Open Thread: Tell Us About the Most Stylish Professional Woman You Know

I thought it might be interesting to have an open thread about some of the most stylish professional women we know personally. I would suggest we avoid names and, instead, focus on painting a picture of the women who inspire us. I also suggest that we limit this to women we know personally, not famous people — unless you see the person every day it doesn’t count.

Personally, I’m lucky to have almost too many women to inspire me! It’s funny to me that some of the most stylish professional women I know are also some of the most senior and successful women I know. Some of the stylish women I remember the most…

  • When I was an assistant editor at Family Circle magazine in my early 20s, the editor in chief of the magazine was stunningly put together every day. Beautiful suits that never looked wrinkled… shoulder-length blonde hair that was somehow perfectly coiffed — it had volume and bounce and curl. She had 2 or 3 children under the age of 15, also, if memory serves — no idea how she did it.  She was an extremely intelligent woman who had interviewed for an assistant editor’s position and, when asked what her ideal job was, had said “editor in chief of this magazine” during the interview — and 15 years later, there she was.
  • A female partner I used to work with also stands out in my mind. She had silver hair, just below her chin, and had a collection of eyeglasses that all had a bit of spunk to them. I remember admiring her Chanel bags and her Valentino suits — and her extremely, extremely successful career in a niche practice area. She had a very low voice, and a dry sense of humor.
  • The third I’ll mention is another female partner I used to work with.  She was the first woman to make partner at the firm, and I marveled at her ability to write the most ladylike “f__ you” letters to our opponents. I remember her very simple pieces of clothing (mostly black or gray trousers, black or cream jackets, a few solid colored silk tees) and her beautiful, colorful collection of Hermes scarves. She told me once she wore the scarves because she found tags at the back of her neck to be itchy.

Looking back, I think it’s interesting that all three had some of the same things in common. For example:

  • They nailed the hair. Each of these women had figured out a hairstyle that worked for her (flattering and, I’d imagine, easy to do) and she wore it that way, every day — there was no frizz, there was no sloppy ponytail or bun, and there were no “wow she’s really past her appointment to get her roots done.” Perhaps it’s a reflection of my own taste that each woman wore her hair loose, and not done up in a French twist or whatnot.
  • They went for quality over quantity. I wouldn’t say that any of their wardrobes were extensive — instead, I probably saw the same pieces repeat once every two weeks or so — but they all wore quality items of clothing that fit them like a glove (nothing too tight or too loose) and were well-taken care of.
  • I primarily remember the woman — not the style. Nothing was overly trendy or of-the-moment (and nothing ever seemed dated) — and her style didn’t speak louder than her words. That said, each woman took her own risks — the funky glasses, the colorful scarves — and had, I imagine, fun shopping and putting together her working wardrobe.

All right, readers, who are your real-life style inspirations? What lessons have you learned from them (tips and tricks you’ve picked up and implemented), what lessons CAN you learn from them as you think about them today?

Comments

  1. I LOVE this open thread. The female partners at my BigLaw firm either kind of went overboard (weird sprayed hair, chingons (sp?), full make up, hose, suits scarves — they looked stiff and like they were trying to hard) or skewed too preppy: calf-length skirts, cardigans, pearls, flats (this is Boston). My mentor (is she my mentor for this reason? I never thought about it until just now) was one of the first female partners at my firm. By the time I worked there, she had passed retirement age but was still coming into work (when she wasn’t skiing in the Alps or whatever). Short, gray hair, always perfect. Subtle pants suits (hardly ever skirts). Always a gorgeous scarf and a brooch. Slim. Always nice shoes. And always complimented me on my clothes. Which, since I actually cared about what I wore each day and didn’t fall back into the black pants/flats/button down oxford look of most junior women associates, meant a lot to me. In addition to noticing my clothes, she always asked about my small children and would even ask how my NANNY was doing. Who does that? But if you’re a working mom, you know: however your daycare situation is going is how functional you’re going to be.

    • “But if you’re a working mom, you know: however your daycare situation is going is how functional you’re going to be.”

      Isn’t that the truth?

      • Word. I can’t tell you how much it means when my boss asks about my son and seems to genuinely care how he’s doing. I’ve always found it interesting that she’s completely empathetic about child-care issues even though she’s never had kids herself. It’s a marked contrast to other managers in my office who are mothers of teens and are ridiculously hard on the younger mothers they manage. :(

      • When I had a nanny quit on me with 24 hours notice when my husband was out of town, I was a basket case. I had to shuffle all my cases around (I was still in training so had some luxury to do this). When a mentoring surgeon called me to ask for a little help, I burst in to tears, explaining the situation. He was so sweet and caring towards me, even offering his teenage daughter up for stop gap coverage (it all worked out totally fine in the end). I have always treasured him for that, even when he made me crazy in a million other ways.

  2. oops, I should have added: was she my mentor because of her attention ot her appearance (not, as my comment seems to suggest, because she was one of the first female partners, though that is probably true too).

  3. Diana Barry :

    I have never had a female partner that I looked up to in terms of professional appearance – also in Boston. I do know a woman with a wealth mgmt firm in NY (we have a client in common) who always looks great (note, I have always seen her at networking events, where it is important to look good!) – pretty skirt suits and nice shoes.

    I try to be the most professional-looking, put-together female attorney in my office. The others are either frumpy/overweight/unfashionable (the two women partners) or too tight/short/casual (the two other young female associates). I sometimes fall down on my shoes though, and wear my commuting shoes all day – esp in the summer with my sandals!

