When is Red Lipstick Inappropriate?

red lipstick for work.indexedI often tell readers to “wait until you see a female superior wear it when an item might be questionable” — but when can you ignore that advice? Reader P has a great question:

I know that your advice is usually “know your workplace,” but is it ever okay to do something that a female superior isn’t doing? For example, I regularly wear bold red lipstick (with very minimal makeup otherwise) in my personal life. I know that I pull off the lipstick – I often get compliments on it, and I’m usually assumed to be older than I am by the way that I carry myself, lipstick or no. However, I’m the youngest in my workplace by a large margin, and most of my coworkers are either men or women significantly older than myself who tend to dress on the frumpier side.

My question is this: should one always strive to fit into the office culture? And do the circumstances change if I’m in a lower-level position and much younger than everyone else?

I think this is a great question because for me, it gets to the heart of what everyone’s wondering: what might be questionable at your office. There are some items of clothing — peep toes, bare arms, bare legs — that are so often on the “what not to wear to the office” list that I think for those items you should really wait to see what your female superiors do, because they help set the office culture. I would not put red lipstick on that list, though — and in fact I’d tell you to rock it out — so let’s explore some more. 

Looking back at things that I’ve often said “don’t wear to the office,” they break down into two categories:

  • clothes that breach business etiquette
  • clothes that may not look very professional because they’re intended for wear elsewhere

I would put things like “peep toes, bare arms, bare legs” into the “etiquette breach” category. Even though you see them all over television and movies (and in most offices), at some point in the past 50-100 years someone said, “Do I want to see your (possibly very gross) toes at the office? NO.” The same theory is behind bare legs and bare arms — at some point, it’s too much exposed skin, and to many older business people that “point” of too much exposure begins with bare arms and legs. So you really have to know your office to see if you’re breaching the etiquette rules that may apply to your office culture.

I would put other questionable items, like capris, denim, items cut like denim (with 5 pockets), yoga pants, leggings, tall boots, sequins, and more, into the “these items are really intended for other purposes than working.” Most of these clothing items have a sporty genesis — they were originally introduced for vacationing, or golfing, or yoga, or dancing, or horsebackriding, or more. They’re shown a lot in popular culture as “office appropriate,” but there are still a lot of older businesspeople (e.g. your bosses and clients) who will take one look at items like that and think, “she can’t be that serious about the job if she’s wearing her yoga clothes around the office.”

Having written all that, I guess my theory of office culture basically comes down to history and tradition. And for those same reasons, I think red lipstick is FINE. For example, business women have always worn red lipstick, and in the 80s it used to be part of the “power woman” outfit along with shoulder pads and those limp little ties that women wore. This isn’t to say that makeup can’t ever be inappropriate — for example I think sparkly or neon makeup, or false eyelashes have very little place at the office — but I think that red lipstick is so far in the “it’s a classic” camp that anyone would be OK.  You may want to test the waters by wearing a stain for the office before you go for matte red lips — I know many who call the Medieval Red by Lipstick Queen (pictured above) one of the most flattering shades for people looking for a great red stain — but that would be just if you’re overly cautious.  Watch out for some of the pitfalls to wearing red lipstick, though, such as fading, getting on your teeth, and more.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Do you have a different understanding of why some items are questionable for the office?  Would there be a reason to not wear red lipstick to the office?  (And: which are your favorite reds?)

(L-1)

Comments

  1. I think she should wear her red lipstick with pride! If the rest of her makeup is minimal, she probably looks great and perfectly professional.

  2. AnonInfinity :

    I agree with Kat that red lipstick is good. My only caveat is that you should not wear it if it’s in a way that could look costume-y.

    • Anonymous :

      Right– fab with a navy shift or butter blouse, but not with a black and white polka dot New Look dress and cat-eye glasses. Looking for ladylike, not “ladylike”.

  3. I think it’s totally appropriate and professional! Part of looking professional, in my opinion, is wearing clothing, accessories, and makeup that look good on you. Not necessarily to attract attention to your looks– but to make you look put-together, and thoughtful about how you present yourself to others. If you can rock a red lip= do it! :)

  4. Former MidLevel :

    I agree there is nothing inherently wrong with red lipstick, but context matters. If the rest of your outfit looks professional, go for it.

  5. LegallyBrunette :

    I think red lipstick is fine as long as the other makeup is understated. With red lipstick, you need to make extra sure that it looks perfect since it’s so noticeable – that the lips look moist, that the lips are lined, etc. I love bold colored lipstick, just not on me.

    On the subject of lips, any advice on exfoliating? I have the most incredibly dry lips and it doesn’t always look the best when I wear lipstick because my lips bleed/feather. I tried the Fresh Sugar lip balm that some of you recommended, and my lips still feathered a bunch. I’m thinking of just trying plain sugar on my lips and see if that works. Other ideas?

    • new york associate :

      I wonder if exfoliating is actually irritating your lips, making the dryness worse. Have you tried moisturizing really aggressively? Also, does lip liner help solve the bleeding/feathering problem?

    • I used to always have dry lips…and since I resolved to drink water basically around the clock, the problem went away. The boring reality was simply that I was chronically dehydrated. You might at least give it a try.

    • Always a NYer :

      I swear by Rosebud Salve in a Tube. It’s $6 at Sephora and I use it every night before going to bed. I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my dry lips and lipstick now wears more evenly on them.

