break up your wardrobe and not look too stuffy.

  22. Anon in ATX :

    I experienced this as well at my new job. About one month in, one of my collegues told me I looked nice today, and that I obviously hadn’t worked here long enough. So

  23. I think it has been pretty well covered here, but I am a huge fan of mixing formal and casual pieces to achieve a solid middle ground. Focus on mixing your staples with accessories that are really expressive of your personality – scarves, shoes, statement jewelery, hair styles, etc. I also agree with AJ that looking to add to your wardrobe refined casual basics (polished tees) and your favourite skirts and blazers in more casual fabrics or with casual details will help balance your preferred look. This mix should take the stuffy edge off of your formal favourites and extend their milage at your new office.

    Think of it as a wonderful opportunity to have a blank wardrobe slate with which to express yourself.

  24. I definitely agree with the dark trouser jeans suggestion.

    If you like graphic tees, those can instantly turn professional items casual. Pair a graphic tee with a pencil skirt and boots, and you can even add a blazer and not look too dressed up. I also like graphic tees with trousers and converse.

  25. Lauren (Reader L) :

    Thank you so much for fielding my question, and to all of the people who commented! I can’t wait to review all of these and look perfectly appropriate in my new digs. :)

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