    It’s interesting that Kat mentions that the women she admired always wore their hair down. I would get bored! I was also bored by the female partners at my last firm who always wore their hair the same way every.single.day, but in several cases it was exacerbated by the fact that the partner was constantly playing with her hair and had a bad dye job.

    • I have to say that I find your comments a little offensive. Perhaps you are only speaking of these two particular women or I am just reading too much into your comments, but it appears to be that you are saying that women who are overweight are naturally frumpy/unfashionable as well.

      • Diana Barry :

        Nope. These partners are all of those things at once – frumpy, overweight and unfashionable – but it is not causal!

        • Another Anon :

          Then why even include overweight in the list? Frumpy and unfashionable bear directly on whether they are stylish. Commenting on their weight is both irrelevant and offensive to people who struggle with their weight.

          • another anon, i totally agree with you that ‘overweight’ makes no sense as a synonym for ‘unstylish.’ maybe what the OP should have (or meant to?) say was that these women don’t dress in a way that flatters their particular body types?

          • Diana Barry :

            Hmm. I think it is partly because they wear ill-fitting clothes relative to their size – the tent look – which emphasizes rather than de-emphasizes their size.

        • I’m not usually one to jump on the OMG I’m Offended! bandwagon, but the reference to weight jumped out at me too. I think you would do better to leave the “overweight” out of it. I guess you’re painting a picture, but it doesn’t seem relevant to your point whether they’re heavier women or skinny minnies hiding their figures under drab, shapeless tops.

          • Anonymous :

            Like it or not, there’s a perception that overweight people don’t care about themselves. No, it’s not necessarily true (but certainly is in some circumstances), and no, it’s not fair. And thin people make more and get better promotions, to boot (see the many studies on the topic). This from an overweight person. My method is to see comments like the one above (that sort of fit into this perception) and brush them off. In a word: Deal.

          • Did it equally jump out to you when KE remarked the woman a couple of threads above made such a great impression by including: “Slim.”

            Afraid it’s the realty. I’m a size 14/16 and am one of the better dressers at work, so I know you don’t have to be frumpy. But I also recognize that you can say weight doesn’t matter in overall perceptions, but in our culture it does.

          • Another Anon :

            It may be just a fact of life that overweight people are viewed in a certain way by society at large. My point is that I expect more out of a community of strong women who are obstensibly here (at least in part) to support one another. Why I did notice KE’s slim comment above, I certainly found it less offensive than this comment which equated being overweight with being frumpy and unfashionable. And, to me, the OP’s response cemented the offensive nature of the original comment to me. Her explanation was basically that these two women dress frumpy (wear ill-fitting clothes — the tent look). Given that, “overweight” was clearly gratiuous. I just hope women on this board will be a little more supportive and think before they speak.

          • Another Anon :

            Please excuse the typos…clearly I’m fired up.

          • I noticed the “slim” comment, considered commenting, and decided to let it go on the theory that you have to pick your battles.

            Yeah, I know that people have those perceptions. I know that as a fat woman I have to be more put together than my thin counterpoints to get (probably) a lesser amount of respect. That doesn’t mean I think it’s right for people – especially on a blog like this – to just uncritically accept those perceptions. Yeah, we have to deal with the world as it is, but we should work on changing it too.

          • Diana Barry :

            I’m probably adding fuel to the fire here, but the frumpy/overweight/unfashionable phrase above is meant to evoke an image of a certain kind of bad dressing that I have only seen on really overweight women – e.g. the tent tops with floral prints. The frumpy people who are thin dress in a different way – pants that are too short, skirts in an unstylish length, clunky shoes, etc.

            I didn’t mean to imply that all overweight people are frumpy, at all.

    • Professional Who Sews :

      Being overweight does not automatically render someone frumpy, but clothes on an overweight or obese person don’t look as good as on someone who is healthily trim without a lot of work.

      I sew. There are sewing bloggers who will post an inspiration, usually an image of a model or a photo from a pattern package. They will put up a photo of their garment. It usually bears no resemblance to their inspiration. Because of their weight.

      I know that this is not going to be popular, but if you want to be stylish, you should be healthily trim.

      Incidentally, I don’t care if a professional is stylish, I care that she is good at her job.

  4. housecounsel :

    I can’t wait to read this thread. I think it is a sad commentary on the lack of female role models in the legal profession that I am post-40 and can’t think of anyone to describe. And I am thinking I need a haircut so that maybe someday I can be honored here!

    • Model deficient :

      Similarly sad comment on academia that I can think of no one to describe… and I’ve tried hard to find someone to ‘channel’ on those days when I’m not sure what to wear.

      In my experience in academia, women professors come to in three models:
      1) very senior, elastic waist pants, drab baggy tops, ‘comfortable’ shoes
      2) up-and-coming, employing ethnic scarves, chunky jewelry, clothing from the area of the world where they did their fieldwork to not look ‘ordinary’ or ‘corporate’
      3) scientist, khaki Dockers, button down shirt

      Thanks to Corporette, I am working on breaking this model.

      • Oh boy … academia. I work at a college and when I wear a sheath dress and heels I get all kinds of negative feedback. One of our deans – who used to wear skirt suits everyday when she was a professor – had so many comments about how her “dressed up” wardrobe made the professors in her school uncomfortable that she stopped wearing them. I refuse to dress in the above three categories, but they are the norms on our campus, too.