    • I see that alcohol is an ingredient in the Fresh lip balm, so that is probably not helping matters. I would use an old, soft bristled toothbrush and then moisturize with Vaseline.

    • Merriweather :

      I like the Fresh Sugar scrub because it leaves a little moisture behind. But, I have also had success with using a wet toothbrush (no toothpaste). For me the key is what happens AFTER you exfoliate. My best secret weapon is Aquaphor (made by Eucerin) – it is thick and goopy so I only use it at night, but really works wonders. I use it about once a week in the summer, and every day in the winter.

    • I have chronically dry lips. Here are my tips:

      (1) I use carmex (strawberry) chapstick because nothing else is as good. I apply it constantly. Before I apply lipstick, I put on a layer and let it dry. I only wear lipstick occasionally, so most days my lips are covered in chapstick.

      (2) Make a commitment to drink lots more water.

      (3) Whenever I let my lips get dry/cracked (because I ran out of chapstick, usually) I take a warm washcloth and gently rub my lips to get rid of the dead skin. Then I use lots of carmex all day. My lips are usually in great shape by nightfall.

    • I have very dry lips and the only thing that works for me is Jack Black lip balm. It’s actually a men’s skincare line sold at Sephora and Ulta, and their lip balm is incredible. Anything petrolatum-based (Smith’s Rosebud Salve, Aquaphor, Vaseline) will protect my lips from getting worse but does not add moisture. I’ve had some success with beeswax-based products (Burt’s Bees, Eos) but they stopped working after a while. Fresh Sugar’s Advanced Therapy balm feels wonderful but doesn’t improve the condition of my lips.

      I also use a homemade scrub (brown sugar and olive oil) every once in a while, just to help my lips look better. I don’t think it does anything to improve the dryness.

    • Nivea Milk & Honey from the drugstore! There’s a tinted one as well, but the Milk & Honey is great during the day (even over lipstick) and at night.

    • LegallyBrunette :

      Thanks everyone! I already drink a lot of water (more than 3 liters a day) so I don’t think that’s the problem. I currently use Burt Bees chapstick and I find that it does nothing for my lips. Will try these other recommendations.

      • I don’t wear lipstick, and I also don’t put anything else on my lips. I’ve found that every single chapstick, lip balm, etc will eventually dry my lips out if I don’t continually reapply. Going cold turkey s*cked for the first few days but my lips have never been smoother.

        • Me too (but that’s because I’m allergic to every lip balm and lipstick EVER). To exfoliate my lips, towards the end of my shower, I rub my lips with my finger and gently rub off all the dead skin. Simple, non-abrasive, no tools needed.

          Fun fact: I’m hopefully going to get a patch test today, so I can find out what it is EXACTLY that makes me body explode. I’m actually looking forward to this.

          • Godzilla, if you have ragweed pollen allergies/hayfever, then it is the beeswax in those products that is probably irritating you. I found this out the hard way after going through product “elimination” trials over my ridiculous chapped and irritated lips.

          • I am really allergic to something in Burt’s Bees– makes my lips swell (not in a good, pouty way) and break out in tiny little hives. I have switched to ChapStick in the blue tube (moisturizers and SPF15) and have not had any problems.

          • SugarMag, you genius, I could kiss you. That has never occurred to me. I bet the pollen that sneaks in the beeswax is also the reason why all of the scents gave me headaches, too.

      • Merabella :

        I found that Burts Bees actually dried out my lips in comparison to other stuff. I would highly recommend Aquaphor – it is the best thing since sliced bread. The other one I like is the Neosporin lip treatment.

      • I’ve never found Burt’s Bees to be very helpful for chapped lips and as someone who likes to ski and be outside in winter, that’s a problem. I swear by good old Chapstick-the one in the blue tube has extra moisturizer in it and that is my go to for getting rid of chapped lips. Apply right before bed in addition to during the day.

      • I use Burt’s Bees Honey Lip Balm and apply it multiple times per day – it seems to keep the dry lips under control. I hate the “regular” Burt’s Bees Lip Balm, though, it has peppermint oil and limonene in it that is too harsh for me.

        (Limonene is a scent ingredient and solvent naturally ocurring in the rind of citrus fruit. Upon storage and exposure to sunlight and air, limonene degrades to various oxidation products which act as skin and respiratory irritants and sensitizers.)

    • I use Pow Wow by Lush. I bought it as a gadget (it’s a lip scrub you can eat), but it’s surprisingly efficient. It’s a pain to use, though.

    • I swear by Blistex Herbal Answer. It has 5 stars on drugstore dot com. For some reason it is hard to find in stores, so I always stock up when I see it, and have been known to order 10 tubes at a time online. I am terrified they will discontinue it.

    • Associette :

      Legally Brunette – I love love love Palmer’s cocoa butter formula swivel stick with Vitamin E and very highly recommend it. I find that it hydrates my lips very well. You can also use it on scars. I put it on under my lipstick during the day, and before bed. I have a few tubes (one in the purse, one in my desk, one in my medicine cabinet at home).

      I purchased mine at CVS on the bottom shelf in the body lotion section. It is a thick white tube. Try it!

    • I use sugar with honey to exfoliate. I love Burt’s Bees, but recently discovered the Bath and Body Works Mentha Lip Shine 2x. It moisturizes and keeps my lips soft. I usually use it at night and sparingly throughout the day.

