Open Thread: The Best European Stores for Professional Clothes?

best european workwearHooray summer — and vacation. For all of you going overseas this summer, I thought we’d have an open thread — which are the stores you simply must visit, especially for professional clothes and workwear?  Even though, in many ways, we live in a global market (at least here in New York, SoHo often feels like an international mall), I’ve always found that one of the joys of traveling is getting to buy beautiful clothes as souvenirs. I still think of the jacket I got in a tiny shop in Berlin as my “Berlin jacket,” and remember how chilly it was the day I bought it, and what it felt like to try it on in the store. I still remember paying 45 Euros (an insane price for me to pay) for a black and white floral t-shirt in Paris (at Antoine & Lili) with a very odd neckline — I wore it as a vest, with a short-sleeved white blouse, beneath it, and got a lot of compliments.  I could go on and on…

So let’s hear it, readers — from those of you in the know, where should women shop for professional clothes in Europe? Where can you get a great suit, a great blouse, great shoes… do tell! (Right now let’s limit the discussion to Europe — if you guys like the thread we’ll have more open threads.)

(Pictured: Eiffel tower, originally uploaded to Flickr by Moyan Brenn.)

Comments

  1. Massimo Dutti – who will soon open a store in NYC too.
    They are an Indetex brand but the quality is way above Zara. I have some dress pants from them that I love and the price point was lower than something similar here.

    For edgier look, I also like Stefanel

    • LilacWine :

      OMG, I LOVE Massimo Dutti! I went all the time when I was in Hong Kong. So glad to hear that they’re opening an NYC store.

    • LOVE LOVE LOVE Massimo Dutti. I go whenever I’m in a country with one. Can’t wait for the NYC location and I hope it means online shopping for US customers too.

    • I love Massimo Dutti but don’t have anything from there (yet)….and love love love Stefanel. I have a bunch of things from Stefanel and would happily shop there on a regular basis. My plain black Stefanel T-shirt is the nicest, best-fitting one I have ever purchased, and it has held up well in the 3 years I’ve owned it.

    • Second this- they have them all over Mexico and I’d always check their sales for cashmere sweaters.

    • They are opening one in Toronto too!

    • Is the cut like Zara as well? I like the fact that Zara is often ok for moderately tall women (5’10″).

  2. Anonymous Philly Reader 4 Anonymous Philly Reader! :

    Hey! This is weird but I have no other way to contact you. We ran into each other last night, both walking with our SOs. We agreed we’d finally get together for coffee or something, but I just searched my gmail for your contact info and somehow it’s completely gone!

    If you aren’t as lame as I am and have the old email archived somewhere, please get in touch! I hope you see this…

  3. In the UK, Hobbs and Jigsaw are very nice although a bit out of my price range. LK Bennet stuff is also beautiful. I like Monsoon for pencil skirts and blouses in more interesting fit although I find their sizing kind of insane.

    In terms of department stores, I love House of Fraser / Jenners and John Lewis. Linea (the HOF house line) always has some amazing suits. Clarks is good for shoes, I don’t know why they don’t bring some of their lovely styles to the European market. Duo is also good, especially if you have hard to fit feet or wide or skinny calves as they offer custom sizing for boots.

    • Hobbs is my favouritest store ever for work clothes. Half my work wardrobe comes from them. They are shipping to North America now but the duties (to Canada at least) are atrocious.

      I also love Brora for their cropped cardigans, which are a regular part of my work wardrobe.

      I’ve had pretty good luck at Oasis as well for work clothes, but it really depends on what they have in stock in any particular season – sometimes they have work wear and other times the collection is very casual.

      I find the quality at Jigsaw to be very much touch and go. While I think Monsoon is fun, I find that most of what they sell is more suited to casual wear than a work wardrobe.

      • I saw the beautiful suits the Fashion Police were wearing at Royal Ascot. Turns out they were Hobbs suits. I emailed Hobbs Customer Service to see if I could find the name of the suit and if I could get in the US. I got a PHONE CALL from a Hobbs Customer Service Rep with the loveliest English accent. Nope, not available in the US. But how nice was that to call all the way to Washington, DC with the information I needed?