        • Alanna of Trebond :

          As a counterpoint, we had a GORGEOUS Chemical Engineering professor who dressed amazingly. She always wore tailored pants, nice shirts, cute heels and tailored jewelry. Plus she was recruited by getting tenure at our university — where only 10-20% of tenure-track faculty are given tenure.

          She also has a reputation of being extremely demanding, but no one says anything about her wardrobe.

      • It can be done in academia, it’s just rare. There’s one woman at the top of my field who is just a model of perfect professorial style: trousers, skirts, jackets are all perfectly cut, sometimes a little unstructured but always well-fitting; when she wears sweaters rather than blouses or jackets, they are a little unconstructed but never faux-artsy or baggy. Nods to trends in shape or colour, but no crazy following of the latest thing. Jewelry tends to be understated except for one statement piece; shoes are mid-height and neither clunky nor stiletto. Close cropped hair; natural makeup. In sum, she’s mastered fit, quality, quiet authority. What really works is that she looks put together without *seeming* like she spent huge amounts of time thinking about her clothes (no matchy matchy, no obvious labels, clear quality but never shouting ‘this jacket or bag is expensive’). People who don’t know about these things or who think academics should have a mind ‘above’ clothes (hah) just think she is very well put-together naturally; those of us who do pay attention to style can tell that she has thought about it and are impressed by the result. So she wins with both constituencies.

  5. Most of the really well-dressed women in my office are also my best friends here. Maybe I gravitate toward women who take dressing well as seriously as I do.

    I remember one woman senior to me at my last company 15+ years ago. She was tall and probably borderline plus-sized. This first thing I remember about her is as you say, Kat – her hair. She never had a hair out of place. She wore suits that were tailored to fit her curvy frame perfectly, that appeared to be made of fine materials. This was in the day of the boxy cookie-cutter double breasted suits with shoulder pads, so the feminine Chanel-esque suits she wore really stood out. She always accessorized with funky jewelry, much of it vintage, and none of it delicate. It was in proportion with her frame. She just always, always looked very put-together.

    She was also friendly and outgoing and could charm anyone. This in no way interfered with her being a success, proving to me that we don’t need to be ice princesses to succeed.

    Typing this has made me realize how much she influenced my own style – both fashion-wise and personality-wise. I strive to be all of the above.

  6. MissJackson :

    There is a junior female partner at my firm who has mastered looking professionally classic and stlyish. I’ve never seen her look any less than perfectly put together, which I find highly impressive because even though I take pride in my appearance, I have certainly had days where I look at myself in the mirror mid-day and thing “ugh, this is not a good look.” What I admire most is that she looks incredibly feminine without looking “sexy”.

    She’s the anthesis of some of the more senior female partners at my firm, who all dress in high end quality clothing, but who, frankly, look kind of like men. I think this is at least partly because they came to the firm at a time when it was completely male-dominated, and they dressed to fit in. She’s also a contrast to some others who are very “high fashion,” but who wear things that occasionally cause me to raise an eyebrow. She seems to have found the balance.

    I think it helps that she buys nothing but extremely high-end clothing (she’s told me that she shops almost exclusively at a local super-high end department store) and always gets it tailored by the most expensive (and highly regarded) tailor in the city. I would not say that she has a huge wardrobe, but she has an obviously very carefully selected wardrobe. Simple pieces, solid colors, exquisite quality, and perfect fit.

    Her hair is a great bob that is somehow always perfectly smooth, never messy. And it probably helps that she’s quite slender!

  7. Ladies,

    I SO admire the women you are describing and kudos to those of you who have shared with us that you focus on pulling yourself together each day, and truly care what you look like. I find that I fall down on this job ALL.the.time. I have good intentions. I have good spurts. But, that’s about all I have! Some days I cannot seem to blow dry before running out of the house (and allowing the hair to dry on the commute). Or, I slip into comfortable black pants/sweater mode. Or, I cannot bare the idea of getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier to allow for make-up time. How do you do it every day? Any time-saving tips? Or points of inspiration you use to pull you out of bed instead being “up and out” in 20?

    I know that having the “look” is often just as important as having “the skill.” How do you get yourself there every day?! Do tell!

    • Signature or Stagnant :

      I was about to respond to this by saying that I have a little bit of a work uniform. Same bob for ten years (everyone says it flatters me), basic makeup that gets me done in 5, “my” style of clothes that I have carefully collected so that almost everything works with everything else. It really saves time. Then I wondered: Anyone else wonder if your “signature” haircut (or whatever) has become your stagnant haircut?

      • AnonInfinity :

        I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately! I have a pixie cut, so it’s very distinctive. I’ve had it for a few years now. Wondering if it’s time to grow the hair out….

        It is very flattering on me, and I still get compliments, but I’m worried that it’s a little tired.

    • AnonInfinity :

      One thing that helps is to have clothing that all goes together and that you love. It’s easy to pick an outfit when you love all your clothes and feel good in all of them. I like dresses a lot because they look very put together with minimal effort.

      The thing that has me styling my hair and putting on make up each day (takes about 20 mins for my whole routine after shower — hair, brush teeth, make up, put on clothes) is that I think about how much appearances do matter. So many people equate looking put together with being a competent professional. I think there are studies that show that attractive people tend to get paid more, so I do those simple things that can make me look more attractive.

      Finally, styling my hair, etc., every day makes me feel more confident because I feel more professional. This boost in attitude helps me make it through, I think.

