Suiting Brands for Women: Plus Size Suits, Petite Suits, Tall Suits and More

plus size suitsIn case you missed it, we did a major round up of the best suiting brands for women a few weeks ago, from the budget brands to the boss brands. As promised, we’re back with a focus on specialty suiting brands for women — if you’re looking for plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, or even suits from independent/specialty boutiques, this round-up is for you.

Ladies, if you’re on the hunt for one of these types of suits, which are your favorite brands and styles? Where do you shop the most, and what kind of sales have you found? 

Plus Size Suits

plus size suits

Tall Suits

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The Hunt: Comfortable Ballet Flats

comfortable ballet flats for work roundupSure, 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’ve talked a lot about flats over the years, but I don’t think we’ve ever done a major roundup of the most comfortable ballet flats for work.  So ladies, let’s hear it — which are your favorites? What are your favorite ways to break in a new pair of flats, or make them more comfortable for your feet? (As someone with narrow heels I’m always adding these heel pads.) Although rounded toes have come really far for work, I still think the best flat for work is one that has a bit of a point to it, in a durable leather, preferably with a rubber sole or rubber heel for comfort and grip. I know some people hate the look of patent leather flats, but I don’t mind them, particularly in a tumbled patent leather (like the Calvin Klein flat pictured below) or a color other than black, like a nice gray. We’ve rounded up some of the best-selling, highest rated styles below — which brands and styles are your favorite?

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The Hunt: Stylish Work Dresses

stylish work dressesSure, 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.

The sheath dress: it’s one of the most stylish work dresses a woman can have, and if you buy the right dress, it can be a workhorse for your wardrobe, whether your office is formal or business casual. Get one that matches your blazer and wear it as a suit! Top it with a fun blazer (like this morning’s) for a more casual but still formal look, or with a cardigan or denim jacket for a more casual look.  Layer it in colder weather with a light jersey turtleneck, a crisp collared blouse, or even a long-sleeved jersey tee that best matches the neckline (or, ahem, raises it where it needs to).  It’s hard to go wrong with the sheath dress, but watch out for these pitfalls when buying it: is the cleavage too low? is the hem-length appropriate? does it have any trendy detail that will make it more memorable and thus less wearable in regular rotation (exposed zipper, embellishment at neck, etc)? is the slit too high? does it look “tailored” (good) or “body conscious” (less good) to you? is the back inappropriate for work? (In general, look for a high neckline in the back, not a scoopneck in the back or other “tank dress” type of vibe. Definitely nothing cut like a halter, at least for a traditional sheath dress in a conservative office.) Once you’ve purchased it: make sure you cut your vents. Hang it up immediately after each wearing and let it air out a bit.  If it’s part of a suiting set, be sure to dryclean all your pieces together so they show the same wear and tear. (While today’s feature is focused on sheath dresses, fit and flare dresses can also be workhorses; our last roundup is here.)

First, we’ll link to a few stylish work dresses in specialty categories before getting to our featured pieces for today:

favorite work dresses

Hall of Famers, pictured above: Limited / Theory / Calvin Klein / Lands’ End / Ellen Tracy

Curious for past roundups of sheath dresses? Here they are from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011. For other sizing issues you may want to check out our last discussion on bespoke dresses, which you can order fit exactly to your measurements.

Pictured at top: Vince, Reiss, Halogen.

Note that even if a color is shown below, all of the featured dresses also come in black. 

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The Corporette Guide to Suits

suits-for-womenWhich are the best brands for basic, classic-cut suits for women — worthy of use as interview suits and other outfits for important, career-advancing events? We haven’t talked about simple women’s suits in ages, so I thought we’d discuss. (Update: check out Part 2 of this post, featuring plus size suits, petite suits, tall suits, maternity suits, and independent suiting companies!) First, some general notes on buying a suit:

