What are the different “levels” for handbags — and how do you upgrade your handbag collection? I’m curious to hear what readers say. We’ve already talked about how to upgrade your professional wardrobe, as well as where to buy grown-up furniture… up next in our Next Step series: handbags. I’m pretty solidly in Bucket 3 at the moment. I had a lot of fun wearing purses a few years ago, striving to wear a new one from my collection every week — but now I tend to reach for the same one whenever I head out, so I can see the sense in having a Bucket 5 bag if that’s the only one you wear. (Here’s what I usually carry in my bag.) To me, the must-have details in any bag are a good leather or durable canvas (unless it’s a really fun color that I’ve never owned before — and a good sale), interior pockets, feet, a zipper on top — and I always appreciate an attached key fob and fun lining. Ladies, what are your must-haves? Which buckets of bags do you currently own — and have you been upgrading them as you move up the career ladder? Which brands am I forgetting in the different buckets?
Reader M wonders:
With winter coming on, I would love to see a post about what sort of footwear is appropriate to wear with tights in a conservative office. My current work shoe wardrobe consists entirely of your run-of-the-mill low-heel no-frill pumps. These work fine with hose, of course, and seem mostly OK with thinner tights (particularly if they are the same color) but they don’t look quite right with thicker tights, like sweater tights or fleece-lined tights. I think I might need a bootie, or maybe an oxford pump, but I’m unclear on the professional/conservative boundaries of these trendier styles. Or maybe the answer is that thicker tights are just generally inappropriate for the conservative office altogether?
Interesting question. I know fleece tights were hugely popular among the commenters last year, and I’ve always been a fan of sweater tights and the like. But: are they professional? And what shoes look best with them?
(Pictured: Nordstrom ‘Love’ Sweater Tights, available at Nordstrom for $28.)
What should you do if you look young for your age, and you do all the basic things you’re supposed to in order to seem older (dress professionally, wear heels, etc.), but you still get mistaken for a college student? What more can you try to get your colleagues to take you seriously?
Reader E wonders…
I’m a college professor (outside your normal demographic, but I really enjoy the conversations here). I often am told that I look like an undergrad. I have two questions. First, how do I respond to this in a workplace setting? With a frosty “Nope, I’m actually in my mid-thirties”? With “I’m told that I’ll be grateful for it one day”? Why do people think this is an acceptable thing to say to someone? Second, how can I actually look older so that I avoid these comments and am taken more seriously? I’m short (5′), which is part of the issue, but I already wear 1-3″ heels/wedges (more would look out of place here and are not my style). I use basic makeup (tinted moisturizer/blush/mascara), wear professional and structured clothing, have nice-looking but understated jewelry (including my engagement/wedding rings), keep my wavy hair shoulder-length and mostly under control, and make an effort to speak in a lower voice. This all feels like Looking Older 101–I need the upper-level class!
Hmmmmn. Hmmmn. We’ve talked about a lot of this before — how to avoid acting young, how to lower your voice, and whether long hair makes you look younger — but it sounds like Reader E has already taken a lot of these tips. What else can be done? I’m curious to hear what the readers say, but I did come up with a few tips. I don’t think everyone needs to take these steps, but for people like Reader E, who have tried everything else and are still frustrated by people telling them they “look young,” these may be the tweaks you need to consider:
I’ve been wondering lately about wearable gadgets and which ones are appropriate for the office, specifically in big law. I’ve recently fallen in love with my Nike Fuelband (in tangerine) for keeping track of my running or walking stats, but I don’t really wear it in the office for fear that it’s too sporty looking. Thoughts? Additionally my boyfriend (also a lawyer) has been considering the Samsung Smartwatch. Is there a category of wearable tech that is more work-appropriate?
Interesting question! I know many of the readers have talked about Fitbits, and we’ve mentioned some of the jewelry you can buy to “jazz up” your Fitbit. We’ve talked before about how watches are still a good thing to wear because they imply that you’re a responsible, time-sensitive person — I would even go so far as to say that a Fitbit is a good thing because it suggests you’re interested in health and, to a certain extent, data and analytics. (The WSJ even recently noted that CEOs were wearing them because it was part of their competitive nature.) So here’s my $.02:
Sure, 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.
As we approach tights weather, I thought it might be fun to round up some strappy pumps (see also our roundup of t-strap pumps). Although boots and booties are much more acceptable to wear with tights than they used to be (just for kicks take a look at our 2010 poll on peep-toe booties), the most conservative option is still, I think, pumps or flats, whether with straps or without. So without further ado… readers, what are your favorite shoes to wear with tights? Have you made any killer purchases recently (or classics that are still available) that go the distance in terms of comfort and style?
Color at the office: We’ve talked about it in specific contexts — pants, suits, nails, tights, shoes, and even how to start buying colorful prints — and in today’s guest post, my old friend Theresa Lesh gives you some helpful guidelines on how to wear color to work. Theresa is one of the best dressed ladies I’ve known since high school — she actually has a background in fashion design and currently works at a creative products company in product development. A huge thanks for the tips, Theresa! – Kat.
I love color and am very picky about it — always have been. I LOVED my mega box of crayons and the range of hues it offered up: red-violet, magenta, violet-red, violet… and I used each one differently. I scoffed at red, blue, and green as basics and instead used brick red, midnight blue, and forest (or pine) green for cars, sky, or trees. Today I am still quite particular about specific tones or hues I prefer; however, I am much more open-minded, and even look at “odd” colors as challenges. With what other color could I pair that bizarre chartreuse to make it sing? What would be a great pop against a (drab) grey?
I admit going through a period of time where I wore all black — didn’t we all? But when I did, I always liked to choose one thing to accent/pop or stand out in a small way. Favorites were items such as a black Nicole Miller scarf peppered with all sorts of Barbie icons (shoes, lipstick, her iconic signature) which I still have (and wear) today, or floral patterned tights (typically worn under a long black skirt). I saw these things as private jokes with myself, as you could only see the Barbie icons when you were close to me, or the flowers on my tights when I sat down and crossed my legs. (Pictured: Nicole Miller scarf, available on eBay for $149.)
Over the years, I grew away from the all-black ensembles — I do still wear black, and sometimes head to toe, but not all day, every day — and I started to play with color in a bigger and bolder way. After college, I fell in love with lime green, which I think became my gateway to COLOR, as it opened my eyes to all sorts of fun, vibrant shades, and each year I get more and more adventurous and more and more colorful in my wardrobe. During the gray winters of Ohio, I feel as if bright color can be a fantastic pick-me-up, both for me wearing it and those that may pass me in the hall.
Granted, I work for a creative company, where one may see a mix of suits and ties to jeans and Chuck Taylors in a single meeting (though not TERRIBLY often), so while I am not IN the creative division, per se, there is probably more flexibility in my office than a “big law” firm. How far is too far with color? That is up to you, but it’s not to say you cannot make forays into color in a more conservative working environment.