      • I am so jealous that you can do your hair, teeth, clothes and makeup in 20 mins! If I blow-dryed my hair right after a shower it would easily take a half hour just for that, and then I’d have to hit it with the flat iron! Showers at night only for me.

    • Always a NYer :

      I totally get what you’re saying about wanting that extra 20 minutes of sleep in the morning. I try to take the time to lay out my clothes, shoes, jewelry, and makeup at night. That way when I wake up I don’t have to think about putting together an outfit, I can just get dressed and put on my makeup in my pre-coffee haze. I also shower at night because I hate going out of the house with wet hair and it takes a while for my long hair to dry (I hate blow drying it so I refuse).

    • For me I’ve had to make it a habit to get things done the night before – decide on an outfit (which is part of a 3 or 4 week rotation of clothes), lay out the gym clothes, bag, lunch, etc.

      That said, I still allow extra time for myself in the morning to get up before my bf, have coffee, take my time getting ready – that way it’s more “me” time instead of a hurried frenzy.

      But hey, you know what? You’re ALLOWED to have an off day. I think the women out there we are trying to emulate also have off days, according to them, but it’s all about how others perceive them. I’m sure they all wear an outfit that for whatever reason doesn’t make them feel 100% but they work it anyway – they don’t let their feelings over their clothes permeate into the rest of their day.

    • One thing I have been doing recently is on Sunday night or Monday morning, I write down a little note and jot down what to wear each day of the week. Not in detail — just the key item (dress, skirt, etc). It makes my morning much easier, because I don’t have to decide what to wear, which is the part I enjoy the least.

    • Diana Barry :

      I wear a jacket to work every day, either as a suit or a non-matching blazer. It REALLY helps you look more polished.

      I also put my lipstick on (don’t wear other makeup) in the parking lot before I get out of the car, in lieu of rushing to do it before I leave the house. And I shower at night, and never blow dry.

      • DC Lawyer :

        One thing that’s helped me is that I always wear a jacket, and organize my look around the jacket. When I have some time on a weekend, I try on jackets with various combinations (blouse, sweater, pants, scarf or jewelry, even shoes if they matter). When I find the best combination, I write it down on a tag I hang with the jacket.

        So there’s no thinking in the morning — just grab the combo I know works. This has eliminated the mornings when I feel tired, or distracted, and waste time fretting about what would go with the jacket that seemed right for the day.

        • Great idea on the tag! I’m going to have to employ that. I have a list of combinations that I keep in my sock drawer for inspiration in the morning.

    • I’m not saying I never fall down on this job- i do, all the time, for the reasons you mention. One thing that’s helpful to me is 1) making sure I have drycleaning/clean laundry (sounds simple, but reallly helps 2) have a bunch of standard jewelry sets I know look good together that I don’t have to think about (these earrings with that watch, with that bracelet- done); 3) having one or two outfits for really off days that make me feel great. I have a couple business dresses I use for this purpose- even if I’m exhausted or slept in, they require no thought, no matching, no styling- and still look really pulled together.

    • I’m going to be honest – it doesn’t matter what time I get to work in the morning (except for the unusual early meeting), so I never have to rush or worry about losing sleep. (I work late a lot.) I normally get up around 7:30, eat breakfast while reading the news, check work email, and then it takes me about 30 minutes to get myself ready and another 15 to get dressed. I am slower in the summer because of the need to apply sunscreen, wait for it to dry, apply baby powder, etc. Picking my clothes out in advance and not washing hair in the morning are big time savers.

      I always pick my outfits out in advance; actually I usually have three or four complete outfits hung together on hangers so I can just pick which one I feel like wearing that day. I wash my hair at night and sleep with it in a French braid, then I just get any pieces that dried wet again in the morning and let it air-dry into natural curls. It only takes me about 3 minutes, tops, to do my makeup – powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara, and gloss. If I’m going to do something with my hair like put it in a bun or pull it half back, that adds an extra minute or two.

      Things I avoid in the morning:
      – Working out – it’s a timesuck and the workout is always rushed. I work out every night.
      – Showering – also a timesuck. If you can figure out how to avoid washing your hair in the morning you’ll get 30 minutes extra sleep.
      – Picking out my clothes – I always forget to accessorize or I can’t find what I’m looking for. Timesuck.
      – Making lunch – Always make it the night before. Not only is it a timesuck, I inevitably hurt myself trying to use a sharp knife before 8am.

    • I have 5 hangers I decorated for each day. So silly but they are nice silk hangers and I put moveable tags. Then each Sunday I lay out my week of clothes, including accessories on the hanger.

      I’ll never be able to do it in the morning. I have even reformed into a morning workout person. But if I come home to change, it’s just like I woke up and have 20 minutes all over again.

      The other thing I did was cut out a bunch of hair dos for my hair type from a magazine and taped them to the inside of my medicine cabinet. That way if I have 5 minutes, I don’t always just go ponytail. I twist and maybe do a pretty comb. If I see a new one, I tape it up. They don’t get all musty from the shower in the inside of the medicine cabinet.

      • I love the hanger idea!

      • This.

        I choose all of my outfits for the week on Sunday and hang them on five hangers, and grab that day’s hanger in the morning when I leave for the gym. Also, I find that I can do my shower-hair-make up routine more quickly at the gym than at home, in part because I’m not inclined to take lingering relaxing showers there like I do at home, and I’m focused only on getting ready – there is no opportunity to throw on a load of laundry, pick up clutter, play with the cat, etc.