      I’ve also tried most everything as far as ‘drugstore’ brands and will stick by Burt’s and Bath and Body Works.

    • Blondie, Esq. :

      I use a toothbrush, with soft bristles, to exfoliate my lips. It works great! And I love Sugar Lip Treatment Advanced Therapy. Expensive but worth every penny.

  6. Yep. I think you can do bold (tasteful) color on eyes or lips as long as never both at the same time.

  7. SoCalAtty :

    If she can pull it off in a professional way, go for it! I could never do that. Then again, my entire routine is basically Smashbox primer, tinted moisturizer, powder, curl eyelashes and neutral lipgloss. I’m lucky I’m usually outside all weekend, so I have pretty good color in my face year round.

    I have a little “losing weight” TJ:
    Has anyone been using Beach Body’s Shakeology? I’m only able to get in about 3 hours of exercise a week because I have been fighting the viral sinus infection from h@ll since about March, and I feel lousy. I just got my bloodwork back and it actually looks really good, so it is just a stupid long lasting virus. Anyway – I’m replacing lunch with Shakeology, and it has been about 10 days, and no weight loss. I’m staying between 1100-1200 calories per day, but I’m really, really stuck at the weight I’m at! I’m wondering if the fact that now I’m actually getting enough protien during the day, I may be converting some fat to muscle so it is taking up less space but weighing about the same. I’m not “ew” overweight, but I’m about 6-8 pounds heavier than I’m comfortable with. I’m only 5′ tall, so even 5 lbs makes a difference!

    Anyone else get “stuck” at a weight? Any thoughts? Maybe this virus is just making me be stuck here for now.

    • MissJackson :

      No experience with Shakeology.

      Since you don’t have a lot of weight to lose, it’s going to come off very slowly. 10 days is really not enough time to make a judgment about whether what you’re doing now is working. Unfortunately, it takes a LOT more than eating enough protein to build muscle, so I don’t think that’s what’s going on.

      How many calories were you eating per day before this Shakeology/calorie counting? How many calories are you burning in your 3 hours of weekly exercise? 1200 calories may be your maintenence level (although, again, I think that 10 days is not a long enough time period to be sure), especially because you’re quite short/small. Are you satisfied or are you feeling hungry at this level of calorie intake?

      If you do not lose any weight after a month, I would consider consulting a nutritionist.

    • My first thought is that you may not be getting enough calories, if you’ve been between 1100-1200 calories/day for a long period of time. I know you say you’ve been sick, but can you maybe add something low impact for exercise (maybe two 30 min walks/week on top of whatever else you do) and increase your calories a bit?

      • Honestly, 1200 cals isn’t that low for someone only 5 feet tall. I’m 5’3 with a very small frame and 1400 cals allows me to maintain my weight (and I work out vigorously – like 5 mile runs and lifting – 5 times per week). Though I can’t say I know what it’s like to be a taller person trying to lose weight, my sense is that it’s a lot harder when you’re short. Eating 1100 cals a day doesn’t make me feel like I’m starving, but it does attract odd looks when my meals are a fraction of the size of other peoples’.

    • kerrycontrary :

      Switch up your workouts. If you normally run try a zumba or kickboxing class. If you do spinning all the time then try swimming. It’s completely normal to plateau when trying to lose weight, so make sure your weight-loss goal is realistic. Most of us simply won’t be the size we were at 18.

    • Glad to hear you’re not “ew” overweight…otherwise classy c-retters wouldn’t feel comfortable responding.

      • What is ” ‘ew’ overweight”?

        Is that like “ewe” overweight? As in a sheep with a high BMI?

        Are you saying that, thank goodness, at least you don’t have to content with the digestive complexities of a four-compartment stomach whilst trying to lose weight?

        Yes, I imagine that would make things MUCH more complicated…

        • Contend, not content.

        • Ha, I didn’t even notice that portion of the post. But, like other people said, 10 days is not enough to know. Also, as Queen of Allergy and Sinus Issues, I feel immensely qualified to say that you may have to wait until you recover to see results. Your body could be retaining water (inflammation from fighting off the nasties). Plus, your body is already overloaded from fighting something for so long, you really need to support your immune system with adequate nutrition. And use your clothing as a reference as to whether you’ve lost volume or not – at some point, weight is just not an accurate measure of changes to food and physical activity. Try on smtg that used to be too small for you.

          • SoCalAtty :

            Thank you for the responses! Godzilla – you’re probably right. I may just have to wait for the sick to blow over and maintain until then. I like the Shakeology for its vitamin content, but I’m also taking a good multivitamin and eating more veggies. The only thing elevated on my bloodwork was my CRP/inflammation, just slightly, so my dr. was comfortable with the “it’s a virus! Drink water and sleep!” course of action.

            Anon – no, no 4 chambered stomach here! Funny. “Ew” overweight, for me, is that weight at which I’m no longer comfortable in my own skin. Or “ew” my normal wardrobe is getting tight. Just my personal preference for myself. No judgment on anyone else, I hope that wasn’t how it was taken.

            Before cutting back, I was at maybe 1500-1800 calories, but I was probably exercising 8 hours a week, with spinning and riding the horses (hard riding, work with no stirrups, jumping, etc.). I’m not hungry at all on the reduced calories. I’ll have to try switching things up. To get to my weight at 18 I would have to lose 26 pounds, so that is probably never, ever going to happen since I was ballet/tap dancing 6 days a week, teaching dance lessons, and running sound for our HS theater. I was TINY back then – a size 2 maybe? My goal now is a 4-6 instead of the 8 I am now.

