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? 

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...]

The Hunt: Work-Appropriate T-Shirts

The Most Work-Appropriate T-Shirts | 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 just rounded up demi-camisoles, but I thought we’d take a look at that other versatile layering piece: work-appropriate t-shirts. These are great for days where the temperature is in flux (or the office radiator is on the attack), as well as a way of injecting some color into your wardrobe to mix up the sea of neutral basics. Try them belted, tucked, untucked, or layered (I especially like a simple T under a suit), and remember — if you’re wearing them to work, t-shirts should be in impeccable condition. Readers, which are your favorite work-appropriate tees? Which brands do you buy again and again? How do you distinguish between a lounge-only T and a work T? 

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The Hunt: The Best Cashmere Sweaters

The Best Cashmere Sweaters | 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 haven’t done a Hunt on cashmere sweaters for a while, so I thought I’d round up a few — while discounts will likely go deeper over the next few months, selection is already dwindling.  Cashmere can be a tricky thing to recommend — over and over again I’ve seen readers commenting about how the softness changes from one season to the next, and how they notice differences in softness even between colors in the same season (not to mention taste differences from one person to the next — my most hated cashmere sweater was an itchy, misshapen mess that came from a mass retailer that I’ve seen numerous folks recommend specifically for cashmere) so this is all a bit of a crapshoot online.  That said, if you’re busy and don’t feel like taking a weekend afternoon to go touch cashmere, these would be some of my first stops when looking for myself.  These brands aren’t included in the roundup, but I’ve also recently seen readers recommend Land’s End (rec here), Akris cashmere (rec here), and Michael Kors cashmere (rec here), just to round up a few — I didn’t include an Inhabit NY sweater this time but I’ve been a fan of the sweaters I’ve gotten from them before.  (I’ve also been intrigued by Everlane’s cashmere for a few seasons now, but haven’t found the right shape for me just yet — it looks like they currently have an interesting tunic that might be nice for the weekend, but it’s either sold out or waitlisted right now.) Readers, what brand is your favorite cashmere sweater?  Where is your first stop when hunting for cashmere for yourself — and what shapes do you think are essential (e.g., turtleneck, v-neck, boyfriend cardigan, shrunken blazer, etc.).

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Must a Blazer BUTTON to Fit?

Must a Blazer Close to "Fit"? (And other fun questions of plus-size fashions)... | Corporette Hot on the heels of yesterday’s reader question about feeling frumpy in a suit, I was thinking about Drop Dead Diva. I stopped watching the show a while ago (her guardian angel was still the guy from Mad Men back when I watched), but I’d always wanted to do a 360 review on the lead character, lawyer Jane Bingum, and her fashions, if only because she’s one of the most stylish and plus-sized TV characters I can think of. I have some problems with her fashions, though — the ridiculously high heels, the overdone makeup, etc, etc. My BIGGEST problem, though, has always been that the vast majority of her blazers couldn’t be buttoned (not even kinda-sorta) — the picture at left demonstrates the problem.

But then, as I was falling asleep last night, I started wondering: maybe I’m the one who’s been wrong to think that a blazer must button all these years.  Maybe the trick for a busty girl (or an overweight girl) — short of massive and expensive tailoring — is to buy jackets that fit in your arms and back only, but not worry about it fitting across the bust.  This flies in the face of everything I know about suits — but when I think about it, Jane definitely does not look frumpy. I might say this is one of those times that your fashion sense speaks to your judgement — were this a 360 review, I might say as either an underling or a boss I would wonder why she didn’t buy suits that fit — but again, I’m rethinking this now. [Read more...]