    • I try to keep things simple. My hair is short and it only takes me 5 minutes to put on makeup. Of course there are days when I oversleep or am just exhausted. On those days, I opt for outfits that come together easily, usually a suit. I think the key to looking polished is knowing your wardrobe so there’s not much thinking involved as you’re rushing out the door.

    • I think it helps if you have a haircut that transitions well/looks good over a variety of looks. My own hair definitely looks best in a pixie, but it’s very demanding as far as keeping the cut fresh. Very low maintenance on a day-to-day basis, but I have 4 hair products – week one just after cut, week 2, week 3, week 4. Overninght, some time in week 5, the styly goes from great to unmanageable h.e.l.l. My stylist says something about Florence Henderson/Carol Brady in his first breath and I sit down.

    • You have to check out this website: http://theviviennefiles.blogspot.com/ (You all do.) I stumbled across it after coming back from Paris recently. I was so astonished by how chic all the women looked there — even when they were dressed casually. I’ve been starting the process of re-vamping my wardrobe. It began with a massive clothing dump of all things that I don’t wear/doesn’t fit/never liked. I haven’t bought any replacement clothes, but the dump has already saved me a lot of grief in the morning. I’ve only kept stuff that fits and goes with my coloring. I don’t have anything in my closet that doesn’t go with everything else. Now I only have to make the decision of whether I want to wear pants, a skirt, or a dress. Then I can grab any one of my tops and I know it’ll go with my bottom.

  8. New Haircut? :

    Advice needed: Everyone thus far seems to think hair is really important to looking put-together. I have had the same shoulder-length straight hair for 10+ years. I briefly experimented with it being chin-length when I moved to a new state and the hairdresser cut it too short, but now it’s back to shoulder-length out of laziness.

    But now as I’m starting a new job, I’m wondering if it’s time for a new (more professional?) haircut. Here’s my question: How do you look for new styles? Who do you trust to tell you what would look good on you? Have any of you had a radical hairstyle change? I tried some of those put-your-face-with-different-hairstyles things online and they ALL look awful. I’d like something new, but I’m worried about how long it would take to get it “back to normal” if I end up hating it.

    TIA!

    • I heard on NPR last week that lots of women in NYC are coming in to very expensive salons with pictures of Michele Bachmann and asking for her color, cut and blowout. But they are too embarassed by the fact that it is Michele Bachmann, so they cut her face out of the photo.

      In all seriousness, what about visual images of professional women? Oh right, where?

      • Why would people be embarrassed that it is Michele Bachmann? Seriously, she is a tax attorney running for president. She is accomplished. People weren’t embarrassed when asking for “The Rachel” during the height of Friends. Even if you disagree with Bachmann’s views, why is it embarrassing that you like her haircut? I find that very annoying.

        • By the way, I find the NPR story annoying, not your comment on it. :)

        • AnonInfinity :

          Some people have a problem with this because strangers can’t tell a difference if you’ve got the same haircut some because you like that haircut or because you idolize them. I don’t agree with it in terms of a haircut because hair cuts look so different on everyone, that it wouldn’t necessarily be instantly recognizable. However, I can relate to those women. I disagree vehemently with Sarah Palin’s politics, and I refuse to even try on the style of glasses she wore during the last presidential election. I just don’t want anyone to think that I’m wearing them because I want to -be- her. I also don’t want to look in the mirror and feel like I’m wearing someone’s glasses when I don’t even like that person.

    • It probably is time for a change.

      Probably one of the things all of the women in Kat’s post shared is having an excellent stylist, with the guts to tell you when it’s time for a change.

      My view is that you need to have a few appointments to figure out if you trust someone before you ask them to change up your regular ‘do. And you must be emotionally ready, too. After a bad breakup last year, I told mine, “Do whatever you want. I know you’ll make it look good.” My guy already knew the texture of my hair, and how much time I wanted to spend styling it.

      You also need to try a bunch of products. There’s really no way to learn which ones will work on your hair than just buying them and trying them out. Try the cheaper ones from Walgreens if you can’t afford the salon ones. If you end up with a bunch of bottles that didn’t work, then at least you will know. It’s an investment.

    • I ask my hairdresser if I’m in a rut and he will tell me. I figure he knows a lot more than I know about current hairstyles. I have never asked him to cut my hair like a certain photo or well-known person, I just ask him what he thinks will look good on me. At this point, I have a long layers with sideswept bangs. I’m wearing the layers a little wavier/ curlier than I used to – he tells me soft waves are on-trend.

    • No real advice, I’m in the same rut. My hair goes from shoulder length ish to as long as it gets (currently around my waist length), I bun it almost every day and the only other variation is my fringe (currently a tiny bit too short) which I trim at home when it gets long (but have grown completely out before).

      I need a change but my lovely better half loves it long and I don’t know what I would do anyway.

  9. This is a really fun thread. Generally, I am not super impressed with the female partners at my firm, with one exception. There is a junior partner who always looks fabulous but doesn’t have a strict formula per se (e.g. always pant suits). It does help that she is tall and slender. Hair is the same every day.

    My other fashion mentor was my boss at a large corporation (in-house). She shared many of the characteristics that Kat mentions above. She is petite and Asian. Same short hair style and a relatively small wardrobe of impecable pant suits. No accessories and a few pairs of perfect low heeled shoes. You could tell she did not have to spend any time thinking about getting dressed in the morning (three young kids) but she always looked perfect and ready to dash into a meeting with the bigwigs. I might get bored with a limited selection, but the older I get, the more this is the standard that I aspire to. I now have five pairs of perfect work shoes (three black, one brown, one silver) and I LOVE not having to spend too much time thinking about my work shoes.