            Odessa – the onling BMR calculators are telling me 1376, so not that far off. An extra piece of fruit or a snack would get me there. I do resistance training on the bike with “climbing” intervals, plus weights on my arms. I’ve tried really hard to cut out anything processed, so I’m focusing on lean meats, fish, veggies, etc.

            Again, thank you for the suggestions! Working full time in an office makes it tough. I can’t just go do exercise rides on everyone’s horses in the morning and basically play until 10 or 11 in the morning :)

        • girl in the stix :

          ew(e) overweight=not fat, fluffy

    • Just ew. Ew.

    • Merabella :

      Is the working out you are doing involving weight lifting? I think that the protein shakes help more when you are actually building muscle. If you are just doing cardio you may not be using up the protein you are taking in.

    • First, you 1100 to 1200 calories is not enough for a healthy adult woman. At all. Your body is probably going into starvation mode and slowing down your metabolism, which will make losing any weight extremely difficult. Second, regardless of protein intake, you are unlikely to be converting fat to muscle unless you are lifting weights or performing other resistance training that is challenging those muscles. Are you doing that type of work out? If so, do your clothes fit differently, even though the number on the scale is the same? That is a good indication that you are putting on muscle. You can also get your % body fat measured (most gyms have someone who can do this for you).

      I don’t know anything about shakeology, but I would make a few recommendations: First, search online for “basal metabolic rate” and use that to estimate how many calories you need to be eating just to keep your body working, use that as a guidepost to figure out how many calories you should be eating per day to still lose some weight (I would be shocked if it’s not significantly more than you’re eating now). Second, focus on good, whole foods. Lean protein, lots of fiber, veggies galore. If you want to turn fat into muscle, you need to give your body the tools to do it!

      • Merabella :

        A caveat to this. She is on the smaller side, so 2000 calories a day may be WAY too much. I’m 5’5″ and overweight and my BMR is only like 1600 calories a day. This is a good rec though to check out how much she should be eating.

        • I’m 5’10 and my bmr is 1750 or so. Even at this height, eating 1200 a day only lets me lose a pound a week, if that, and I have a good 20lb to lose ( which is only one dress size for me). It’s just hard and slow.

    • darn only 6-8 pounds overweight. I look forward to the day when we reach your cutoff where I am allowed to point at you and say “ew”

      • SoCalAtty :

        cfm – well, it could happen. I’m 6-8 lbs overweight for what makes me ok with myself. I just looked at the height/weight charts for a 5′ med. frame female, and I’m more than 6-8 lbs. over that! My only saving grace for weight control is the horse riding. When you’re trying do a good job jumping and controlling your body (staying still on the back of a horse is HARD) it does keep your weight in check somewhat. So I’m lucky in that regard!

        afl73 – THAT is a fantastic idea. I’ll have to look into that, and there is also a service called “Get Tanked” or something like that where you go in a water tank to measure your body fat.

        It is just hard when I work on fitness/nutrition, and the weight doesn’t change. I’m not trying to irritate people, I was just looking for advice on being stuck. When you put on a pair of riding breeches…there can be an “ew” factor and it isn’t hard to get there. I think I got some great ideas!

        • People are way too touchy and are projecting their own issues into your comment. Don’t sweat it. I’m totally at “ew” right now for me and am reading the constructive suggestions with interest.

        • I think the “ew” factor is when you call women gross because they are overweight. Its fine if you want to lose weight, but others arent ew because of it.

          • cfm, there you go illustrating anon’s point again. All you did in your post was project your own issues into SoCal’s comment.

            SoCal was only talking about herself, whether she was at an “ew” weight–not saying anyone else was “ew.”

          • dude. ew is a bad thing. she is saying overweight = ew. that is so judgmental. she was wrong. em articulated better than me below. yeah I am projecting, I want this to be a community of women who think about the words they use and aren’t mean and judgmental to others going through the same thing.

          • “cfm, there you go illustrating anon’s point again.”
            That was really condescending and off-putting. For what it’s worth, I agree with you, cfm.

          • Ella, I did not intend to be condescending in my prior comment, but was trying to show how even though anon wrote just before about how the critics of SoCal’s post are self-projecting, another commenter did it just after that. I hope that cfm did not take it in a condescending way (I’m sorry…I am new to posting on this website, and need to be more tactful in how I write).

            Cfm, I read em’s comment after you wrote back, and I understand better what your thoughts are now. I still don’t agree, but I guess that will happen with people from time to time :) When I read SoCal’s original post, I took the “ew” to mean what I usually feel like when I think I’m ew…that is, that I feel unhealthy, in addition to not liking how I look. So from my perspective, it is a very personal thing, not meant to reflect anything on anyone else at my same height and weight…just how I feel about myself at the time.

          • Fair enough. Thanks, L.A. Woman. :)

    • Find a place that will do metabolic testing. I thought I was doing great eating 1500 calories a day – turns out I only need 1300 to maintain, so, needless to say, 1500 per day wasn’t producing any weight loss. The test I took was called MedGem and was offered at a local hospital.

    • Sorry SoCal, we love you, but the “ew” comment regarding weight was a bit much.