    • Also love Hobbs! I stumbled into one in Edinbugh and came out with two dresses – both of which I get compliments on ALL the time in NYC.

  4. I will be waaaay too jealous to read this open thread.

  5. El Nino is Spanish for The Nino.

  6. Some of the stuff featured on this blog are “domestic” brands (Akris, Boss, etc.), but I also like both Strenesse and Windsor have really lovely clothes. For really comfortable and well made heels, I like Geox and Högl. Their price point at 90-130€ is a little lower than Cole Haan, but I’ve been really happy with both comfort and quality. The only drawback is since they’re more sensible shoes, there aren’t really fun styles. Navyboot also has some nice looking shoes, but I’ve never bought any. For eye candy shoes, I love Pedro Garcia, since the shoes are still really well made.

    As far as physical shopping locations for high end shoes and clothing, both the Zurich and Munich airports have really nice boutiques from all the big names. The shops are usually totally empty, and I’ve found the staff to be more relaxed and less snooty than in the city center.

    • ooooh, I wish I’d read this BEFORE I booked my flight and didn’t choose the one with the Zurich stopover. Next time=)

      In Germany, (and Austria and Switzerland?) I really like Zero. I always wish I could buy half the store – hits the spot on business-casual elegance, and their mannequins help me master the art of mimicking german scarf use=)

    • I swear by Geox shoes, and mostly swear at other shoes (which hurt my feet.) :-)

  7. This is about when to shop in Germany. They have pretty strict laws about sales during the year, but every August they can and do have big clearance sales that cover all the seasons. So window shop, try things on whenever you like, but if you can shop in August, you should wait.

  8. COS COS COS COS COS http://www.cosstores.com/
    Clean lines, neutral colours = wonderful work-friendly pieces!
    Unfortunately only available in Europe – but I hear they are opening a store in HK in the near future.

    • This. Got a dress at COS last time I was in London that I get compliments on all the time. Heading back in a couple of weeks, and after reading this thread, it looks like I have some shopping to do! :)

  9. K... in transition :

    total TJ but I just wanted to say thank you… I’ve been having a really rough 7 mos (job loss, breakup of a long relationship, sick pup, losing him, two moves, still looking for work) and you guys have been a really incredible support.

    I know some here are stressed about whether they contribute enough to their family due to work or are TTC or so many other things, and I hope it helps even a tad to know that, in this c*p*r*tte family, you guys are really great friends/surrogate moms/sisters/etc!

  10. i recently made my first oversees purchase, a silk dress from hobbs for about 130 pounds. i then paid 30 pounds in shipping and now have been told that the customs and duties charge is another 50 bucks — i knew i would owe something to customs but wow, about 100 bucks on shipping and customs. is this consistent with other people’s experience? did i do something wrong?

    • Yes, see my comment above re Hobbs. They have only recently started to ship to North America and I think they are still working out how to do it properly. I’ve also had to deal with really exorbitant fees when purchasing items from them – to such an extent that I hesitate to do it again, even though Hobbs is the best store I’ve ever come across for my body shape, wardrobe needs, style, etc. I’ve purchased from other UK retailers without having to pay such high shipping/duty, and I can’t figure out why there is such a huge difference with Hobbs.

      • 100 bucks just to get it in my grubby hands! had i purchased during one of my recent visits to the UK not only would i save 100 bucks but I would also get 20% VAT refunded. unfortunately i discovered the brand on my last vacation day and had blown through my shopping budget
        unbelievable, this dress better fit well!

        • darjeeling :

          if it’s the carnival dress which I just bought from there when I was in London, you will not be disappointed. It is out of control great. I spent a LOT of money there but they didn’t have the VAT refund sign in the window or whatever so I didn’t know how to get anything back on that score.

          Really sucks about the duties etc. I order from Boden all the time and have never heard peep about anything even when it ships from abroad.

          • i saw that dress and want it!!!
            i ordered the annabel dress which is now back in stock after months of being sold out (because taylor swift wore it). it’s black silk and covered in silhouettes of ginger colored cats and gray mice. my cat named ginger looks just like the illustration :)

            for VAT refunds just ask for a slip at the cash register, all stores that offer VAT refunds have different minimum purchase amounts, usually about 50-75 pounds. the processing fees are steep, so if you have multiple receipts from a retailer (and thus multiple processing fees applied) as the retailer if they can combine your slips for you so you only pay one processing fee. topshop and a few other stores are very helpful on this.

