How to Buy a Blazer to Keep at the Office

how-to-wear-a-blazer-as-a-separateLadies, what are your best tips for buying a blazer to keep at the office, or otherwise to look for in a blazer you’re buying to wear as a separate? (Does anyone have success with wearing suiting blazers as separates?) I often suggest to readers that they keep a blazer in their office to grab and go if you get an invitation to a meeting at the last minute or otherwise need to look (or feel) Very Professional. As another plus, it can also be a way to stay warm (whether with chilly air conditioning or a cold day), and — depending on the needs of the situation and the blazer you have — I might even grab a blazer with pockets if I were going somewhere and just wanted the use of the pockets.* But how do you know which blazer to keep at your office? We haven’t talked about wearing a blazer as a separate in years, so I thought we’d discuss. (Pictured.) Some of my top tips for buying a blazer to keep at the office include:

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The Hunt: Purple Pumps

purple-heels-for-workSure, 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.

Oxblood, burgundy, port, wine, sangria, claret — I’ve always thought this  purpley/red wine-blood color is perfect for work shoes. Wear purple pumps to work as a neutral with navy and black — add a tiny touch of color to light gray outfits — and have fun contrasting them with pops of yellow, bright blue, and bright red.  Ladies, do you wear purple heels for work? What exact shade is your favorite? Of the trendier styles (pointy toes, block heels), do you have a favorite? Do you have any favorite purple pumps from years past? 

Some Hall of Famers are pictured here — these are best selling styles that come back year after year, priced $15-$595…

purple-heels-for-work-best-sellers

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Curious for some of our older roundups? Here they are from 2015, 2014, 2012, and 2010. Our featured favorites for today include:

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The Hunt: Stylish Comfort Heels

comfortable heels for workSure, 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.

One of our top pages of all time is our regularly updated Guide to Comfortable Heels — and while that guide includes brands outside of those that bill themselves as “comfort” brands, sometimes you just really want a heel that is built like a sneaker, whether for commuting, for long days on your feet, or for general foot problems.  Finding stylish “comfort” heels can be a challenge, though, so I thought we’d round some up.

Some of our favorites for today include:

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Workhorses for Your Working Wardrobe

working wardrobe workhorsesLadies, what are the workhorses in your working wardrobe? Are there any surprises in there — things that you reach for a ton more than you thought you would when you bought them? On the flip side, which were the wardrobe disappointments — the things you thought you’d wear a ton but found aren’t that versatile? (Are there any suiting pieces in the mix on either side, either bought as separates or as a suit set?)

When we last discussed surprise basics for workwear, I called out my love of colorful purses, olive-colored pants, a good watch, and nice pearls as things that I was surprised to find myself wearing a ton. (I’ve had good luck with dark olive pants, like the ones pictured, as well as lighter olives with more brown in them. I’d wear the pictured pants with neutrals like black, white, navy, gray (as well as with cobalt); pastels like peach/pink, lavender, or French blue; dark eggplant, or even limited pops of red or orange.) I’ve also written of other things that are outside the usual “must have” lists, including very light gray pants instead of summer whites, velvet blazers for festive in-office holiday luncheshuggie earrings, light blue blazers, and purple pumps. It also came up a bit with our discussion of light blue suits, with lots of readers noting that they often wear a pair of colorful blue trousers or a colorful blue blazer (but not together).

(Pictured above: shoes / pants / earrings)

In our last discussion, some of the items the readers noted they loved included:

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The Hunt: Professional Tote Bags

professional tote bagsSure, 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 for professional tote bags in FOREVER, so I thought we’d do one now.  With OCI/EIW coming up we should discuss what makes a great interview tote, which I’ve always seen as a pretty major subset of professional tote bags. A great interview tote should:

  • be large enough to hold a folder that contains the absolute latest version of your resume
  • have structure to it — if you put it on the floor it will stand up or at least lean (so — while I love me my Planetes Longchamp bag, I wouldn’t interview with it — it’s also for this reason that most of these bags are east/west bags rather than north/south bags)
  • be mostly solid and lacking logos all over it (so in my book most Neverfulls, Goyard, and MCM bags are out — but a Neverfull in an Epi leather is a different issue)
  • have enough organization that you can ditch your purse and just carry the tote bag (or, put another way, it becomes your purse)
  • not be primarily as a laptop tote — unless you anticipate needing your laptop during the interview, you don’t need the weight and the added stress of keeping tabs on your bag (but see our laptop tote roundup if you’re looking for one)

I once joked that if you’re just looking for something to shuttle papers to and from the office, most of the rainmakers I knew carried boat bags, or at least the tote bags one gets for donating X dollars to charity or attending a conference, suggesting it was all part of “what your tote bag says about you.” Now I think it’s just because those suckers add up over the years and they’re perfect for sticking in your office closet! (Although I will note – an LL Bean rep recently told me that this bag can hold up to 500 pounds because it was designed for carrying ice blocks through the winter. Ice blocks, huge binders, whatever, right?)

So ladies, let’s discuss — do you carry a tote bag as your regular purse, or only if you’re interviewing or otherwise carrying a folder? What do you look for in a professional tote bag? Do you prefer hand-held briefcase/satchel styles, north/west styles, east/west styles? Leather, nylon, or coated canvas? Have you bought any great ones lately, or do you still carry any older ones?

First, a roundup of some general categories:

Best-Selling Work Totes

Some of the best selling work totes of all time are linked to in our Hall of Fame styles mentioned above — here are a few of those, pictured, ranging from $168-$298: 1 / 2 / 3 // 4 / 5 / 6

Featured Work Totes

Best-selling, classic styles are great, but sometimes you want to know what else is on the market today.  So: six bags we’re liking today:

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The Hunt: Black Pumps

comfortable black pumpsSure, we all know professional women are supposed to have a pair of comfortable black pumps 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.

Wow – I don’t think we’ve done a Hunt on basic black pumps in a LONG, long while.  Which are your favorite black pumps right now, ladies? Do you prefer a more modern style like the popular Vince heels or Steve Madden heels featured below — or are you classic all the way, like one of our more traditional Hall of Famers? Do you personally prefer pointier toes or more almond toes (there are a ton of both on the market right now!) If you were looking for a new pump for an interview outfit, what would you buy? It’s great to see so many options in low heels, high heels, and strappy pumps.

Update: Check out some work outfit ideas involving some of the pumps you see featured here!

(Curious for our previous roundups of black pumps? In addition to the several specific shoes mentioned in our Guide to Comfortable Heels, we also did a 2013 guide to interview pumps and to low heels, a 2012 guide to black pumps under $250, 2008 guide to basic black pumps.

Classic Black Pumps for Work

classic comfortable black pumps

From our Hall of Fame category above! Pictured: 1 / 2 / 3 // 4 / 5 / 6

Six Trendy Black Pumps

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