    • Give SoCal a break, people! This is a supportive community, so let’s not pretend that most people don’t have a certain weight at which they feel “ew” about themselves. Nothing in her original post indicated that she was imposing her own “ew” weight on anyone else or that she thinks anyone else is “ew” at whatever weight. Being sensitive and concerned for the feelings of others is good, but at some point you have to ask whether you are just fishing to find something to be offended about when there is nothing there.

      • Its clear she wasn’t talking about her own “ew” weight in her first post. It is a supportive community, which is why we should not be calling women who are more than 8 lbs overweight “ew” or gross

      • SoCalAtty :

        Thanks Sammie and Anon. I get that weight is a sensitive issue, but I hope I’m allowed to have an opinion as to my own weight at a given time. I would never project my opinion of myself on someone else. Again, much appreciation for the good ideas and thoughts.

        • Okay, but here’s the thing – when we are self-deprecating about our appearance, we tend to forget that we are insulting everyone else who shares that characteristic. Which is fine, but when we do that directly to someone who shares that characteristic, or has it in a more pronounced way than us, we are actually insulting the listener (and, yeah, most of us do it at some point or another). Except that the listener can’t really say anything because you’re just talking about yourself and how you feel.

          But you’re actually not; you’re actually saying that that characteristic generally is bad. This is why it SUCKS to be the fat girl who’s thinner friends insist on telling you about how much weight they need to lose. And part of being a supportive community is thinking about that. There are plenty of ways to express that you want to lose six pounds (like by saying “I want to lose six pounds) without referring to “ew” overweight.

          I wouldn’t have said anything because it slips through and I know that. I mean, yeah, we’ve all been the jerk who bitches about our weight/height/nose to our thinner/shorter/bigger nosed etc. friend. But come on, accept that it’s a jerky thing to do and try not to do it in the future, don’t defend it.

      • I believe that is what’s called self-deprecating humor. I just found this board about a week ago and thought it was supportive…but I guess I was wrong. It’s human nature to be self-critical. I’m sure all that made her feel a lot better about herself when she’s said already 1) she’s been sick, and 2) she’s stuck and trying to figure it out. Let’s not just assume people are trying to be offensive.

        OP – what about stress? It is really hard to lose weight when you are stressed out. That could be a factor.

        • There’s more than one way to be supportive. One of those ways is never calling anyone on anything. Another is trying to foster an environment where we’re careful about our language usage so as not to insult other members unintentionally. Personally, I’d rather hang out in the latter kind of community.

    • Associette :

      SoCalAtty – I was not in the least offended by your “ew” comment and think that you are free to have an opinion about your own body weight.

      To some of the responders, there is a difference in being supportive – and overly sensitive. Many of these posts come off as overly sensitive. If you are overly sensitive about your weight (because perhaps you are overweight or underweight to some degree, and feel guilt or stress, or whatever about being overweight or underweight) that is your own problem, not someone else’s.

  8. On the topic of bold makeup, anyone have any recommendations for good, cheap nail polish in trendy colors? I’m not sure if i’m ready to spend 8 dollars on neon/sparkly/whatever nail polish – i usually buy essie for more staple colors, but i’m looking in the under 4 dollar range…thoughts?

    • At Walgreens or Target I like Sinful Colors when I want to try something new and bold. They are usually 1 or 2 dollars, so even if you end up not liking the shade you’re not out much. The only caveat is that the polish tends to be a little thin, so I usually use 3 coats. other than that I love it!

      • eastbaybanker :

        I just bought a Sinful Colors polish in neon purple! For the weekend, of course. Thanks for the 3 coat tip.

    • My finding is that cheap nail polish is fine if you spend a little more on the base coat and top coat. These last longer and are worn all the time, while you can cycle through all kinds of trendy colors for $1.99 and get about the same results in terms of look and durability (that is, with a good base and top coat).

      I use Orly Bonder (base) and Orly No-Chip (top) with cheap drug store nail polishes. My results are usually actually better than from salons.

      • I agree with this completely. I use OPI’s base coat/nail strengthener and Sech Vite for a topcoat. Add another coat of topcoat every other day and your 1.99 nail color will last for at least a week!

    • I like most of Sally Hansen’s polish lines and most of them are pretty cheap, especially if you can get them on sale at CVS or Walgreens. The Complete Salon Manicure polishes are more expensive but awesome. Wouldn’t have given them a second look if it hadn’t been for Corporette raves.

    • Sally Hansen Insta Dri– it is the only nail polish I can do myself with my left hand (it has a super wide, flat brush) and is only like $3.99. Comes in a lot of colors.

    • I’ve been having great luck with the new formulation of Wet N Wild’s megalast nail polish. Wet Cement lasted a full week on me with minimal wear at the tips, but it didn’t crack and peel like the OPI I usually use does. And it only costs about $.99 a bottle.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Unsure if you live in NYC, but Duane Reade sometimes sells overstock of OPI for $4.

  9. Anon Analyst :

    I say yay on the red lipstick. Maybe try it out on a casual Friday to see what types of reactions (if any) you get.

    With regard to fitting into the office culture – I think it depends on your office. I’m an IT analyst and my office is super casual. (For example, in the summer I see males in shorts and flip flops) In that sense I don’t fit in because I’m usually the most dressed up one in the office.

    In some offices, you may need to adapt to office culture until you’re more established especially if you’re younger than others. Once you prove yourself and establish some seniority, you may have some more leeway.