          • Just checked out Hobbs’ website. Lots of things look cute, but NO models? How do you pay those prices plus all the shipping, etc with that much uncertainty?

  11. L from Oz :

    For airports, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Amsterdam all have pretty good shopping. Don’t wait to shop at the airport in Berlin, whatever you do. Heathrow terminals vary as to the quality of the shopping – check in advance.

    As already said, LK Bennet, Jigsaw and Hobbes in the UK. Monsoon is a bit more affordable (sizes there run pretty large, and they also do plus sizes, incidentally.) Rigby and Peller is fun and very good in London if you want lingerie that fits. The prices are a bit scary for some brands, though. All my work shirts that aren’t from Thomas Pink actually come from the oddly-named Fat Face, which has mostly casual stuff but some nice shirts and blouses – and they go up to size 18.

    Zero is affordable chic in Germany. S.Oliver isn’t bad either. Esprit Collection is good for work (the other line are more casual). Promod is probably worth a look if you walk past one. I love Marc O’Polo for work clothes, but it’s really expensive.

    For comfortable but cool shoes, Think! is a good brand (I think it’s Austrian). I love El Naturalista, and wear them to work, but I realise not everyone can do that. (Same with my extensive colllection of Desigual skirts – fantastic, but a long way from pencil skirt chic.)

    If you like fancy hosiery, both Falke and Wolford have stand-alone stores in some major cities.

  12. If you’re tall, you can’t beat Long Tall Sally in the UK. Or shopping in The Netherlands, the spiritual home of all tall women.

    • Really? I was so excited to shop in the Netherlands, but found that standard inseam for pants there is just 33″ (I need a 34″ inseam). Any suggestions on which stores exactly are good for tall women? I travel to the Netherlands occasionally as my husband’s family lives there.

      • buy Dutch brands – otherwise the inseam will be the same as everywhere else. Tally-Ho has a good selection, or check out the Bijenkorf in A’dam.

  13. Threadjack–I’m trying to plan an outdoorsy getaway for August near-ish DC (think canoeing, hiking, etc., rather than camping). Is that an impossible task (i.e., will the weather be awful anywhere we might go close by)? I was thinking the Great Smoky Mountains or the like, but wanted to ask what you all thought. We’re not beach people, so that’s not a great option.

    • Greenbrier! I’ve never been, but my sister and her hubby have, several times. Sounds fantastic. It’s a resort, absolutely not camplike, but they have lots of activities.

  14. I live in the Netherlands, and my new obsession is Karen Millen. Not work attire, but perfect for a cocktail party or other semi-formal occasions (as demonstrated by the 4 dresses I’ve bought there in the last month! I’m sure appropriate occasions will arise… I have already worn one). Beautifully made, and they fit this pear wonderfully. These days I’m typically a US12 in structured dresses (Classiques Entier, BR, AT, JCrew, etc.) with a 1 size differential between top/bottom (10/12, or 12/14 depending on brand). It’s not as pronounced as when I had a 2 size differential, but I still usually need to get the tops of structured dresses taken in. KM fits me perfectly in a UK14 (US10/EU-NL42), though with some cuts (oddly enough the less structured/form-fitting ones) I am more comfortable in a UK16 (US12/EU-NL44).

    I’ve also had good luck fit-wise with Anna van Tour, Mexx, and Esprit. (Yes, Esprit! I didn’t realize they still existed til I moved here, but a shocking percentage of my casual wardrobe is now Esprit. Good quality, and super-super deals if they’re having a sale. They also have some very lovely workwear). I lust after Hobbs, but there’s not one in my town. Also, if you’re going to be in London, Bath, or Edinburgh, and have either wide or skinny calves, I highly recommend checking out Duo Boots.

