The Hunt: Black Bags

The Hunt: Basic Black Shoulder Bags & Satchels | CorporetteSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

I love a tote bag as much as the next person — but for some reason, I associate smaller bags with spring and summer.  Here in NYC it means longer days, dining and drinking with friends outside, and long walks to and from work.  It also means lighter commuting shoes (ahem, flip flops usually), and less need for shoving STUFF in your bag (scarves, hats, etc).  I think a black satchel or shoulder bag is something every woman should have — some of the classics that we’ve rounded up in previous Hunts are still available, such as the Kate Spade Cobble Hill, or the Rebecca Minkoff Cupid, or the LV Pont-Neuf (rounded up in 2013)… or the Marc by Marc Jacobs Classic Q Lil Ukita (rounded up in 2012; there are a TON of the “Classic Q” bags that one should consider here).  Readers, what is your must-have basic color for a bag?  Have you bought any great shoulder bags or satchels lately (or, do you wear any classics that are still available)? 

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How to Wear Heels (If You’re Used to Flats)

How to Start Wearing Heels | CorporetteHow can you wear heels, if you’re used to flats? Which are the best first heels to buy? How do you make the transition smoothly and effectively? Reader J wonders:

I have always been a flat, practical shoe kind of person with some style. For example, Merrill boots in the winter. But, I am really trying to increase my presence in the world and have read that shoes with more lift indicate more power, money, etc. How do I find higher shoes that won’t kill my feet after all these years of being practical? Advice appreciated!

I’m curious to hear what readers say here. We’ve talked about the best brands for comfortable heels, specific ways to make heels more comfy, and how to look professional in flats (even how to wear flats to court), but I have a few more thoughts on this:

a) Obviously, you don’t have to wear heels to be professional. Personally I think heels look better with most work-appropriate clothes (full-length trousers, pencil skirts, sheath dresses, etc), and I find them more comfortable, on average, than a lot of work-appropriate flats, but you don’t need them to be “professional.”

b) Ask yourself WHY you want to start wearing heels. For Reader J, she’s trying to “increase her presence” — I’m not sure heels are the best way to do that. Heels can make you taller, and I’ve always thought they made my legs look thinner, but I think it would be a long road (because I’m going to suggest you take it slow if you do start wearing heels) before you’d get to the kind of heels that are outfit-defining, personality, statement pieces. For example — Erin Callan was known for her 4″ Louboutins and similar heels — but I’m not sure a 1.5″ heel is really going to “say” that much more than a flat would. It’ll make you taller… it might make your legs look better than flats… but it isn’t going to increase your presence (unless you’re clomping down the hallway in them, in which case I’m not sure that’s a good thing).  Like I mention above, I think heels will enable you to wear more outfits that will in general look sleeker, and those will increase your presence — but I think more credit is going to the sleek wardrobe than the mere fact that you’re wearing heels.

c) If you decide to start wearing heels, start s-l-o-w-l-y.  Don’t try to go from wearing, say, flat boots (where obviously your foot and vamp are fully encased) to 4″ pumps — it isn’t going to end well.  Look for low heelsunder 2 inches! — at first, to get your feet used to some height.  (Both of the Hunt roundups linked have a lot of suggestions for specific low heels that are pretty much perennial styles, like the Stuart Weitzman Poco, also pictured at the top of this post (and on sale — was $298 now $158, available in sizes 4-12). After you master that heel height, consider going higher (I’d stay under 3.5″ for the next round, perhaps aided with platforms (no bigger than 1″; bonus if they’re hidden).  Personally I don’t think anyone needs to go higher than that unless you’re taking pictures or shooting film (I’ve found out the hard way that 3″ heels look fairly frumpy on film!) — for actual life, I think the 4″+ heels are for the true heel lovers out there.

A few other tips:

  • For my $.02, check out the comfortable mall stores first — places like Aerosoles, Easy Spirit, and Macy’s comfort boutique — and avoid other mall shoe stores that specialize in trends/affordability first (sometimes sacrificing comfort and quality).
  • Scratch your soles — if the soles aren’t rubber, make sure you wear them outside enough to get them scratched.  It’ll give you more traction.
  • Look for strappy pumps if you have trouble walking in traditional pumps.
  • Look for chunkier heels (possibly even wedge heels) — the skinnier the heel the harder it is to balance.
  • Go bare.  If you’re still in the breaking-in stage, consider wearing them sockless (no trouser socks, no pantyhose) — for some reason that always helps me.  (Of course, know your office — bare legs are not appropriate everywhere, particularly with skirts.)
  • Know your inserts.  Get to know the various inserts from Dr. Scholl’s and the like available to you.  For example, I have narrow heels so I always have to put in heel inserts.
  • commuting heels Find comfortable commuting shoes — possibly even commuting heels that are lower versions than your regular heels.  (I was obsessed with this picture in a recent Inc. magazine article on executive assistants — Barbara Corcoran switching into identical but lower heels after a talk show!) I always suggest a general six-block rule for heels:  Your heels should be comfortable enough to walk at least six blocks, but I’d be surprised if anyone (at least, anyone with their podiatrist’s blessing) is walking for miles in heels.