    • karenpadi :

      I second trying it out on a no-client-meetings/casual Friday and seeing the reaction. I’m 90% with the others that red lipstick isn’t a big deal but … know your office.

  10. PharmaGirl :

    I think red lipstick is fine assuming it is the correct shade for your coloring and there is no feathering/drying/fading. One woman I worked with did not reapply often enough and her red lipstick looked faded, like a kid who had just eaten a cherry popsicle.

  11. If you can get red lipstick to work, I say, go for it!

    Random wardrobe related rant: I’m finished my first trimester, not really showing but not not fitting into the work pants I bought this winter after losing 20 lbs. I’m not wearing old work pants, which ride down and a camisole which is riding up due to the bloat, etc. And the blouse I’m wearing had the lower button break, so I keep having to retuck my shirt in to avoid the dreaded peak of belly showing through. I feel like a frumpy disaster. I need to break down and buy some maternity pants for work, but the ones I ordered from the gap have terrible cheap poly fabric and are shiny. Argh! And boden, Ann Taylor Loft maternity are between seasons so sizes are very limited.

    Wow, that was a total mind dump. At least I’m not still throwing up daily. And I haven’t told work about the whole pregnancy thing, so I’m nervous for that. Though it took them three years to recruit someone to fill this position, so it’s not like they are going to fire me for going part time for 12 weeks.

    Okay I’m done.

    • I read somewhere a recommendation to buy like 2-3 staples of work pants in 1 size larger than you’re usual size. That way, when you come back from maternity leave, you can begin wearing actual pants again instead of still wearing the same old maternity gear.

      I have 2 pairs of work pants left that fit (that are 1 size larger than my usual size). All other pants are being held up with a bella band and a ponytail holder – which makes getting my pants back on after using the restroom a royal pain. I feel ya. I also feel like my tanktops/cami’s stay down better with a bella band underneath them – something to cling to.

      My new fav is using skirts of mine that don’t have a structured waist (I have 1 or 2 with elastic waists but that are still work appropriate). I also have some shift dresses that work when worn with a sweater to cover the tummy.

      Best of luck!

    • Maternity clothes do really suck, especially professional clothes. Somehow maternity designers think that we’re all going out for cocktails in halters and skinny jeans. Did you try Nordstrom?

    • Wait, are you not taking any leave at all? Wow!

      • I’ll probably take 3 weeks off if it’s a normal delivery. My plan is to go back very part time in the beginning, then slowly ramp up. There are only 2 general surgeons in town, and I’m still building my practice, so I don’t want to close it down completely for any length of time. I’m also very lucky that I have a wonderful childcare plan in place, my husband will take some time, etc, so going back two mornings a week in the beginning shouldn’t be too bad.

        • Got it. Good luck and thanks for your question– I’m at about the same point in my pregnancy and am having a devil of a time dressing my lower half.

    • Try Noppies black pants for work. Lived in them for my last pregnancy. They are pricey about $100, but I got a couple of pairs on ebay for about 20 bucks each. I also found that Figure 8 maternity online had nice work stuff. (I also got he noppies suit, which I wore all of the time.)

    • You have my sympathies. I had the same problem when I was pregnant, including losing 20 lbs. beforehand and badly needing clothes and not being able to find them because of the season.

      When I was in that in-between stage, pants were a disaster but dresses worked surprisingly well. Buy a couple of jersey dresses and wear the heck out of them. You’ll feel more put-together and they’re way more comfortable, especially during the summer. Use accessories liberally when you get bored of wearing the same things. Even though I felt like a total schlump from weeks 13-20 and again at the end, people still remark on how professionally I dressed during pregnancy.

      Yay for morning sickness being over — and good luck telling people at work!

      • Research, Not Law :

        Rant away!

        Agree with dresses. I showed more (hellooooo 2nd pregnancy bump…) but overall looked much better. Even the pant+top combos that worked the first time made me look horribly frumpy.

        Try consignment stores to deal with the between season issue. I actually appreciate the variety available by buying maternity through consignment, since retailers don’t offer much at any given time.

    • You know what goes great with both pregnancy and red lips….

      Yoga pants. :-)

      • You made me laugh out loud. I’m the moron on my computer in the surgeons lounge laughing, if you are looking. And I’ve had a brutal 6 day run of call and the yoga pants have made an appearance. After getting the okay from you guys, there was no way I’m coming in in the middle of the night, pregnant, in anything but yoga pants.

    • Right there with you (14.5 weeks).

      Pants are a disaster for me, but I agree about dresses, especially ones with pleats in front or a high waist.

    • I would urge you to try the Gap pants again- I am 15w and have been living in the demi-panel modern boot trousers for the last 8-9 weeks (got bloat really early). Yes, the material is not the softest, but they’re very comfortable to wear and they’re completely office appropriate. They are also machine washable! I hardly machine wash any work clothing, but I’m wearing these so often (I have two pair that I wear once a week each) that I tried it and they come out great! Total lifesaver.

      Nordstrom does not, unfortunately, have maternity clothes- at least not online.

      You could try Destination Maternity- A Pea In the Pod is expensive but nice. Motherhood had some decent twill capri pants, but the sizing was tiny. I am normally a 10 and could not fit into the large. Also, look at Kohl’s, JC Penney, Target, etc. Not the places that you might usually shop but their stuff is cheap enough if you are only wearing it for a few months.