  15. Keilexandra :

    Thoughts on France? I’ll be there, probably Paris but TBD, January to May 2013. Not looking for conservative-professional stuff, but more touches of European-style polish. Maybe accessories? I’m planning to splurge on a Hermes scarf, which is right at my upper price limit (but would prefer <100 euros). I wear a size 35 shoe, for which if are any comfortable and affordable shops in western Europe, I'm willing to travel!

    • Legal Eagle in London :

      Gerard Darrel is very good, as is 1-2-3 and Carroll, I always head to those when I’m back in France visiting family!

    • Two of my favorite silk scarves are the two I bought at Printemps (big dept. store in Paris on Blvd. Haussmann) ten years ago. Definitely not Hermes, but the quality of the silk and stitching are very, very good for the price.

    • Senior Attorney :

      I love Comptoir Des Cotonniers. I stumbled into their store in Manhattan and ended up with a fab blouse and black pantsuit I wear to work all the time. They have fab clothes, shoes, and accessories.

    • Former Parisian :

      My favourite in Paris is Tara Jarmon, although it might be too whimsical for some.

      Bel Air is quite cool and has some affordable cashmere.

      All Parisian girls stock 90% of their wardrobes at Comptoir des Cottonniers, Maje and Sandro.

      An Excellent French alternative to Zara – NafNaf.

      For shoes, my favourite is Minelli – lovely and comfortable shoes that won’t break the bank.

      • Tara Jarmon, yes yes yes !

        Paula Ka (but pricey)

        123 & Caroll (sometimes dowdy but a stylish friend of mine always find hidden gems, + it’s v. affordable)

        Kookai is fun and affordable if not über trendy, they’re originally famous for their knitwear.

        I wouldn’t recommend Comptoir des Cotonniers, Maje and Sandro (+ Zadig & Voltaire and The Kooples) because I find the quality/price ratio very hit and miss – they rely heavily on brand image, unfortunately. The exception being the Comptoir trenchcoats – never been disappointed. But yes, Parisian fashionistas love those brands.

        American Vintage (100% French despite the name) is another v. trendy brand, but their tees are tissue-thin, overpriced and do no wear well. They do have some silk clothes but I’ve never tried them (once bitten …).

        Pablo and Gerard Darel are better quality-wise, although they are more “grown-up”.

        As for shoes, the go-to inexpensive brands are Andre and Minelli. Repetto flats are pretty but worth neither the hype nor the price imho. Pretty Ballerinas is not a French brand but I like their shoes better and they have a store in Paris.

        Try to find a Petit Bateau store : it’s mostly kid clothes but they also have an adult line. Cheap cotton tees in fun colors and good quality fabric (I’ve had a bunch for a few years and none of them has pilled or twisted). They also have a few other knitwear items.

        As for bags, I love Nat and Nin and Vanessa Bruno but they are def. casual.

    • French sales started -today-! As you may know, these are regulated by the state, and happen twice a year, early January and late June generally. Most French women take the day off :-). This will last about a month, with deeper discounts as time goes on. Hop on over if you can.

      However, sales culture is a bit odd, and it’s better if you can check out stores before they start. Windows are usually papered over and just say “soldes”. So you have to go into the stores to see what’s up, thereby wasting a lot of time.

    • I like Carroll and Gerard Darel too. Monoprix, which is the French equivalent of Target, carries clothes and you can find fun stuff. (Similar to Kat’s Frugal Fridays – I bought a sleeveless cotton blouse for 19 Euro a few years ago). They are all over the city and vary in size/merchandise – the ones around Opera area are clothing heavy.

      January is sale season too!

      • Long time lurker but first time to comment, I could not but give my pint of salt.. as a french professional woman!
        First apoligies as english is definitely not my mother tongue so please ladies do not be too harsh on me(and all positive criticicism are much welcome).
        I wanted to confirm one of your previous comment regarding price versus quality for very parisian, casual and trendy brands like Maje, sandro and The Kooples (and the likes).
        And also especially Zadig &Voltaire: those brands are very good at merchandising and creating lots of buzz but really they are not worth the price as quality is somehow beyond what one could expect for such popular brands. You would much better try your luck with Comptoir des Cottoniers. Tara Jarmon has know make the splurge and is made in China as well so only designed in France (shame IMO). You could try SESSUN as well or BA&H, but both quite casual brands. Or Aechne which is quite confidential yet but very nice and Made in France.
        “Problem” is that we do not wear so formally in France even for people working in Law or Finance (as I do). So do not expect to find a lot of suits or shift dress. Mostly separates too much casual sometimes to my taste!
        Good luck then for your upcoming buys.