  10. Shoes are a main staple of a working woman’s wardrobe and I’m wondering what your shoe collections look like.

    Mine looks like this:
    At least 8 pairs of black heels – some patent leather, some plain leather, high heels, kitten heels, wedges
    Burgundy, navy, red, pink heels that are roughly 3″
    Flats in various colors and styles
    Knee and ankle boots in leather and waterproof material
    A few pairs of sneakers

    What does yours look like? Also, what shoes are you currently lusting after?

    • Love Shoes :

      Give me black, gray and nude for the basics (I never wear anything brown) and then just about any color but pink for fun.

    • I think shoes are a huge part of the look, too, at least for me. I wear interesting shoes every day. In fact, I only own one pair of black shoes, and even those are special: they have little pearl-like things on the toe in a square. Sounds weird, but it looks very professional. Otherwise, I wear red, maroon, green, floral, etc. every day, and people love it. They are always pretty conservative styles (close toed, etc.) but in an interesting color. I do have a pair of great nude heels I wear when my outfit is a little crazier, like when I wear my hot pink Tahari dress (has sleeves, very conservative cut, just a wild color).

      To answer your other question, I am really wanting some lime green pumps!

    • Despite having several decent pairs of nude heels, I’m always looking for the perfect almond-toe, three-inch nude heel. . . and I wouldn’t mind a perfectly-fitting sleek black knee-high boot as the weather turns colder. As far as my work collection, it’s extensive (although only looks expensive), and consists of mostly black and nude, plus a few pairs in brown, dark pink, and deep red. Also, I enjoy fun flats to commute (metallic, leopard, cutout details, etc.) Would love a snakeskin pair . . .

      • don't need a boyfriend :

        I have closed toe, 3 inch heels (no slingbacks). The exception are the 2 pairs I have of PourLaVic “valda” that are shorter, and I see them as my personal kitten height (even though they are higher than the standard kitten).

        They are all in a variety of colors – black (mostly), red (mostly), purple, pink-to-purple, grey (hard to find), blue (hard to find), and one nude-for-me.

        I like a little embellishment, whether it be a strap and buckle (silver please), bow, texture, banding, or medallion (one pair, going out after work days).

        My materials include leather, patent, suede, and a few snake. I ruin fabric ones.

        I would love more textures, especially croc or snake, in the simple pump that looks business like, not witchy, and not frump.

        Wish I could find more trousers as I did in the 1990s and early 2000s when I would wear them with my handmade Lucchese (sp) and Alberta Boot Co. boots. I must have at least 5 pairs, all dusty in the closet now. Black fully tooled, burgundy smooth, black and tan smooth, tall grey plain, brown suede plain.

        Yes, I DO see my shoes as a full and essential component of my outfits. I am “hard” on shoes so I don’t buy high end…I consider my Cole Haan on sale nudes as a splurge, along with the evening Betsy Johnsons.

        • don't need a boyfriend :

          oops, the “valda” are the ones I adore and can’t find more … the “prixie” are my personal definition of “kitten heels” and I own 2 pairs.

  11. Anon For This :

    I’m about to turn 33 in a month, and I think I have decided to make this the year of “me.” This means possibly doing most, if not all of these things:

    1. laser hair removal. I’m so sick of waxing the ‘stache. Just getting it off!
    2. Lasik and/or consistent contact wearing.
    3. Keratin treatments for hair: the curl is just frizz by the end of the day, no matter which exotic country the oil may be from. I’ve tried everything!
    4. Continuing on Weight Watchers. 10 lbs down so far.
    5. Invisalign to correct my slightly crooked teeth. Actually, one tooth is pushing a front tooth out, and that will only get worse with age.

    It feels so selfish, but I’ve worked so hard to get where I am. I’m not Extreme Makeover hideous or anything, but I just want to try something different for a change. Has anyone done anything similar?

    • Good for you! I kind of thought about making this the year of getting Me right. It’s so far only sort of happening–I’ve been going to the gym a lot more (and working out with a trainer), and I tried teeth-whitening (disappointing) and laser-hair removal (awesome). Can’t figure out what to do with my hair, and the rest of “being an adult” (healthy food! Losing weight! keeping house clean and bills paid on time!) is…not always happening. Someday maybe. Someday.

    • I had a Brazilian Blowout four months ago and as someone who struggled with super thick, super coarse, super unruly curly/frizzy hair her whole life it was like turning into a different person! I could actually go to bed with wet hair and wake up the next morning with fairly decent looking hair. Unbelievable after a lifetime of NEVER being able to let my hair air-dry under any circumstances and still expect to look presentable. Downside: you will lose all of your natural body and volume for at least a month. That was such a trip! I had to buy volumizing shampoo and learn new techniques to give my hair a little oompf. But overall – totally worth it.

      Congrats on your year of you!

    • Anon for this for this as well :

      I’m currently going through laser hair removal as well (chin and sideburns; don’t have a noticeable stache but I’m still thinking of getting it done for a “cleaner” look) and it has been the best thing that I have ever done for myself. I have been terribly self-conscious for years, so when a livingsocial deal came up for a reputable med spa I jumped at the chance. I have to say that it has made me feel so much better about myself. Now I don’t have to cringe when the BF touches my face (because I was scared he was going to feel the stubble).