      However, I agree that it’s time to start wearing dresses 24/7 now that it’s summer!

  12. Partial threadjack – Do you think the same “dress for your office culture” rules apply to men? My husband is a mid-level manager at a midwestern financial company. The look for bankers around here is awful: baggy, pleated-pants suits, so that what he wears. I would love to see him update his style to at least the 21st century, but I’ve never worked in a really conservative office. Thoughts? Also – how unfair is it that guys’ biggest fashion quandary could be flat front pants and a slim cut shirt?

    • I don’t think that dressing for your office culture means wearing exactly the same style your colleagues wear. If they’re wearing baggy, pleated-pants suits, I think if your husband wears any kind of a suit it’s fine. What he shouldn’t do is start going without a tie, or wearing obviously trendy/designer clothes, for example.

      • Anon Analyst :

        Yep, I agree with Bluejay. He can continue to wear a suit but wearing one that fits properly would be an instant update to his style.

      • karenpadi :

        Agree. I’d make sure his suit fits properly–not a trendy slim fit but a traditional fit (a good tailor will know what to do). Stick with conservative colors and patterns.

    • Merabella :

      I would say that dress for your office culture loosely applies to men.

      One of my uncles was a salesman in NJ then came down South and was having trouble making sales. He had invested in all these gorgeous silk suits… His dad told him to get the Southern uniform – blue blazer/khakis/tie, he started making sales. So yes, sometimes the way a man dresses can make or break him, but it is much harder for men to go too far astray than the norm.

      I think your husband would be find with flat front pants though.

  13. I am going to wear some red lipstick this upcoming casual Friday, I have just decided. I’ll see how it goes.

    Makeup TJ:
    What is a good, cost-effective way to clean makeup brushes? I shudder to think of how long I’ve used makeup brushes without cleaning them. I want a makeup brush cleaner (or home remedy equivalent) that does a good job without costing too much. Any suggestions?

    • I use baby shampoo – just get a 99 cent sample bottle.

      • Merabella :

        Second this. Cheap – Sonya Kashuk even says that is what she uses on the back of her brushes and then dries them overnight.

    • Always a NYer :

      I use Becca Brush Soap on my makeup brushes about once a month and face wipes on them about every 3-4 days.

    • Anon Analyst :

      I saw on another site Burt’s Bees Mango & Orange Energizing Body Bar recommended. I’ve also heard good things about Sonia Kaushik brush cleaner.

      • ScientistA :

        This is available at Target/RiteAid/etc and was recommended on Makeup and Beauty blog, and it is amazing. It works best for liquid foundation or powders and synthetic brushes. For cream products like gel eyeliner, I still use baby shampoo.

    • PharmaGirl :

      I just use hand soap, from the pump I keep on the bathroom sink. Maybe not the best idea but the brushes have held up for years.

      • SAlit-a-gator :

        I too just use just the regular liquid hand soap. No problems thus far. The trick is the rub the brush in soap up and down your palm until it runs clear of any makeup.

    • Anonymous :

      Just dry sideways or upside down, NOT w bristles up. Breaks down the glue = bristles fall out.

    • Thanks everyone! I will try the baby shampoo sample size idea first, because I am a cheapskate.

      • I am late to the party on this, but someone may see it. If you have natural fiber brushes you should condition them about every third wash. Just use a small bit of olive oil in your palm and run the brush back and forth. Then use a paper towel to pat off the excess.

    • I deep clean my brushes in a mixture of baby shampoo and hand sanitizer

  14. I think red lipstick is fine, as long as the rest of your face is fairly neutral. I used to work with a woman who wore red lipstick in addition to dark eye makeup. I occasionally overheard people snarking about her overdone look. I think if she’d chosen one or the other, she would’ve been fine.

    Since we’re discussing makeup, can anyone recommend a good eyeliner that won’t melt in heat and humidity? I liked Revlon Colorstay well enough during cooler weather, but it’s looking messy by mid-day even with a primer underneath. (It’s possible that the primer is the problem. I decided to cut corners and buy a cheaper primer instead of my beloved UD Primer Potion and have regretted it.)

    • ScientistA :

      Are you using a pencil? Gel eyeliner might be a better bet for you. If you wear black eyeliner, check out Continuous Creme eyeliner by Black Radiance ($5 at drugstore . c o m). Like MAC’s fluidline or BB Gel Eyeliner but much cheaper. If you wear dark brown, Maybelline’s gel eyeliner has also gotten good reviews.

    • I swear by MAC fluidline. It survives NorthAfrica summer, followed by intense Body Combat class and shower. It will only move when I remove it with make up remover.
      I usually go for “Blitz and Glitz” because I find it softer than the classic “BlackTrack” so it is more office-friendly and doesn’t look too harshly black.

  15. Hey you guys, what’s the name of those insert thingies you put in your shoes to make heels more comfortable? The ones that are often discussed on this blog?

  16. svassociate :

    Another (only loosely related) TJ! I haven’t been wearing makeup to work, but as I get more senior (and older) I think I should start. I don’t have much time/inclination to learn though, so I’m thinking about signing up for a makeup lesson either at Sephora or through a local makeup artist. Anyone have any experience with this? I haven’t worn makeup in several years and I was never very good at it, so I’m pretty much starting from scratch. Thanks!

