Wearing a Dress and Blazer — Instead of a Suit

Dresses and blazersIs an outfit composed of a blazer and a dress an acceptable substitute for a suit? Reader B wonders how to mix dresses with blazers for a fairly conservative space (the DA’s office):

I start work at a DA’s Office next month, and I’m trying to round out my work wardrobe. My difficulty is this: I despise pant and skirt suits. (Yes, I recognize they’re a necessary evil and yes, I own several.) I vastly prefer to wear work-appropriate dresses (always with sleeves) with blazers that I can throw on when I need to go to court.

How do I go about matching blazers with dresses? Must they come as a set? Be the same fabric? What about colors and necklines? Basically, I have a closet full of gorgeous work dresses, but I need more blazers if I want them to work at the new job.

Hmmmn. Reader B, you’re definitely going to have to learn the ropes at your office before you buy any more dresses, because in some very conservative offices — with some judges — a dress with a blazer on top is likely not going to cut it in terms of formality. Hopefully this won’t be the case where you are, but I really caution you to play it conservatively for the first month or so and wear the separate pant and skirt suits you own, and the few matching sets (dress + blazer) that you own.

As for how to mix a dress and blazer otherwise for work:

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What to Wear for Informal and Informational Interviews

informational interviewsWhat’s the best way to dress for informational/informal interviews that may or may not lead to “real” job interviews? Should you play it safe and wear a suit, or is it appropriate to dress a bit on the casual side? Reader L wonders…

I was invited to have “a conversation” with a very powerful woman at a foundation where I would love to work. For the initial conversation, I was advised to wear business casual. I felt my choices were right on — sleek understated black pants, closed-toed shoes with some skin showing, a high-end plum jacket in wool crepe, and some very interesting but not flashy jewelry. My conversational partner wore exactly the same components, but my choices were a couple steps dressier than hers.

The conversation went well, and we will continue our discussions. My question is what to wear to the next meeting. I have a summer suit I would be inclined to wear; even though it’s casual (navy/white linen tweed pants with a matching open jacket), it is more serious than anything I’ve observed at the foundation. But, I’m not sure if this meeting is the time to wear it. What if this meeting is then followed by a formal interview? I will already have worn my best choice for an interview suit.

Congratulations on starting the conversation, Reader L! These casual interviews are always nerve-wracking, whether they’re informational interviews, internal interviews, or even everyone’s favorite, the “not-an-interview interview over coffee.” Previously, we’ve talked about how to dress for a kind of “pre-interview” that might lead to a real one, what to wear for an “informal” interview, and what to wear for a networking lunch, and I think your outfit instincts sound spot on thus far. A few notes though:

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Clothes to Wear to Work After Abdominal Surgery

maternity clothes for courtReader L is having abdominal surgery and is at a loss for how to dress for court with a sensitive middle… as I see it this issue could be relevant to other readers with sensitive midsections due to surgical procedures, early pregnancy, C-section scars, etc. What are the best conservative clothes that are loose in the middle for situations like court? She writes:

I’m a prosecutor (ie suits or suit like separates daily) and I’m having abdominal surgery this fall. The doctor says 4-6 weeks recovery but that’s just time off work. That’s not to be able to wear things with actual buttons and set waistbands! Any suggestions on how to create a small but doable court appropriate wardrobe for the recovery after I’m back at work?

Maybe I’m oversimplifying things (and assuming regular shift and empire dresses are out for some reason), but I think I have just the answer for you, Reader L: maternity clothes. For those who don’t know: There are two main kinds of maternity bottoms. The first is the “underbelly” waistband — a soft, stretchy, approximately 3-inch waistband designed to go UNDER the belly. It’s mostly intended for use in early pregnancy when there is no real bump, but your middle may be sensitive. The second is the over-the-belly waistband, which I always preferred just for modesty’s sake. It’s a soft, stretchy waistband that is much taller (maybe 12″?) that’s designed to go all the way from just below the bump to the top of your bra in general, completely covering the belly.

Many women wear these pants for several months after the baby’s born, particularly women who’ve had C-sections and might have a sensitive middle, while many women (particularly those who’ve already had one kiddo) may also wear these pants very early in their pregnancies because their middles are sensitive — i.e., before there’s any real baby bump.

In other words: both kinds of pants can be worn even if you don’t have a bump. Depending on your scarring, stitches, bandages, etc., you may find the over-the-bump pants too itchy or fussy, so you may want to focus on the under-the-bump kind of pants.