  • When constrained by budget: go for a black skirt suit rather than a pants suit, because pants fit is by far the hardest thing to get right. In my experience a $60 skirt suit looks OK but a $60 pants suit makes you look like you come from Planet Frump. Furthermore, the skirt suit will go farther — you can wear the pencil skirt as a basic bottom in your wardrobe (but always dryclean all pieces of a suit together!), plus if you have a “dressed up” occasion, a skirt suit is always going to be the more formal option. Another pro for a simple pencil skirt: you completely bystep the trends that pants have been subject to the past few years — to shop online you’d think that cropped pants suits are de rigueur now, but they are still a fringe/trend item in a lot of workplaces. Other trends I’ve seen with suits: jumpsuits! culottes! short suits! You want 1) a pencil skirt + hip length jacket or 2) a fitted sheath dress + hip length jacket — these combos have been in for years and probably will be for years to come.
  • If you’re shopping online, look for words such as: seasonless wool, stretch wool, tropical wool, gabardine, triacetate. Avoid words like sateen, shimmer, linen. Crepe can be really tricky — sometimes it means a polyester drapey blend for suiting and sometimes it means a bridesmaid’s dress/MOB type thing.
  • If you’re busty: traditional wisdom here is that you want more buttons on your blazer, not fewer. I’m plenty busty and have had some favorite one-button jackets over the years, though, so your mileage may vary here. Depending on trends you can sometimes find suits with as many as four or five buttons. But avoid zippers instead of buttons on jackets — they look wrong more than they look right.
  • Please do not wear sandals with a pants suit. It just looks really weird to me, but perhaps I’m alone there. I would argue that if you’re at a dressy enough occasion to require a suit, sandals will always be inappropriate.
  • Treasure hunting for a suit (where you MAY or may not find something good): T.J. Maxx, Yoox, ASOS, Off Fifth, and Nordstrom Rack
  • Consider taking your suit to the tailor.  Common suiting alterations include shortening sleeves, adjusting the waist. Note that the blazer (specifically the shoulder/arms) are the hardest part to tailor, so focus on that fit when you’re shopping.
  • Please don’t forget to cut your Xs, always dryclean suiting pieces together, and — if you’re wearing the suit somewhere Very Important like an interview, make sure you use the mirror trick.
  • For other tips on buying a basic interview suit (including considerations on colors, care, accessories, layering, and more), please check out The Corporette Guide to Interview Suits.

(Pictured at top: The Limited, Ann Taylor, Boss.)

Budget Suits For Women (under $250 for both pieces)

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Work Jewelry: How Much Should You Wear?

work-jewelry-how-much-is-too-muchLadies, how much work jewelry do you wear? Do you tend to lean towards “too much” or “not enough”? Where do you think the line is? How do you avoid getting into a rut with your jewelry? As I draft this post I realize this is something I’ve struggled with, so I’m curious to hear what readers say. (Pictured: I pity the fool who thinks this isn’t enough jewelry for work! Sorry, had to…)

(Psst: in the past we’ve written before about my jewelry collection for workhow to wear jewelry for work if your style isn’t particularly feminine, and how to mix metals with your work jewelry.)

For my $.02, I’ve always been a bit of a jewelry minimalist — three pieces of jewelry struck me as the right amount for daytime, for whatever reason. This changed a bit when I got engaged and started wearing my diamond ring on the regular. It meant I stopped wearing other rings, and it meant I tended to lean more toward my silver/white gold jewelry (my rings are platinum) versus my yellow gold jewelry or rose gold jewelry. Add a good watch in the mix, and you’re left with a problem — your work jewelry choices are either very boring (because only one piece changes), or you’re suddenly wearing a ton more jewelry.

Here are my general thoughts on work jewelry, just to throw some spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks:

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Stylish Work Sneakers For Women and Other Casual Professional Shoes

work sneakers and other casual shoes for womenWe recently got this question from a reader who’s running for judge (woot, you go!), and it raises an interesting issue of what is casual but professional footwear for women — for weekends and other outings outside the office. Can you be professional in sneakers? What are some other options besides work sneakers? We tried to talk about the casual-but-professional-uniform a few years ago, but I still feel like it’s an issue. Reader K asks:

Kat, I am a 42-year-old lawyer, mother of two, and am running for judge [locale redacted, but suffice it to say somewhere hot]. I made it through the primary and am in a runoff on May 24. There are occasions (like when I’m working the polls) that I wear my campaign t-shirt and a pair of jeans. I have worn boots with my jeans (in February), but now that it’s getting warmer, I think I need a pair of sneakers. The problem is I have running shoes, boots, flip flops, or dress shoes. Do you have any suggestions for stylish, comfy sneakers?

Congratulations, and good luck!  As to the question: very interesting.  Comfortable, stylish, but vaguely professional sneakers: I’m curious to see what readers say here. I’m a diehard Chucks girl myself — they’re classics! But aside from off-white Converse, I would worry that they show a bit too much personality — I associate black ones as being an outsider/artist/comedian kind of shoe, for some reason, and colorful ones being too young/wacky. (I currently wear gray ones on weekends, which perhaps is my way of saying “I used to feel like an outsider but now I’m a mom and have no feelings of my own.”) Instead, I might steer you toward a few other options for work sneakers and other casual-but-stylish shoes:

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