  16. hsmichael :

    Don’t overlook the airports. I just got a gorgeous Mulberry bag (the Del Rey, in black) at Heathrow, which, if you could even get it in the States, would have been about $500 more.

    • Yes, I also got a gorgeous bag at Heathrow. Love the shopping at Heathrow. I never complain about having a layover there.

  17. Alanna of Trebond :

    Favorite non-US brand is Promod, although I have never gotten work clothes there. I have a lovely jacket I got in Barcelona that is from there (although they are French), and a few skirts I picked up in Dubai.

    • Alanna of Trebond :

      Also, I picked up a lovely poncho made by native Portuguese (although I was skeptical) when I was in Lisbon (well, technically in Cascais). Very Iberian-peninsula look.

  18. I loved Purificacion Garcia in Spain and also really liked the Uterque stores at a somewhat lower price point.

  19. Not stores exactly but neighborhoods in Istanbul – Taksim and Fateh. Seriously, so many beautiful clothes. SO MANY. I had no intention of buying clothes but I couldn’t help myself. And that’s how I ended with not one but TWO leopard print dresses. A modest full-sleeved knee length dress and….wait for it…….strapless leopard print ball gown. YES.

    • I totally agree. I spent a summer abroad in Istanbul during law school and shopped every single day. Came home with an entirely new wardrobe.

  20. Semi-related threadjack: I’ll be taking a couple of 4-5 day trips to Europe this summer, and would love to find a convertible carry-on rolling-suitcase/backpack for these trips. I’d like to look professional going through Customs or arriving at meetings with my luggage, but I’d also like the option to put the bag on my back when walking the streets (wheels can easily get mucked up on city streets, or on cobblestones) or dashing through the airport, without looking like an over-aged backpacker. Any suggestions?

    • I might be late, but I have the High Sierra, carry-on size. It definitely looks a little outdoorsy, but i think it’s still nice looking enough to look professional. Mine is blue with orange trim, but they make other colors. I think it’s a 19″, but maybe the 21″ and it’s soft sided, so I can really stuff a ton in there and still have it be carry-on size. Plus, it does have backpack straps. They aren’t the most comfy backpack straps in the world, but this size is small enough that i can definitely use it on my back for a while without too much difficulty. At least for the day. I got mine at Marshall’s totally randomly, but the Container Store carries High Sierra, as do most of the websites. I’ll see if I can find you a link.

  21. In France, Georges Rech. Very classic but European flair – does have a couple US/NY outlets, but if you are lucky enough to hit French sales, can get some great deals on pieces that you can wear forever. Don’t want to admit how long I have been wearing a couple items purchased at GR, but think decades not years.

  22. I bought my first “real” suit at s.Oliver. It holds up well and came at a fair price. I´ve also had good luck with shirts from Strauss (http://www.strauss-innovation.de).

    In the Netherlands, I always find something cute and trousers that fit perfectly at Didi (http://www.didi.nl). You have to dig through a lot of eccentric stuff though. Their jersey fabrics are of good quality. (Anon above: I measured the inseam on a pair of Didi trousers, alas, it´s 33”.)

    Ecco shoes are the best. Great quality for the price, super comfy, and classy and timeless looks. I´m brutal on shoes, and Ecco shoes last 2 -3 times longer than pretty much any other brand I´ve tried.

  23. Not particularly thrilling, but I really like Marks & Spencer for basic workwear. It’s also a good place for bras if you’re well-endowed!

  24. UK: LK Bennett
    Germany: Rene Lazard

  25. Definitely check out the freestanding Repetto stores if you’re in a french city and in the market for some classic flats… they can be found in the US (from almost any high-end department store), but the selection, ambiance, and AMAZING service in the stores is something to be experienced. Or get them at the Paris airport duty-free, though at that point you may as well order them online…

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