We’ve rounded up some maternity workwear basics over at CorporetteMoms, but I’ll also note that you can often get great deals on maternity stuff at eBay. You may also want to ask a mom friend to share an “in search of” post on the local moms’ listserv for you. Most maternity skirts are very stretchy — i.e., comfy but not that appropriate for court — but you can find the odd “suiting” material pencil skirt (like this one, on sale at Isabella Oliver; this one from Japanese Weekend isn’t in a suiting material but is a reader favorite at CorporetteMoms). I’d probably want to be in pants and flats if I were recovering from surgery (no fussing with pantyhose, for one), so I’ve mostly rounded up pants for you: [Read more…]

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale — Now Open to Everyone!

nordstrom-sale-new-picksAs mentioned earlier: The Nordstrom Anniversary sale, where they mark next season’s merchandise down now for a limited time, just opened to the general non-cardholding public today.  After reviewing my picks from last week’s early access sale, the good news is that many of my favorites are still in stock in lots of sizes. Some of the pieces that sold out aren’t surprising (there’s a much more limited stock of Pliage bags on sale than there was last week, for example), and some were (who knew Coach flats were so popular? Just the gold left now). So for today’s roundup I thought I’d focus on the “online only” portion of the sale, as well as beauty (which I totally didn’t hit at all last week and oh, it is good).  Remember, my full workwear picks are here, and my full picks from the bag and shoe section are here. (Just for kicks I’ve also put clickable images at the bottom of this post — see the original posts for all of the text/thoughts/reasoning behind each piece, should you care to.)

First, two picks from the online-only section that I’m not picturing:  this Gallery coat looks like a great classic if you need a new one, and these Cosabella thongs are on a pretty great discount if that’s your thing… and, hey, while we’re talking undies, do note that there’s a ton of Hanky Panky in the sale in general. On to my four new work dress picks, all under $150:

  • I mentioned this Tahari dress last week but didn’t picture it — I still think it looks lovely.  It’s currently marked to $118.90, but will go back up to $178 after the sale ends August 3. (I didn’t notice this gray printed Tahari dress either last week and it looks great as well.)
  • This nice Ellen Tracy dress comes in both fuchsia and black, and is machine washable — it’s now $84.90, but will be $128 after the sale ends.  Available in sizes 2-16.
  • This faux wrap Eliza J dress has been around for years I think, but I haven’t seen it with sleeves before — it looks short(ish) in some of the pictures, but longer in others; my guess is that if you’re shorter than a model it’ll be fine on you.  It’s $78.90, but will go back up to $118 after the sale.  It’s selling out in some sizes and colors (it’s available in purple, cobalt, and black, sizes 2-16), but I think there’s still something for everyone.
  • This Karen Kane dress has been around for years — every season they come out with new colors and prints, usually in both short- and long-sleeved versions.  On deep discount you can sometimes find lucky sizes as low as $40ish, so to have your pick of sizes and colors at $71 that’s pretty good.   It’s available in regular sizes XS-XL, in six different colors and prints as part of the sale (and more outside of the sale, including plus sizes).

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Exposed Zippers, Shiny Fabric, Sharkbites, and More: What Do You Hate?

hated-workwear-design-detailsWe haven’t talked about your most hated design details for women’s workwear in far too long — so I thought today it might be a fun open thread. I know readers were recently talking about their hatred of exposed zippers (which I agreed with several years ago, but I guess I’ve been worn down by their omnipresence — the exposed zipper is everywhere!), and many of shared their hatred of unlined pants for a while now.

For my $.02:

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The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale: Shoes and Bags

nordstrom-bags-shoesAs I may have mentioned, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is on right now, where they mark pieces from next season’s collections down for a limited time; after the sale ends prices go back up to normal until the end of the season.  Right now it’s “early access” for card holders (and everyone gets double points, yay); the sale will open to the public on July 17.  I did a roundup of some of my favorite picks for workwear yesterday — here are some of my favorite picks for shoes and bags from the sale.  As noted yesterday, there are a ton of great boots for the weekend (even though it looks like the rag & bone booties sold out!) — a few I’m rounding up (pictures on Instagram) are from Børn, Ivanka Trump, Paul Green (which I always think of as a comfort brand, but these are adorable), and Aquatalia, which again I always think of as a comfort brand, but these have just the right rugged look that we’re seeing everywhere with skinny jeans.

  • The Rockstud fascination may be ending, but I still love a good strappy flat, and these affordable, well-reviewed Halogen flats come in a zillion colors.  They’re $59.90, available in sizes 4-12, medium and wide.
  • These Bianca flats from Coach come in three colors and seem really well priced — they’re $99, but will go back up to $175 after the sale.
  • Sam Edelman heels have gotten huge in recent seasons (everyone loves the Okala, which sadly is not part of the sale) — these leopard d’orsay pumps would be great as an unexpected neutral, particularly with bare legs in the fall.  (Know your office though, obviously!) They’re $89.90.
  • D’orsay flats are huge right now, particularly with the drapey pants that are everywhere.  These Charles David shoes come in three colors, and look nice for $109.90.

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