    • Bobbi Brown :

      I’d recommend the Bobbi Brown counter at a local department store. Bobbi Brown makeup tends to be more natural looking. If you don’t have a Bobbi Brown counter, I’d wander around the department store makeup section until you find a salesperson whose makeup is similar to the look you are going for, and ask her for help. I’d stay away from Sephora– whenever I’ve asked for help picking out makeup there, I’ve gotten suggestions that are way too bold for my look.

    • Agree with Bobbi Brown below about Sephora. It’s kind of overwhelming there and better if you already know what you want and know your way around makeup. If I might make some recommendations for you (since it seems like you want a no fuss look):

      Eyes: Many women here use the Laura Mercier “tightline” system. It is a very easy and very subtle way to define your eyes. If that’s not enough definition for you, I’d pick up a gel eyeliner or eye pencil as well. Mascara is easy to find in the drugstore and there’s no need to go high-end. For a little extra volume I’d recommend either Maybelline Full N’ Soft or CoverGirl Lash Perfection. For undereye concealing, I really, really think you can’t beat Bobbi Brown’s color correctors. They are amazing and don’t need to be used with a concealer, though you will need eye cream.

      Face: If you are a bit older, I think Clinique does a really fantastic range of foundations that work well for mature skin (though some other popular high-end options include Bobbi, Dior, and Chanel). This all depends on your skin type. Honestly I’d recommend trying out a few different brands. You won’t know until they put it on you if it works for you or not. Blush is definitely easy and you can pick up something flattering from virtually any counter. Bronzer can be difficult to do correctly, so if you’re worried about that I’d skip it entirely.

      Finally, don’t get bamboozled into buying expensive brushes. Check out Real Techniques and EcoTools, in drugstores and amazon. They are amazing synthetic brush lines.

      Well that was a lot of unsolicited advice, but hope at least something was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help.

      • svassociate :

        Thank you both! This is very helpful. I remember my makeup artist using Bobbi Brown for my wedding, so I might look into it. It sounds like maybe I should just start trying some stuff out! Do you have recommendations for concealer? I know I need to use it, but I can’t figure out how (and what to buy).

        • For concealer, there is undereye and facial concealer. For facial- concealing blemishes and such you will need a concealer the same color as your skin. For undereye, there are concealers and correctors. If you have dark circles, you may want to use a color corrector. These are orange or pink-toned to cancel the blue/green darkness under your eyes. Bobbi Brown does an amazing corrector. You can put concealer on top of corrector or just wear concealer alone or corrector alone. Different brands have different undertones to concealers and you just have to try them out and see what looks good. Youtube can be really helpful to get ideas of how you want your makeup to look. If you are lighter skinned, try watching the pixiwoo or lisa eldridge channel. Darker, check out bbeautymarkd or destinygodley. You can usually find makeup for your particular skin type by searching for it eg “asian makeup tutorial” or what have you. I am Indian so I watch women of many different ethnicities, some for techniques and some for color, etc. Good luck to you :)

  17. I’m totally befuddled by the inclusion of “tall boots” in the list of “never appropriate” items. Almost every woman attorney I know (and I’ve worked in multiple cities) has rocked the knee-high boots with skirt look in the winter.

  18. sorry guys, I know this is off topic but related to work appropriate and I am in search of urgent advice. I am an associate at a big firm in ny interviewing for a position of assistant GC at a nonprofit. the interviewer has asked me for my salary requirements – how should I respond?

  19. Love the red lipstick! I’m a no-fuss in the morning type person so a face wash, moisturizer, foundation/powder and mascara is really the extent of my “getting ready” routine. I love adding bold lipstick to that to instantly look more pulled together.

    My favorite is Revlon ColorStay in Stellar Sunrise (bright) or Best Bubbly (more subtle). It might be less red than you’re talking about but I have very fair skin so this really pops for me and is the right tone. But I would recommend any color in that line – it’s perfect because it goes on like a gloss but stays like a stain. You can easily swipe lip balms or chapstick over it to stay moisturized throughout the day without sacrificing color, and you can eat, drink, etc just as you would without it with no need to worry about it coming off. Perfect for the office, in fact I’m wearing it right now!

  20. Anonymous Girl :

    I totally thought it would be inappropriate BUT I never wear red lipstick. I feel like a clown in it. I’m a lip gloss or nude lipstick kind of girl. I like to wear lots of eyeshadow and eyeliner and a very subtle lip look.

  21. Blondie, Esq. :

    I love this post! And I completely agree with Kate and wear red lipstick to work (and everywhere else) all the time. That is, until I was explicitly told by a male partner not to wear red lipstick during trial. I personally thought this was ridiculous but complied anyway. And the minute trial was over, I resumed my red. Any thoughts on this? Is there a separate rule for red lips in the presence of juries?

  22. Intelligent Gent :

    Red lipstick is fine, as long as you lay off the dark lip liner. You want people to pay attention to your intellect at the office, not your mouth.

  23. When applied in a modern way (as the woman suggests- minimal make up elsewhere) red lips are definitely a sign of both confidence and a willingness to take risks. I happen to be attracted to those qualities and most people are so I say go for it. just because others aren’t doing it doesn’t mean they would frown on people that did. They may well be wishing they had your confidence and style savvy.

  24. Red lips all the way! Not only does it punch up an outfit, but it makes you stand out (in a good way!). My go-to is Ruby Woo by MAC in matte finish. It has blue undertones instead of orange or pink, so it looks more grown-up and less party-goer.

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