Readers, if you’ve worn flats for years and then transitioned to heels, how did you do it?  Readers who started wearing heels when you started your career, how did you start?  What are your best tips for wearing heels?  Readers who love flats, which are your favorite work-appropriate brands and styles — and what do you wear with them? 

Tool of the Trade: Hukkster

Kat's Latest Favorite Shopping Tool: HukksterI’ve shared some of my favorite online shopping tools with you already (Shop It To Me‘s addictive emails (also new: their sleek new iPad/iPhone app), Shopping Notes, and ShopSense) but I don’t think I’ve written a few words on one of my favorite newish shopping tools: Hukkster.

Basically, you set up an account, and download a bookmarklet to your web browser.  Then, as you go about your online travels, when you see a product you really like, you click the bookmarklet, and (after you sign in), you get a dialog (pictured below) asking you what size, what color, and what level of sale you want to know about (“on sale,” 25%, 50%).  [Read more...]

The Hunt: Silk Button-Front Blouses

The Best Silk Button-Fronts | CorporetteSure, we all know what basics professional women are supposed to have in their closets, but if you’re buying one for the first time or replacing one you’ve worn into the ground, it can be a pain to find exactly the right incarnation in stores. In “The Hunt,” we search the stores for a basic item that every woman should have.

We rounded up some of the best crisp button-downs around this time last year, but we haven’t ever rounded up the best silk-button fronts.  I’m still a fan of the ones with a pointed collar (instead of a rounded or band collar, or a split neck) for a more classic look — the collar looks great beneath a suit blazer, layered underneath sweaters, and more.  For my $.02, I’d suggest wearing a cotton camisole (with the arm holes adjusted fairly high) beneath them so you can try to get at least two wears before you have to take them to the drycleaner.  There’s a ton of selection out there — readers, which are your favorite silky button-downs?  Do you have any laundry tricks (either to extend the wears-per-launder or to make them look nice without drycleaning?) Any must-haves (or do-not-buys?) [Read more...]

What to Wear When You’re Out of Town & Working Late

What to Wear When You're Working Late | CorporetteWhat should you wear when you’re planning to work late — and you’re traveling?  Reader H is gearing up for trial and wonders what to wear in the war room after hours:

I am going to be attending a two week out of town trial with two partners at my firm. During the day we will all be in suits, but in the evenings we will likely be working late. I will want to be in comfortable clothes, which for me would constitute yoga pants, but do not think that would be appropriate with my boss. Any suggestions?

Interesting question! We’ve talked about what to wear on the weekends, what to wear for a month in court, and traveling for work, but not this question.  I was in exactly this situation a few years ago — and I’m not sure I made the right decisions.   [Read more...]

Beauty Wednesday: Desk to Dinner Makeup

desk to dinner makeup 2Which makeup do you find indispensable for the desk-to-dinner refresh/transformation? I just realized the other day that we’ve never really talked about this (although I’ve certainly touted the individual products that I love enough), so I thought we should discuss.

For my $.02, if I’m meeting my husband or friends after a long day of work, I tend to do more of a “refresh” than any crazy transformation. To me that means:

  • Skin: Touche Eclat under my eyes, over my browbone, and around my nose for a lighter “wakeup” than straight concealer
  • Cheeks: Nars Orgasm The Multiple on my cheeks to add back some color (and also some sparkle for the evening)
  • Eyes: a bit more eyeliner, usually, and if it’s officially a Dinner Out kind of night, I’ll add dark shadow to my crease and along my lash line (the “bigger” the night is the darker I tend to go!)
  • sometimes a bit more brow liner if I’ve had a head-in-my-hands kind of day
  • Lips: I’ll usually wipe off whatever lipstick is still left and do a fresh application of lip — if it’s a party or networking situation (where I expect to nibble instead of eat, if that makes sense) I will usually put on at least L’Oreal Paris Infallible LipColour, usually with their Never Fail Lipgloss layered on top. (I’m a fan of the one-shade-darker-than-my-natural-lips look, which for me is Nutmeg and Barely Nude.)

I tend to save a “full eye” with multiple colors and shadows and the occasional false eyelashes for when I’m starting with a fresh face, instead of makeup I applied many hours ago.

(Aww, my first image map! Click on the pictured products above to go to their product pages. Or: Touche Eclat / Nars Orgasm the Multiple / Infallible Lipcolour / Never Fail Lipgloss.)

Readers, what products do you swear by for your desk to dinner makeup needs?  Do you tend to do a “refresh” or a total transformation? (Or, do you skip it and just hope your morning makeup lasts all the way through dinner?)