Dressing Professionally But Comfortably: What to Wear for a Long Flight

Vince Camuto Ponte Knit Ankle PantsWhat should you wear on a long flight with colleagues if you want to be comfortable but still look professional? Reader N wonders…

Could you do a post on comfortable, but professional attire for international or long flights? I have an upcoming business trip where my boss and two colleagues will be on a long flight with me. I want to look presentable but still be comfortable for the long flight. Thanks!

I’m curious to hear what people say here; this reminds me a bit about our discussion about what to wear when you’re out of town and working late all the time. (Here’s a fun question, readers — do the answers change if you’re sitting with your boss/colleagues on the long flight? Every time I’ve traveled with colleagues we were sitting apart, and I was so thankful to freely relax/sleep/read brain candy on the flight.) Some thoughts, in no particular order:

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A Feminine Approach to Business Casual

Dressing Femininely at Work | CorporetteBusiness casual can be tricky — particularly when you’re transitioning from a conservative office.  But what if the culture at your company isn’t just business casual, but ultra-feminine business casual — and you’re still most comfortable in a gray suit?  When you’re in a new job and feeling pressure to dress a certain way to fit in — even getting critical comments from coworkers — what should you do? Reader E wonders…

I recently relocated and am in the middle of a career change, and I’m really stumped about how to dress for work. I work in a business casual environment in a small, Southern city. Women tend to dress hyper femininely here: today my boss is wearing a pink ruffled tunic over flowy trousers with embellished flats. The job is entry level, but it’s an important step career-wise. I’m all for dressing to fit with office culture. But, really, yikes.

Right now my pencil skirts, sheath dresses, flats, and cardigans are getting a lot of “why are you so dressed up?” and (from the office mean girl) “do you always wear such depressing colors?” I guess these are my questions: how far do I really need to go to fit in with office wardrobe culture? and how can I femme-up my wardrobe without looking like 5’10” wedding cake?

Hmmn.  Well.  It seems like a few things are going on here, some of which we’ve talked about before, such as transitioning a corporate wardrobe to a casual office, looking stylish and professional in a business casual office, as well as surrendering a bit to office culture (but as the song goes, don’t give yourself away). I may also detect a smidgen of . . .  judgment? superiority? in your email, which we’ve also talked about before when you take a job that’s beneath you.  I know all about finding your groove with one set of work clothes, having a rough time transitioning to a new office with a very different culture, and then feeling a bit like you’ve lost yourself in the process.  So I definitely have some thoughts, but I can’t wait to hear what the readers say.

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What to Wear to a Networking Dinner As a Student

What to Wear to a Networking Dinner | CorporetteNetworking dinner attire can be tricky.  But if you’re a business student on a budget — and soon to be job hunting — the question is that much harder.  Reader K wonders…

I’m a student in my last semester of business school and I have some networking dinners to attend in November. Could you recommend something to wear- preferably on the cheaper side (i.e., under 100)?

It is always so frustrating trying to figure out what to wear to these things! I’m curious to hear what readers say. We’ve talked about the tricky subject of wearing business casual for networking events, as well as what to wear to an interview dinner, but not in a while. So let’s discuss.

Some thoughts on what to wear:

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Naked Nails, Nail Care… and Polish

naked-nails-professionalCan naked nails be a polished look?  Are unpolished, unmanicured nails unprofessional?  Reader A has an important question:

I have a reader question that I’d like advice on. I’m about to start my first job out of law school and would love to have a very low-maintenance nail routine (no color polish) that I can do at home. Mostly, I have terrible cuticles and I’d like to have a more polished appearance, but my job is not flexible about leaving during working hours and I’d rather spend my weekends with my kid. Manicures seem like a waste if I’m avoiding color polish. Can you or readers advise? Should I be trying to fit in weekly/monthly manicures as a requirement of working?

This one speaks to me as I also hate spending time on manicures — so I’m curious to hear what readers say here. As I’ve discussed before, there was about a month of my life (maaaaybe 6 weeks) right after I got engaged that I went for manicures weekly. Then: it got old. I don’t particularly enjoy them, I get bored if I can’t be reading during it (like one can with pedicures), and with the recent NYT exposé on nail salons I’ve just skipped the entire routine this summer. I have, in the past, advised readers to get a simple manicure (with clear or light pink or beige polish) for job interviews and possibly the first week of the job, on the assumption that you’re shaking a lot of people’s hands and you want to look as polished as possible.

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Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional?

Are Skirts and Dresses Unprofessional? | CorporetteAre skirts and dresses unprofessional? What if you have a boss who has a firm opinion, one way or the other? What if you have a boss who forbids YOU from wearing dresses and skirts, when other women in the office can and do? Reader A wonders…

I recently started a new job in a creative industry, and our offices are officially business casual but usually just regular casual. My boss hates that I wear dresses and skirts. She told me that looking feminine in the workplace is bad for careers and she only wants me to wear jeans or khakis if she’s in the office and I can only wear skirts when she travels. I’ve abided by it for a couple months since she was really persistent about it, even though other women in the office wear skirts. I’m confident that my skirts are not inappropriate length wise, they’re standard work skirts from Macy’s and Lane Bryant. Nothing ruffly or lacy either.

Anyway, my manager is leaving the company, but now I feel insecure about my clothing. Is it a bad move to wear skirts and dresses several times per week?

Wow. Honestly, your former manager sounds super annoying — particularly given that other women in the office wear skirts! I can only assume it’s a personal problem with you (something about your style irks her) or she is being sizeist, whether consciously or unconsciously. (The other possibility I thought of after Googling Reader A’s email address: The manager felt threatened professionally by Reader A, who already has an established, successful career — and wanted Reader A to look less managerial.) [Read more…]

How to Handle Necessary Personal Calls at Work

How to Deal with Necessary Phone Calls at Work | CorporetteSometimes you simply have to make personal calls at the office — perhaps to ask your doctor a question, call a plumber about a broken hot water heater, or something else along those lines. While you’re at work, how should you deal with personal telephone calls, especially when you’re playing phone tag? Reader J wonders…

Five years ago, you answered a question about personal calls in the office for wedding planning and other activities that could optionally be handled outside of regular work hours. What about calls that just can’t be handled before or after work or on the weekends?

I find it extremely frustrating and somewhat embarrassing to have to manage calls with my doctor’s offices and my bank during business hours, but these are the only times that the businesses in question are open and will take calls. The doctor’s office is a particular frustration. When you call in, the receptionist takes a message for the doctor or nurse, who then calls you back when convenient for them. With no scheduled time to expect the call, it inevitably interrupts work or is missed, leading to phone tag. If I can pick the call up, I cannot always get to a private place, making the call highly uncomfortable and sometimes ineffective. I imagine people have that problem with lawyers too. How to cope?

Interesting question, Reader J, and I’m curious if people think this has changed through the years. In 2010, I remember disagreeing with the letter-writer’s habit of taking long personal calls at the office with her mother for wedding planning (as well as talking to wedding vendors). In years since, we’ve talked about “homing from work” as well as how to handle frequent doctors’ appointments, so I’m curious what readers will say.

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