      I can’t wait to do my underarms, bikini area, and eventually my whole legs… The less shaving I have to worry about the better!

      • Good for you! I have been thinking along the same lines. It’s good to spend some energy and time on yourself. My invisalign is coming along nicely. Hope yours will too.

    • Ack! I need to get laser hair removal because I found out that once it goes gray, it will not work. Not to be crude, but I really do not want to leave only gray armpit, leg, and bikini hairs.

      Other than that I have been working on my posture. I have always had round shoulders. I do exercises with a trainer for my mid back and stretching my pecs (giggle) and go to a chiropractor. On the minus side, my two tailored suits don’t fit my round shoulders. I know I will look better and feel better with those two changes!

      I used to only do bikini wax and get my hair dyed. That last nail post a few weeks ago made me realize my nails and hands are gross. So maybe next year!

    • anonforthis :

      I turned 31 this year and also made it the year for “me.” I had Lasik done earlier this year – best money I ever spent. I don’t know why I waited so long. Also currently doing laser hair removal for full legs – I have almost never worn skirts or dresses and I can’t wait to. Also on a similar program as WW and planning to lose 8 pounds soon. I also have made this the year of cooking dinner and hitting the gym regularly. It feels great! Good luck

  12. Great question! I really admire how my boss’s boss dresses. She’s in her mid-fifties and alternates between suits on heavy meeting days to cardis and pants (or skirt) the rest of the time. I don’t know where she shops, but the cut of her suits always looks modern without being overly trendy, and she’s not afraid to wear COLOR, which stands out because so many of the women ages 45+ in my office stick to basic black, navy and ivory. Her hair is short and always neat, and I’ve never seen her wear makeup. Can’t imagine it, honestly. Yet she still looks all-business but feminine at the same time.

  13. I can’t think of a single woman where I have worked who had a great look. It seemed most didn’t care much about clothes.

    My outside counsel (partner/BigLaw NYC) for one deal always looked put together when I met her…designer suits, Chanel handbags, etc. Honestly, though I loved the look, I kept thinking, I know how much you charge per hour and that we are paying you a fortune so that you can dress like that. (Not sure if this was me getting sick of $1000+ per hour billing rates or just envy). At least I am equal opportunity – same reaction to a male partner, different firm, in his designer duds.

  14. I like this thread a lot! My boss is in a very high up position in government and always looks amazing. She wears high heels every day, has great hair that she never seems to just throw back (Funny theme, huh? I’d better get to the stylist.), wears suits and jackets a lot, good jewelry, always has on makeup, etc. Most importantly, though, she is kind to everyone she sees during the day, whether it’s the janitors in our building or someone equally as or more important than her.

    Also, I was thinking this morning as I was getting dressed: How do you keep track of what you’ve worn recently? I try to keep all of my clothes in regular rotation rather than having stuff in my closet that I never wear, but I swear sometimes in the mornings before coffee I just can’t remember earlier this week, much less last week. Any tips?

    • AnonInfinity :

      I only wear my shirts once. I’m too lazy to do laundry every week or go to the dry cleaner every week, so the way I keep up is by what is in my laundry basket! I do try to wash what’s at the bottom first, ensuring a longer rotation time.

    • Write it down!! Seriously – go to your closet tonight with pen/paper and literally write down each piece. Then determine what you tend to match up with which pieces (for example, your favorite black slacks that go with those 3-5 shirts you don’t even think twice about). Repeat until complete. If you have stuff that you don’t wear, now would be a good time to purge (side note- I am SOOO looking forward to when it’s just a little cooler outside so I can swap out all the summer stuff for fall/winter that’s been sitting in boxes just waiting!!)

      Once you have your list, try to determine 15-20 potential work outfits (so, for 3 or 4 weeks worth), and organize them in such a way so that you’re not wearing those same black pants every day in a week but rather once a week, and add in the other items for the other days. (This has really helped me see how many black tops I have and eventually introduce color back into my wardrobe). Do this for each season (or if you’re in DC like me, for our two seasons, summer and winter!). I also tend to have a few “alternates” set so I know that if I’m really not feeling a pre-determined outfit, I can swap it out.

      When you’ve gotten that far, take a look at the weather report on Sunday night and plan for the week right then and there. That way you can lay out everything at once. (Also helpful to determine what laundry can wait and what I make a priority to clean)

      I’ve been doing this for a few years now and it’s really helped me wear my wardrobe more evenly, and I only end up wearing things I really feel good wearing. It also gives me more direction when I go shopping for clothes because I can say to myself, “Oh, I’m not really feeling that gray dress anymore, time to search for a replacement piece!”

      • Not Enough Clothes? :

        Reading me made me think I might not own enough office clothing. I absolutely do not have 3 or 4 weeks worth of outfits. Five skirts (2 are exactly the same because I loved it so much). Five sweater sets. Two jackets. One skirt/pants/dress/jacket set. Two skirt/pants/jacket sets. Two pairs of shoes: one black closed toe high pump, one black/patent cap toe low slingback.

        How much clothing do others have?

        I should add that I live in a part of the county where there is no need for one season suits or winter suits vs. summer suits etc. It’s always within a 10 or 15 degree range here.

        • I was also wondering this after reading what the guest poster wrote about the women having a 2 week rotation for clothes. I have about a 3 to 4 week rotation for work, but a good friend of mine probably has not recirculated an outfit all summer.

          • It probably depends on a variety of factors. I’m in Florida and have a 6-weekish rotation of summer outfits and a 2-3-week rotation of winter outfits since there is so little opportunity to wear the winter clothing.

        • I easily have a 2 month rotation for complete outfits, but probably only a 3 week rotation for any single piece. For instance, excluding suits, I have eight pairs of work-appropriate trousers, two wintery skirts, and 2 wintery dresses. So I could only go 12 work days without repeating a bottom. Since I wear a suit probably once a week on average, that works out to 3 weeks total.

          (I recently did an inventory for insurance purposes so I know exactly what I own..)

    • I try to have my clothes ironed and ready to go for the week on Sunday evening so I don’t have to spend that much time each morning deciding what to wear. I will do one load of darks or lights every 7-10 days, so that also helps space things out. I wear shirts/cardigans once before washing and pants/skirts usually several times.

  15. The stylish senior women I best remember was a law partner in New York in the early 80’s. She wore a skirted suit in a nubbly wool, with a large bunch of violets pinned to her jacket. She looked amazing.

  16. Claire Huxtable.

    That is all.

  17. So interesting:

    (1) When I worked at fashion label #1 (NYC), all the women were immaculately put together. Well groomed, perfectly coordinated and expensive expensive expensive. But many of them were also relying on their husbands/fiancees to support their wardrobes (because it was certainly not on our salaries) and it was clear (i.e. they explicitly stated) that they were waiting for the day that they would become ladies who lunch. So let’s just say there wasn’t much that I felt I could learn from them.

    (2) At mass fashion label #2 (west coast), the dress was decidedly more casual, “sporty-chic.” When I was there, they hired a SVP who was incredibly chic and well put together – wore couture brands (Gucci, D&G, Chanel…) to work every day. Which became a huge gossip fodder because it seemed like she owned nothing by mass fashion label, which we all found incredible insulting. I think she left/got kicked out of the company after only 2-3 years. So although she might have been a great style inspiration, she was all sorts of KYWP (know your workplace) fail!

    (3) I must admit, since I’ve been in the legal profession, it seems that I’m surround by those with means (e.g. higher salaries than those in the fashion industry) but who care not a sartorial fig. Among the female partners I’ve worked for, I’ve had: one who wears very obviously 80s suits every day, one who wears SW inspired knitwear everyday (yeah, I don’t get it either, and she’s not Native American), and several who do the NE preppy-but-not-in-a-flattering-way thing. On the whole, I find that associates tend to be better dressed than partners.

    The only 2 partners I’ve admired (from a distance – since they are both in litigation) wear very avant garde, but beautifully tailored suits (one exclusively pants suits, because she is tall and reed thin and they look phenomenal on her, the other, who is broader and shapelier, wears a mix of different types of suits, all very figure flattering). What has particularly impressed me about these women is that they don’t just stick to nice female versions of the men’s suit (i.e. the interview suit). Their suits are cut differently, they are colorful-ish (not HRC colored suits, think darker jewel tones), and the fabrics can be textured or even printed. Just very interesting but still very professional. Love! I must also confess that I’m usually so enamored (and honestly, drooly) of their suits that I don’t really notice their hair, though I’m pretty sure that the tall one wears her hair in a flattering pixie cut that she obviously maintains religiously, but the other has shoulder blade length hair, that I think she does various things with (even *gasp* the dreaded ponytail). (BTW, that’s totally TIC, since I wear my hair in ponytails all the time.)

    The thing I admire most about these partners is that they make it look – effortless. Not like the fashion brand fashionistas, who look like they spend a lot of time and effort pulling together their looks. I mean, it’s clear that they probably have great help (cause I’m guessing shoppers), but they LOOK like they spend more time thinking about the law then about what they wear, and still look great. It’s just faboo.

    • Speaking of avant-garde, where does a person find clothes that make you look like an architect or art teacher without spending $$$$$ on brands like Jil Sander, Commes de Garcon, and Yohji Yamamoto? It’s relatively easy to find certain styles at various prices (preppy, colorful & feminine, etc.), but not so much with avant-garde clothes.

      • Alana, in the words of kelly cutrone, just wear black its non-descript, you can’t tell if its gap or yohji. there are interview videos of her where she is in her closet and she’s like yohji, yohji, yohji, urban.

  18. *Threadjack for those of you who work in academia.*

    I am feeling unreasonably excited about a potential general counsel role that has come up at a local university. I am going to pursue but wanted to ask those of you (especially lawyers and other senior administrators in colleges and universities) about your general experience working in academia. How has it been for you? Anything in particular I should be aware of as I do my due diligence on this position?

    Thanks in advance.

  19. Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. I wanted to dress just like Sue Ellen Crandall and get a fabulous job. It is still my dream to have one of those panel change things in my office like her boss. I’m right on top of that Rose!

    Too bad I never learned to fishtail my hair, but at least that is out of style.

  20. The most senior female partner in my NYC law office is a real fashionista, to the point where she would fit in better in an arts- or fashion-related organization than a law firm. She’s in her mid-50s, and wears leather, lace, ruffles, wild shoes, funky jewelry, the works. She’ll often carry a backpack instead of a purse, but of course it’s a Prada or a Louis Vuitton. Sometimes it doesn’t work, and sometimes she just goes too far — but it’s all pretty wonderful, because she has opened the door to the other women in the office to play with fashion while still being taken seriously.

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